We all know about employee engagement. It can best be described as that wonderful mix of Productivity and Loyalty. It is what we are always looking for in our staff. But we also know that New Zealand has one of the lowest levels of engagement amongst the developed world. The Gallup surveys continue to show engagement levels in the NZ workforce of between 20 and 25%. The worrying part of this statistic, of course, is that at least 75% of our workforce (of your staff!) are either disengaged or actively disengaged.
In recent times, in light of this information, managers have been attempting to arrest staff turnover by focusing on these disengaged staff members - helping them, engaging them, challenging them, stroking them, being nice to them, paying them more, starting incentive schemes so that performance is rewarded, doing a whole raft of things to ensure these disengaged workers somehow "get more engaged," stay with us, and as a result make our lives easier.
Well, I have some news for you all! Yes, we still must ensure we put effort into our disengaged staff (not our actively disengaged staff - they need to find other wells to poison!) but a new study (Stanford University) has suggested that the people most at risk of moving on are some of our highly engaged and motivated staff. And the reason for this is Burnout. The study concluded that 1 in 5 of highly engaged and motivated staff are at risk of burnout. When we look at the figures for NZ that means that 1 in 5 of our top 25% (5% of our staff - these are our rock stars) are at risk of burnout. And the result of burnout in these enlightened times? Burnt out staff will leave you for a quieter life somewhere else.
The authors of this study specifically identify "Engaged and Exhausted" staff as those at risk. I often remember that great productivity principle "thrash your thoroughbreds." In other words, make sure your Rock Stars are challenged continually and don't let up. They will love you for it! Well, these findings are a worry. Maybe if we push them too much (do we really know when burnout happens?) they will up and leave. So some ideas, a few from the article and most of them mine:
Identify what burnout means for each of your Rock Star employees. How would you do this? How about asking them, talking to them, stroking them, spending time with them. Don't just leave them to their own devices whilst you spend all of your spare time helping, cajoling, threatening, rescuing and worrying about your disengaged plodders and well-poisoners
And do you know who your Rock Stars are? If not, find them. How do you identify them? They are in the top 5% at what they do in your Industry. If you don't know what that looks like, shame on you!
Put the whip away. Presume some exhaustion
Look closely, really closely, at your resource levels. I am not one to advise throwing people at every issue, but sometimes it is the right move. When? When your best people are exhausted. And how do you know that? They are leaving you, or thinking seriously about it
Sometimes your Rock Stars will never admit to burnout - to them it may seem like a cop out. But you, as a Manager and a Leader, need to use your judgement. What are some of the signs of exhaustion? Look at yourselves - when you are exhausted what happens? What do you miss? What are your symptoms? Then use empathy to try to identify those things in others
We must use more time with our highly engaged people. Think of the trade off. If you lose a disengaged staff member because you haven't stroked them enough, how does that compare with losing a rock star because you haven't spent enough time with them? Make it mandatory to have a one on one with every highly engaged and motivated staff member every week. Get to know them more. Set them new challenges but make sure they are not exhausted (and you already know what "exhausted" means for each of them, don't you!) and help them to get even better.
Keep focused, stop thrashing your thoroughbreds and talk to them.