To Combat Burnout, Let Data Lead the Way
Every time a good employee burns out, your company loses a flicker of its shine and essence. So, unless you want to avoid losing your forward progress, you must avoid losing star performers to what I'll call responsibility fatigue.
This is important, because, from a numbers perspective, the effects of burnout on the bottom line are hardly nominal. A 2017 Kronos survey found that avoiding turnover was a huge priority for 87 percent of human resources professionals surveyed.
And, half of the respondents who said their biggest nemesis was employee burnout said it affected as much as 50 percent of their annual turnover.
That's where monitoiring comes in. Monitoring success in business involves tracking numerous key performance indicators concurrently. But tracking one KPI in particular can help you keep your employees' sparks from going dim. That indicator? Growth.
Looking up, down and sideways to head off burnout
As a business leader, I know I need to survey my business from where I sit to understand how it's working. But I also need to juxtapose that view with one "from the ground up" so I don't miss my team members' day-to-day progress. Keeping up with those two views means considering dozens of metrics, sometimes daily or even hourly.
Each metric I measure, from sales numbers to departmental revenues, is a piece of a bigger puzzle. For instance, if you have a business such as mine, in which staff members juggle more projects than corporations, you’ll want to keep an eye on flattening metrics that indicate that growth has surpassed your resources' capabilities.
Don’t expect workers to tell you when they need a break; it’s nice when they do and you can offer a personal day in response. But if you’re properly keeping house and measuring growth, you’ll know in advance when a dedicated employee needs help or time away.
For this, simply observing your growth numbers won't do the trick. If you want to truly use growth to prevent burnout, consider practicing these three rules of engagement:
1. Learn from the numbers.
Tracking growth is a pragmatic way to manage your human assets in the ever-changing climate of the working world. And numbers don't lie -- you can take that to the bank. Did you manage to double or triple profits with your current staff per your data? Congratulations! Now, go out and hire someone else to help your existing employees, unless you want to lose a rock star.
Humans are animals at the core, so we need to adopt survivalist approaches. If you rely too heavily on top talent for too long, those individuals might burn out -- and perhaps even check out. So, calculate things this way: You can replace one employee at a cost equal to 33 percent of his/her annual salary, according to a study from the Work Institute. But why go there? You also can’t afford to lose great people who know what they’re doing.
Even a modest dip in revenue can mean the difference between remaining a predator at the top of your industry or becoming prey at its bottom.
2. Listen to grumbling.
When a train’s at a distance, you can feel and hear the vibrations by putting our hand and ear to the tracks. In your daily tasks and interactions, do the same: Pay attention to what people are saying, and you won’t get blindsided by a resignation letter. Topics such as workload concerns should cause you to perk up your ears because they almost always point to burnout.
Don’t wait for an annual or even quarterly review, to stay in touch with employees. These consistent check-ins give you the chance to learn what work is like in the trenches and lets employees fill you in on their progress and any concerns they have. Consider Adobe a role model here: The company implemented an instant feedback and mentoring approach and saw staggering results.
Given an exit survey, for instance, 75 percent of employees leaving the company said, "I would recommend Adobe as a great place to work." Those check-ins by the company just may deserve some of the credit for this enviable survey result.
3. Live and work at 100 percent.
It’s your company, so take the time to stay in the know. When a landing page changes or a social post goes live, be aware. You don’t have to micromanage, but you should never have your head in the sand.
A Harvard Business Review study found that the most successful executives looked at exhibited “deep knowledge” of the way their organizations ran. The more you know about growth inside and outside of your workplace, the better your perspective.
My own tech-based company started with one full-time employee: me. As I tracked the company's growth, I eventually knew I needed to stop relying on online contractors and hire full-time employees. That meant graduating from my home office to a real office space.
I knew from the start that my office and culture needed to be quite different from what I had experienced at my previous job. To draw in and continue to engage tech talent, I needed to offer flexibility and entertainment. Entertainment? We now have Nerf guns and video game systems, for starters. Our offices, painted by the workers themselves, are homey and original. And we have no formal dress code. Our culture might not be "normal," but I know it's what my employees need.
Your own employees are the heart of your company, and they are a huge driver of business growth. So, evaluate your growth and implement necessary changes before your top-notch employees' sparkle turns into a dull, depressing fog.