Employee engagement strategies have become increasingly important to businesses today – especially businesses that must compete for top talent. If you find “hidden gem” employees and bring them on board, naturally you want them to be engaged in what they do.
Employee engagement, for the most part, is something all businesses should promote because the benefits (like higher productivity and greater revenues) have been demonstrated over and over. However, it is important for businesses to understand that employee engagement and employee burnout are not mutually exclusive. It is possible for a highly engaged employee to be on the fast track to burnout, and when this happens, the consequences can be significant.
Engagement Plus Burnout Equals Greatest Risk of Turnover
You have heard the unpleasant statistic from Gallup that around 70 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged in their work, and so you pay attention to employee engagement strategies because no company wants a workforce that is disengaged. It turns out, though, that things are not so simple.
A recent study by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Faas Foundation reported that there is such a phenomenon as high engagement accompanied by high burnout. In other words, people are both engaged and exhausted. They may be passionate about what they do, but also experience high levels of frustration and stress. These employees are often the ones with the strongest skills and the motivation to add to their skill set, but there is a big problem.
The highly engaged workers experiencing burnout tend to have the highest turnover rates – higher still than turnover among disengaged workers. Burnout means that companies risk losing some of their hardest-working, most skilled and motivated employees despite those employees reporting high levels of engagement in their work. It is a real conundrum.
Maintaining High Engagement while Avoiding Burnout
The plain fact is that employee engagement strategies must be accompanied by increased attention to signs of burnout. Maintaining an engaged workforce without inadvertently promoting burnout requires striking the right balance.
One of the biggest differentiators between engaged employees who are not burned out compared to engaged employees who are burned out is availability of resources, including recognition, supervisor support, and autonomy at work. Likewise, non-burned-out employees have reasonable workload and are not encumbered by unnecessary bureaucracy. It is the engaged employees who have the resources they need alongside a reasonable workload and reasonable bureaucratic demands that remain engaged without excess risk of burning out.
In practical terms, this means that supervisors must provide employees with the resources and tools they need to do their work and feel good about it, and they need to provide employees with the emotional room to recover from work stressors.
When Stretch Goals Stretch Too Far: Wellness Programs Will Not Help
Shouldn’t challenges be part of maintaining an engaged workforce? Yes, with some caveats. So-called stretch goals can be good for employees, allowing them to demonstrate to themselves and others that they are capable of outstanding accomplishments. However, the bigger the stretch required for stretch goals, the more support, acknowledgment, and opportunity for recovery are required to prevent burnout.
As a component of employee engagement strategies, many companies offer employee wellness programs, assuming that such programs are enough to counteract stressors that accompany work. When it comes to avoiding employee burnout, wellness programs do not make as big a difference as the work itself. Is the company asking too much of employees without providing the resources they need and giving them the space to recover after fulfilling a stretch goal? If so, burnout is a risk, and so is turnover.
Employee engagement strategies must find a balance between encouraging employees to stretch their wings and expecting that everyone exceeds expectations continually. Employee goals are important, but they should be realistic and balanced. The especially talented and productive employees should be monitored because if demands go unchecked, high engagement can tip over into burnout.
Using Technology to Help Strike the Right Balance
The use of employee engagement apps like hubEngage helps employers balance employee engagement, so employees can maintain high engagement while minimizing the risk of burnout. With hubEngage, apps can be custom-tailored to specific workforce requirements, and the analytics amassed by the app itself can effectively inform employee engagement strategies. You can try the hubEngage app for free and find out for yourself. See how technology can help you have a highly engaged workforce while minimizing the risk of employee burnout.