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Fostering a Work Culture that Prevents Employee Burnout: Challenging the Current Trend

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Today’s economy is marked by the lowest unemployment in decades and also a time when many believe the grass is greener on the side of remote or freelance gigs. It is now when employers must take a step back to consider what it is like for employees who feel overworked and overlooked so that they can put initiatives in place to retain valuable talent.

The Internet has well over 20 million “helpful tips” on what to do when you have given all you can give to an organization and you have received all that you can get from an organization…just review the search results for “how to quit a job!” In fact, even though employee productivity has been rising steadily since 2016 (, most are aware that wages are lagging. Businesses are thrilled to continue to grow considering the strong output of the workforce, but employees continue to express concern, take on additional work to make ends meet, and seek out new opportunities that provide meaning and purpose when they feel burned out.

Back in 2013, Brian Clapp, President of CCI Consulting, published a blog post entitled, “Stop being overworked and overlooked: Five simple strategies to take control of your career.” The blog post offered personal strategies employees can take to focus on their career. To this day we receive at least 100 hits every month, and the highest traffic was March of 2019. Not surprisingly, employees seek to gain exposure and be recognized for their hard work; they leave when they are not rewarded for their efforts.

Today, about 44% of the U.S. labor force work as free agents.  Being self-employed, a freelancer, independent contractor and temp worker is becoming more attractive to those who feel ignored, abandoned or unhappy with their employers.

At CCI Consulting, we recognize there are a multitude of factors influencing the economy and worker compensation, and we sincerely appreciate those employers who come to us for guidance on how to address the issue of employees feeling overworked and overlooked. It is our point of view that putting yourself in your employees’ shoes will help you develop the core needs for successful workforce development and planning. Considering strategies designed to tap into this issues that lead to employee burnout will go farther than a fancy coffee bar or passing around a statue to recognize the latest employee-of-the-month.

Taking the initial employee-centric guidance from the 2013 post, here is a list of just five things employers can incorporate today that are sure to support your workforce and arm them with strategies, so they feel they are working efficiently and recognized for their efforts.

1. Know Your Employees

Take the time to get to know the people behind the stats and practice tried and true steps to engage employees. Your workforce is not simply a set of turnover and compensation numbers, they are the people who carry out the organization’s strategy and whose work ethic and engagement needs cultivating. Take the time to learn what motivates and influences workers to bring their whole selves to their workday and uncover what passion they bring to their job.

2. Help People Get Out of Their Comfort Zone

Employers and managers can help employees take on challenging projects or reframe their approach to tackling problems. More than that, encouraging employees to speak up and share new or innovative ideas can help them to learn new things. The Zone of Proximal Development, also known as the Learning Zone, popularized by Tom Senninger and based on the 1930’s work of psychologist Lev Vygotsky and since connected to adult learning theory, shows that growth occurs on the edge of the learning zone and the panic zone. Employers can support and reinforce growth and development of employees with stretch assignments or by participating in cross-functional teams. Helping employees step out of their comfort zone and onto the edge of the learning zone may build capacity and tap into future potential.

3. Build Connections

Employee resource groups (ERGs), affinity groups or business network groups successfully build bridges between employees who share similar backgrounds and experiences. Employers who create opportunities for these kinds of groups to form organically are encouraging employees to meet someone new every day. Personal relationships in the workplace facilitate diversity, inclusion, and process improvements, as employees connect with one another and learn about how work gets done outside of their personal experience, which is more effective and builds interpersonal communication skills.

4. Invest in Your People to Support Transformation

It is no secret that the future of work is now. Organizations are struggling as they apply yesterday’s logic to today’s problems, and our VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) environment requires workforce agility. As McKinsey addressed in its May 2019 article, successful organizations see a requirement to integrate its people, process, strategy, structure and technology. Investing in developing your people will help employees cultivate the learning agility and develop the discipline to solve problems and allow solutions to emerge. Plus, the learning that takes place while employees work together may have the added benefit of creating a new form of work/life balance.

5. Create Opportunities

Being overlooked never feels good and it diminishes motivation and engagement. And without opportunities to grow and develop, employees will seek opportunities elsewhere. Employers can’t leave retention up to chance. Instead, try to create a structured internal career management program to put career mobility into the hands of your people. CCI has worked with several organizations providing impactful internal career management programs that promote employees looking within instead of outside to extend their skills. Coupled with career coaching, these kinds of programs help employees become more self-aware and take personal risk to find mentors and step up to let you know what they are looking for, which can benefit potential succession plans.

Employers Can Break the Trend

According to a recent survey, three out of five workers say they are burnt out on the job, which has a negative impact on employee physical and mental health, productivity and retention. Coupled with the ever-declining employee engagement statistics, this cannot be ignored, especially at a time when employers are trying to attract and retain talent. As the daily visits to our 2013 blog post indicate, employees still express feeling overworked and overlooked. Take the time to touch base and consider the strategies you can implement in your workplace to reverse the trend.

Adena E. Johnston, D.Mgt, MCEC
Vice President and Practice Leader, Talent Development
CCI Consulting


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