HR – The Under Resourced Savior to Burnout

Periodically the subject of burnout in employees and business owners comes up in conversation, and in this COVID crisis it is doing the same again.  There is lots of information out there about burnout and what it is, indeed it features heavily in my own book Safe Leadership – beating stress to drive performance, so why is it still rife in the business world, what is missing, what have we not changed in our approach that still allows this to happen?  I have a few ideas that I would like to challenge you with here.

In a recent study compiled by Gallup where they presented their findings in an article titled Employee Burnout: The Biggest Myth 76% of employees experience burnout at least sometimes.  They conclude that it is much more than long hours which contribute to burnout and they highlight five key areas:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workloads
  3. Unclear communication from Managers
  4. Lack of Manager support
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

There findings align very closely with my own research into the factors that develop burnout, Gallup’s main point is that ineffective Managers are the driving cause behind burnout and it maybe a lack of training in this area that drives this behavior.  In my opinion the cause runs far deeper.

The Issue

Calling upon the research I have been doing for nearly five years into effective leaders and their behaviors, one major obstacle rears its head time and again, we measure leaders (they are called leaders not managers, leaders lead people, managers manage processes, that narrative needs to change!) through their ability to reach their operational KPI’s.   These are all aligned with the organisation making a healthy profit and returns to its shareholders; a focus that has been with us since the Industrial Age.

This is where we have all gone wrong, what would businesses look like if the major measure of success was the health and well being of their people?  Do healthy and happy people create more enjoyable environments to be in, undoubtedly.  Are healthy and more engaged people more productive than their opposites, undoubtedly.  Does higher levels of productivity lead to greater levels of profitability, yes.  Does it make sense that an organisation that looks after the health and well being of their people create a more happier and more sustainable version of itself, yes it does.

The Solution

Every leader is measured purely on the happiness, well being and success of their people.  Nothing else.  Human Resources or as I prefer to refer to this side of an organisation; People and Culture drive this change.  They are not and should not be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, they should be at the centre of the community at the top instead.   They are the real heroes of the organisation, why because their focus will:

  • Support the leaders to help them better connect with each individual in their team.
  • Hold the leaders accountable for their teams welfare and their ability to achieve operationally.
  • Connect the strategic direction to the people requirements of the organisation.
  • Teach the leaders how to lead safely (psychologically and physically).
  • Help leaders navigate inter-personal issues by teaching them how to identify the stressors behind those issues so they never arise in the first place.
  • Provide the processes and procedures for the leaders to make great people decisions.
  • Create a culture of learning and development so that the capabilities of everyone are continually growing, in turn allowing the overall capability of the organisation to grow.
  • Keep cultural communication and activities flowing throughout the organisation so that everyone is on the same page and feeling they are part of something much greater than themselves or their department.
  • Listen to everyone who needs to be listened too.

When the Human Resources or People and Culture department can work with the resources they need to ensure the above happens, burnout will become a word in the dictionary connected to businesses in history.  Everyone in the organisation wins, everyone in the organisation gets to be developed to be the best they can be, everyone in the organisation feels listened to and valued and most importantly everyone in the organisation gets to feel happy.

How good and organisation would that be to work in?

Can you say this is how your organisation approaches success?