Burnout Is Sabotaging Employee Retention: Three Things You Must Know To Help

Good employees leave for several reasons and burnout and boredom are two common reasons. A study in the Employee Engagement Series conducted by Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace found that 95% of human resource leaders admit employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention.

  • According to the research, 46% of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for up to half (20% to 50%, specifically) of annual workforce turnover.

  • Almost 10% of HR leaders blame employee burnout for causing more than 50% of workforce turnover each year.

  • Burnout affects larger organizations more than it does smaller ones. Of the HR leaders at organizations larger than 2,500 employees, 15% of them say burnout causes 50% or more of their annual turnover. One in five HR leaders at organizations with 100 to 500 employees cited burnout as the cause of 10% or less of their turnover.

The American Psychological Association estimates that 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job. Here in the U.S., we've struggled with work-life integration, and we're at the bottom of the work-life balance spectrum compared to other developed countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report more than 1 in 10 U.S. employees work 50 or more hours a week, and the average American spends 40% of their time at work.

Burnout is a big problem in our workforce, and from my work with clients and speaking about burnout at organizations, I know that communication is another workforce challenge as is a need for greater emotional intelligence. When we combine communication and emotional intelligence, we're in a better place to assist with burnout. It's when you approach leadership with vulnerability and confidence that your team will be more likely to be inspired by your commitment to improvement. Below are the questions you need answers to so you can help.

Where do they fall on a burnout spectrum?

  • Are they experiencing reduced professional efficacy (part of the WHO burnout definition)? Individuals who feel this way may be under-challenged.

  • Are they overworking - feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion (part of the WHO burnout definition)?

  • Are they present but not productive - increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job (part of the WHO burnout definition)? These individuals may lack intrinsic motivation and the necessary coping skills to turn their burnout around.

  • Or are they in the preventive stages of burnout? An early sign of burnout is that an employees' attitudes and moods change.

I wrote about the negative traits that stop you from creating strong teams here. Burnout is a syndrome explicitly related to the workforce, and it doesn't just automatically spring itself on someone, our choices and habits lead to it.

What's the state of their engagement in learning and professional growth?

A recent study by Gartner showed that 40% of Gen-Z reported that they would not repeat their decision to accept the job offer they had accepted and only 51% said they could see themselves having a long career at their organization.

As a career coach, I know firsthand that when employees are bored and not experiencing professional growth that comes through personalized learning experiences, they are more likely to leave or, worse yet, stay and become disengaged. Learning can take place on many levels, but essentially, we want learning to support creativity, problem-solving, communication and emotional intelligence.

There is a chance that if your employees are experiencing burnout, they may be completely disengaged from learning and professional growth, so then the question becomes more when were they last engaged and what caused the disconnect.

What do they want to do at work to practice self-care?

Before an individual experiences burnout, they may have anxiety or mood or stress-related disorders, and according to the new World Health Organization (WHO) definition, those are often precursors to burnout. Self-care is often the very thing an individual who is experiencing burnout needs because it preserves our health. I like the way Pharmacy Times puts it, "Self-care refers to nourishing our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being through various activities and practices." You need to give your employees opportunities to practice self-care at work, and those opportunities need to be personalized and meaningful to each employee.

Poor management and negative work culture contribute to 56% of workplace burnout, as discussed here. So, if that's the case for someone or members of your team, they won't necessarily be candid with how they feel. You and I both know that success on a job, as in most things in life, is attributed to support and one's mindset and not just capabilities. Without support, the burnout cycle will continue to escalate.

This article was first published on my Forbes column.