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Employee burnout and engagement might as well be two ends of a playground teeter-totter. As burnout rates rise, engagement starts to dip. Along with it goes any motivation to produce great work, test innovations or bring new solutions to old problems.
An Indeed survey from 2021 shows how prolific burnout has become. Among professionals in the United States asked about their stress levels, 52% reported feeling burned out. At the same time, worker engagement numbers are dropping, falling to 34% by Q4 2021, per Gallup. That’s not great news, especially if you want to improve your team’s motivation and effectiveness.
To beat back burnout, you need to take bolder action than offering free snacks or a workplace gym. Those are appealing perks, but they’re not going to have long-term effects on morale, enthusiasm or turnover. The road to encouraging motivation across the members of your workforce is to make some permanent changes.
1. Make your team members’ psychological security a priority
According to research from McChrystal Group, workers who feel psychologically safe on the job are roughly three times more likely to be motivated at work. Yet psychologically, safety means more than just having a clean, calm environment to work in. As pointed out in Harvard Business Review, psychological safety requires that anyone can add to the discussion without fear of retribution or embarrassment.
You might assume that your corporate culture is safe. Is it that way for everyone or just you and other executives? If team leaders act out of favoritism or exploit others’ vulnerabilities, they’re hurting your efforts to achieve psychological safety. This means you may need to train all your employees on how to practice the art of psychological safety.
For example, you could take a positive approach and point out leaders making “psychologically safe” decisions. Or, you might rethink your reactions to becoming a role model. Don’t forget that you can track psychological security using basic KPIs like turnover rates and employee satisfaction scores. When people feel free to be who they are, they’ll be less susceptible to burnout and more motivated to perform.
2. Give employees lots of reasons to stay and grow roots
It is much harder for workers who feel empowered, appreciated and rewarded to leave their employers. Even if their work is difficult, employees who feel like they’re seen as valued contributors will exhibit initiative. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company, for example, has long enjoyed a reputation for being a tough company to work for. Yet Indeed ratings show that people who make it past the difficult interview stages by and far like the challenge and culture.
The point is that you don’t have to become a fun, laid-back employer to win the battle against burnout. You must build a company that gives its staff members a reason to stick around and perform at high levels. In other words, you must use external motivators to ignite your workers’ internal motivators.
How can you get your employees eager to start each day? Promoting from within is one suggestion. Covering the cost of training and development courses is another. If possible, you may want to offer monetary bonuses, commissions and stipends in addition to fair compensation and regular raises. Just make sure you try not to make everything about the money. People will leave high salaries at the onset of burnout.
3. Loop applicable workers into need-to-know discussions
Nothing feels worse as an employee than realizing you’re the last to know something important. Constantly being in the dark eats away at motivation. It also fosters a sense of paranoia, which can become a bridge to full-fledged depression and burnout.
You and your team leaders may not realize you’re leaving out workers from communications. Whether you lack transparency by accident or on purpose, now is the time to become more open. The more secrets you keep (or appear to be keeping), the more silos will pop up around your company. Those silos will only grow and become barriers to widespread motivation.
Be especially cognizant about the way your remote or hybrid workers feel when it comes to receiving information. Seven out of 10 telecommuters feel out of the loop. Consequently, ask everyone to ensure they keep their colleagues up to speed. When you’re sending an email, check your cc: and bcc: lines. Have you included all pertinent members of your organization? Go through the same due diligence with Slack pings.
You may not be able to stop the Great Resignation or economic uncertainty, but you can do your darndest to lower the likelihood of worker burnout in your organization. When you succeed, you’ll notice an uptick in motivation and energy in all your employees.