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Employee Burnout - Are You There Yet?

TWS35.600.burnoutWe write a lot here about employee engagement as a business issue.  In fact, we wrote a whole book about it, "It's All About Bob/bie: Strategies for Winning With Your Employees".  The data establishing the positive business impacts of an engaged workforce are well established.  Gallup data from 2016 indicates that organizations scoring in the top 25% for employee engagement outperform those in the bottom 25% by wide margins:

  • 10% in Customer Loyalty and Engagement
  • 21% in Profitability
  • 20% in Productivity

Lots of organizations measure employee satisfaction and other measures of engagement, but lots struggle with what to do to improve it.  One issue we've recently studied is the flip side of employee engagement; i.e. employee burnout.  In a joint study with Future Workplace, we found that 95 percent of human resource leaders say that employee burnout is sabotaging their workforce.  The study -  which included more than 600 Chief Human Resource Officers, VPs of HR, HR directors, and HR managers from organizations of all sizes - found that nearly half of HR leaders attribute up to half of their employee turnover to employee burnout.

Unfair compensation (41 percent), an unreasonable workload (32 percent) and too much overtime / after-hours work (32 percent) are the top three contributors to employee burnout, according to HR leaders in this study.  HR leaders said poor management (30 percent), employees seeing no clear connection between their role and corporate strategy (29 percent), and a negative workplace culture (26 percent) also fuel the problem.

“These secondary problems fall squarely into core HR competencies, like talent management, employee development, and leadership, and they're the real problem,” according to Kevin Mulcahy, partner at Future Workplace, an HR executive networking and research firm which co-authored the study with Kronos. “Everyone wants to work less and get paid more, but having skilled managers and a rewarding culture that allows employees to see the importance of their contributions are the building blocks of an engaged workforce.”

Mulcahy, who recently published The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees, says proactively tackling employee burnout will have a big impact on improving retention, and should be a top priority for organization's in 2017.  Mulcahy went on to say that “As the economy continues to improve, the battle for talent will continue to heat up, requiring organizations to provide more compensation, expanded benefits, and a richer employee experience . Managers should pay close attention to make sure employees aren't overworked while also promoting flexibility wherever possible.”

I agree with Kevin's insights - and as a manager I know it can be difficult to balance the requirements of the job with each individuals need for rest and recovery.  I'd add to Kevin's recommendations that managers need to check in frequently with employees to assess when the work life balance tilts too long in the work end of the scale.  Some industries, like healthcare and manufacturing, imposed fatigue rules on employee scheduling to help mitigate burnout.  Technology can help organizations avoid burning out their employees by paying close attention to time worked, patterns of absence, and other indicators of employee exhaustion.

What are you doing in your organization to recognize and avoid employee burnout?

Some of the content in this blog post was previously published on

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