Companies can sometimes focus so much on hiring and identifying top talent, that they often neglect to focus on keeping them happy. It’s estimated that up to $190 billion a year is spent treating physical and mental burnout in employees. A 2017 study of 614 HR leaders also indicated that 20-50% percent of employee turnover is due to burnout. When top employees burnout, they either stop performing or leave the organization altogether. Though burnout is possible with any employee, it’s more likely for top performers — and top performers have a lot of other options.
Employee burnout is often an issue with the company rather than the employee and can be the result of job demands, role conflict, job ambiguity, lack of resources or involvement in decision-making, unrealistic expectations, inadequate support, or a combination of some or all of the above. Pay, benefits, and recognition alone may not be enough to prevent or mitigate burnout, regardless of personality type. No matter why, employee burnout can cause irreversible damage to your star employees and their teams. In order to keep your top talent happy, healthy, and engaged, companies need to not only invest the time and resources into preventing burnout, but should also be able to recognize burnout before it takes a toll.
Here are six ways to keep your star employees from burning out.
1. Avoid Excessive Meetings and Communication
Modern organizations put a premium on collaboration and communication. Unfortunately, this type of communication culture can eventually take on a life of its own. When collaboration becomes excessive, it begins to interfere with the daily operations of a business and its employees. Frustrated employees may find themselves shuffled from meeting to meeting, unable to focus on their work. Constant emails, instant messages, voice mails, and conference calls take up emotional energy and mental space, eventually leaving nothing left to accomplish anything concrete. It’s estimated that $37 billion is wasted every year on unnecessary meetings.
Organizations need to pare down to the business processes that are truly necessary, adopting agile business processes and establishing a new culture of communication while coaching and prioritizing the organization’s end goals. In client-facing organizations where customers drive meetings, employees should have the freedom to cap daily meeting time or be given the support to push client meetings if needed.
2. Don’t Keep Pushing Work Down
It’s easier for star employees to burnout because they are often over-burdened. As employers begin to rely on their employees more, it becomes easier for them to assign additional tasks without thinking about it. Over-achieving employees may easily take on more than is healthy out of a need to keep themselves busy and prove themselves to the organization. For a time, this can work, but it’s ultimately unsustainable.
Managers must be conscientious about the amount of work they’re assigning and must always be on the lookout for signs that employees may be over-burdened and losing their productivity. Regular employee check-ins and formal goal and progress tracking can significantly help managers identify if their stars are dimming. It is important to challenge star talent, but there is a fine line between challenging and deflating so companies should be aware and alert.
3. Analyze Employee Productivity
Through advanced data analytics and time management, businesses can track exactly what employees are doing with their time. For top performers, this can be an important way to identify whether employees are spending too much time on administrative tasks or non-revenue generating activities. It isn’t just collaboration and communication that can destroy an employee’s time. Having to deal with inefficient systems, going through bureaucratic red tape and other day-to-day complexities may also make it difficult for employees to accomplish anything. The best, highest-level employees are often frustrated and “burned out” when they find they can’t get anything done, even with the amount of work that they’re putting in. Make sure your employees not only have what they need to thrive, but proper business systems and processes are in place to ensure your workforce isn’t spending their time on non-productive, administrative work.
4. Give Them a Voice
Checking in with your star employees and asking them what their current frustrations are is one of the best ways to prevent or manage burnout. Employees become fatigued when they feel they aren’t in control of their lives; when they feel disconnected from their employers – as if they have no power to change their situation. Leaders should encourage informal check-ins and welcome open-door conversations to allow employees to communicate and share. Furthermore, leaders should be prepared to listen and respond with solutions. It is one thing to listen and another to consider.
Connecting with employees on a regular basis and conducting a review and assessment of their work is often the fastest and most direct way to find out what employees are currently dealing with. After all, employees understand their own needs better than anyone. Make one-on-ones a regular part of your employee performance management process.
5. Encourage Personal Time & Socializing
During particularly busy times or stressful projects, morale can quickly decline, especially if an employee doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Star employees need rest and mental breaks in order to ensure they are fully charged at work. Companies should encourage employees to take vacation and monitor vacation days regularly to ensure they are in fact making use of that valuable time away. If personal days are permitted, employees should know they have the company’s support to make use of them without feeling judged. Overall, it is about letting your first line know that they are free to take time as needed to recoup and recharge. Most high-performing employees won’t let this interfere with projects or tasks and the organization will actually benefit from it.
Even a moderate amount of socializing is shown to foster team bonding and create a culture of support and teamwork. For star employees, this becomes even more vital as their overachieving natures can sometimes separate them from their peers. This doesn’t mean employees should be allowed to chat all day in lieu of meeting deadlines, but it does mean that social lunches and breaks with coworkers should not only be encouraged but seen by management as healthy. If managers notice their top talent distancing themselves from peers or social activities, it’s a signal to check-in to make sure the employee isn’t getting disheartened or burned out.
6. Leave Ambiguity at the Door
Top-performing employees are more likely to take on or inherit additional tasks, projects, and even roles over time, likely resulting in a lot of grey areas and ambiguity in their day-to-day jobs. This can sometimes lead to confusion and stress. If an employee is not clear about what is expected of them, or what elements of their role there are accountable for or should lead, this could lead to undue anxiety, frustration, and burnout. Ensure even your A-team is given well-defined roles and actionable goals and are able to communicate to their own supervisors if there is any peripheral noise that is causing confusion. The good thing about superstar employees is that they are likely to go the extra mile, but companies should ensure this is well defined.
By managing employee burnout, you can retain your star employees, improving the overall quality of your staff. Employees will be happier, healthier, and more productive on the whole, and you can avoid a significant amount of employee churn and training. As the Pareto principle states, 80 percent of work is likely done by about 20 percent of your staff. Keeping these high-level staff members through preventing employee burnout is therefore incredibly important! Keep your stars shining bright!
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