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Keep the Love Alive: Managing Stress Before it Impacts Performance

Mollie Lombardi on July 25, 2017 10:30 AM

The following post is the second in a guest-authored, three-part series exploring how to leverage benefits programs to attract, retain, and engage top talent. 

In my last blog, I talked about how organizations leverage their employer brand when it comes to recruiting new talent. But what about the talent you already have? How can you help them better manage the increasingly tricky balancing act of work, life, and home? The more organizations can support this very individual challenge, the more loyalty and engagement they can build.

Helping to manage stress and fatigue is not just a kindness on the part of employers, it’s a true business challenge. Aptitude’s recent Workforce Utilization study found that 67% of organizations have experienced productivity or quality issues due to employee fatigue and burnout. So, what can your organization do?

Identify Patient Zero 
Burnout can be contagious, so it’s important to watch for signs of the first victim. When one individual is feeling overworked and overburdened, their quite understandable frustration can start to rub off on other people. And often it’s our top performers who are most susceptible to burnout, because of their desire to do a good job and be involved. Our research found that organizations with above-average levels of burnout are 66% more likely to lose top performers than their competitors. If you let employees languish in a state of burnout, it just gives them one more reason to pick up the phone when a recruiter calls.

Inoculate for Overwork
It’s not surprising that our research showed fatigue and burnout are related to workload, work environment, and schedule. But with the right tools and technology, organizations can help prevent over-scheduling, as well as offer flexibility, whether in the form of shift swapping in an hourly environment, or in terms of telecommuting or virtual teamwork in a professional environment.

Reduce the Risk Factors
Lack of sleep, health issues, money issues, and worries about children or other family members can cause an incredible amount of stress for today’s workers. And then we add on our work responsibilities. Many organizations are finding great success in offering tools and programs focused on wellness, child and elder care, and financial management to help reduce these stressors. But these programs are only effective if people are aware of them and how to use them.

Arm the Front Line
Managers are truly the front line of your organization, as the key translation point from leadership to employees, and as an employee’s typical first stop when they have any sort of issue. This puts them in a position to identify employees who may benefit from programs the organization offers, so managers must be aware of all of your organization’s offerings so they can steer them in the right direction. Managers must know and model the use of benefits in order to make them truly a part of the organization’s culture.

While 47% of senior leaders in our research said that everyone in the organization had a clear understanding of what benefits were available to them, only 35% of the rest of the organization agreed. This is a huge wasted opportunity, and waste of organizational resources. It costs little to nothing to communicate and make people aware of benefits that may help them manage stress and remain productive members of the organization. By helping managers understand the signs of burnout, and the programs you have to help individuals combat it, you can go a long way towards retaining your critical staff.

Mollie Lombardi is Co-founder and CEO of Aptitude Research Partners, a research-based analyst and advisory firm that helps businesses navigate all aspects of the Human Capital Management Technology Landscape, including talent acquisition, retention and engagement, and workforce management. Aptitude enables organizations to better understand how these aspects work individually - and together - to deliver optimal employee experience and engagement, as well as business results.

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Mollie Lombardi

With nearly two decades spent advising, developing and studying HR and business leaders, Mollie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in human capital and workforce management insights to help ignite a new conversation at the intersection of HR technology, strategy, and impact. As Co-Founder and CEO of Aptitude Research Partners, she focuses on primary research covering end-to-end human capital management, to help organizations better understand their HR needs and the landscape of HCM technology solutions, and to help solution providers articulate the unique differentiators they bring to meet those needs. She has spoken around the globe to HR audiences on topics across the HCM spectrum, and has authored hundreds of research reports and papers. Her research has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, eLearning Magazine, CIO Magazine and other trade publications. Prior to Aptitude Research Partners Mollie was Vice President, Workforce Management at Brandon Hall Group and Vice President and Principal Analyst, Human Capital Management at Aberdeen Group.