This originally appeared in BizJournals.com’s “Career Mojo” column by Dana Manciagli. Congratulations! You’ve nailed your recruitment strategy, hired some of the best professionals in the business, and lead them to work hard, drive results, and sacrifice for the success of the company. So why did some of your rock stars just walk out the door, citing “burnout?” A recent study by the Harvard Business Review and The Energy Project polled more than 12,000 white collar employees and found that “feeling a sense of purpose at work” is the single biggest driver of employee satisfaction, engagement and tenure. Employees who feel a sense of purpose are:
- 3 times more likely to stay in their jobs
- 1.7 times higher to feel job satisfaction
- 1.4 times more engaged at work
Limeade, a technology company that helps Fortune 1000 companies engage their workforces, discovered similar results in its Insights Study from April 2014. In the study of 160,000 employees across broad sections of the U.S. workforce, feeling a sense of purpose at work ranked as the No. 2 factor driving employee engagement. What is the biggest influencer of engagement? (Hint, it also is connected to heart disease, sleep, exercise, depression, job performance, successful relationships, and more…) The most important factor is an employee’s ability to manage stress. These findings suggest that companies looking to boost employee engagement must address stress. But stress is not one-dimensional; it is connected to energy level, concentration, emotional state, optimism, depression and overall happiness. Employers can’t expect to prevent burnout just focusing on stress management. They need to support the overall well being of their people. This includes a sense of purpose, a manageable workload, clear expectations and feedback, a positive sense of teamwork, and more. “Unlocking the full potential of employees without burnout is hard. Your best and most mission-driven people volunteer for the most challenging projects, they are the early birds getting the worm, they stay a little too connected,” said Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht, Limeade CEO. “The best employers are transparent about the realities of the job and empower employees to set their own work/life priorities and boundaries.”
Reinventing the Employee Experience
Focusing on stress management — while it’s not the only cause of burnout — can provide big payoffs. Here are just a few ways to incorporate stress management into your employee experience strategy:
- Empower employees to clearly communicate challenges they are facing through regularly scheduled meetings with managers.
- Create a formal mentoring program.
- Train managers to be aware of stress clues.
- Offer programs that specifically address tips to reduce or manage stress, from wellness coaching to onsite classes.
- Include questions about stress and the interconnected issues of sleep, resilience, health, and job satisfaction in employee surveys. Track results over time, by department, location, etc.
- Find small ways to change your environment, such as onsite fitness programs, which can be as simple as offering pedometers and a little friendly competition.
Innovative companies improve the employee experience through a variety of creative approaches like these:
- Stanford Hospital and Clinics created a meditation garden for employees to visit in the midst of a stressful day. The hospital’s rationale: Even five minutes of slow breathing and mindfulness in nature can help employees recharge.
- Kindred Healthcare launched a company challenge called “Give Yourself Some Slack,” encouraging employees to take 10 extra minutes between meetings or appointments and “arrive in peace”.
- Limeade turns one-on-one conversations into walking meetings. The fresh air and exercise are a great way to recharge in the middle of a busy day. And walking spurs creativity and innovation, as well.
Losing an employee can cost double his or her annual salary — even more for top performers and senior executives. So it’s wise to take your employees’ emotional health seriously. Consider assembling a task force to dig deep into root causes of stress within your organization. Develop programs that support your employees even after they walk out the door at the end of the day. And never underestimate the power of fresh air or a chance to be heard by a manager or mentor. These just might be the secrets to keeping your top performers from burning out!