Right now, only 25% of leaders feel that their employees are thriving emotionally and mentally. That’s just one of the shocking findings from the new Leadership IQ study, Employee Burnout In 2021.
We also learned that 71% of leaders expect that high performers are going to quit because of employee burnout. And perhaps most disturbing, 81% of leaders readily admit that they don’t really know how to successfully reduce employee burnout.
That’s where your next employee engagement survey comes in. Your standard survey will tell you to what extent your people are engaged, but it’s not going to tell you precisely where your people are burned out, where their optimism is waning, or where their resilience is on empty.
And if your company is serious about tackling burnout, those are the issues you need to pinpoint.
Tackling employee burnout is about far more than just identifying in which departments employees are fried. Burnout is a chronic stress that results from exhaustion, a loss of optimism, decreased resilience, a lack of control, and more. And it’s those root causes that you need to measure in your survey.
Let’s look at a real-life example of a company with moderately high levels of burnout. While they knew that people in certain departments were suffering from burnout, they didn’t know why. When we look at a few of the causes of burnout, however, the answer starts to become clear.
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The chart below shows two important burnout drivers, resilience and optimism, across their seven major divisions (and I’ve highlighted a few areas for ease of viewing). The survey questions used here are well-established questions for measuring resilience and optimism.
When you look at the Finance area, one of the first things that jumps out is that their resilience is much higher than their optimism. However, the opposite is true for Marketing and Production.
Imagine that you’re the executive in charge of Finance; you’d likely be better served reducing burnout by increasing your team’s optimism. But if you’re in charge of Marketing or Production, building your employees’ resilience is going to be a key step in solving their burnout.
Of course, there will be other factors at play, including issues like workloads, days working from home, and the list goes on. But given that burnout is fundamentally a psychological state, there won’t be meaningful reductions in burnout without building employees’ emotional wellness.
Measuring these factors in your engagement survey is a critical first step in solving burnout. Once you know which areas need to work on which issues (e.g., resilience, optimism, locus of control, etc.), you can then set about teaching leaders and employees the skills they need to start reducing burnout.
For instance, if you discover that your team has lost much of its resilience this past year, then it’s a simple matter of coaching people through a series of resilience-building exercises and practices. And yes, there are dozens of such exercises and practices that have been demonstrated to markedly increase resilience (that’s why even militaries like the United States Army invest in resilience training).
If you discovered, however, that your employees’ optimism has waned, then you’d employ different exercises. You would also want to teach leaders how to reframe their language to exude greater optimism, avoid absolute and negative language, and more.
The point here is simply that if you want to reduce burnout, you need to know which issues are driving burnout, especially the psychological ones. There’s no lack of specific training, exercises and tactics to solve these issues. But without knowing where and why employees are suffering from burnout, your organization might end up using the wrong solution and not see the desired results.