5 Ways to Reduce Burnout Without Hiring More Staff

Everyone is under pressure right now — still — post-pandemic.

There are fewer bodies to do the work. Eight percent of all healthcare jobs, for example, are open right now. People have been on high anxiety for 2+ years now, and everyone is beyond exhausted. Mental health crises are at an all-time high, and there’s a battle/war on talent with the great resignation/reshuffle.

So — how do you keep the faithful, loyal employees who have not yet left the company from burning beyond extra crispy ?

Hiring and developing more employees can be an obvious choice. But in a talent-strapped environment, like we are in right now, may sound easy, but is very hard to actually implement.

In the meantime, here are some ideas on how to retain the talent you have, get them off the anxiety treadmill, and maximize productivity moving forward…

  1. Reward and celebrate cross-training: There is no glory in being the only person in your company to do something. Be sure to not only celebrate cross-training, but reward it. If someone in your company puts together an amazing training program for the team, acknowledge and celebrate it. If someone takes the initiative to learn about another functional area of the company, give them the time they need to learn about it. There’s one level of an employee who just does the work. There’s a completely different level of employee (and workload) for someone who shares their knowledge and cross-trains/manages the learning of others. If you have someone consistently doing this, ask yourself if you’re paying them enough as well, because doing vs. training are two completely different things.
  2. Clarity is kindness: Spend more time on strategy than implementation. Ever work in a culture where it’s nothing but constant fire drills? There are two types of people — those who are firefighters, and those who are arsonists or starters. Do you know which of your employees fit into which camps? After 2 years of firefighting…the arsonists can get…tired, because they’re not working in their chosen state. Also, even firefighters at your company may be exhausted now too. Either way, it’s worth the time for your company and teams to retreat and focus on strategy and thinking ahead rather than constantly putting out fires. The fire drills need to stop. Otherwise eventually, your arsonists will leave (if they haven’t already), and you may even lose the firefighters in this environment. Clarity is kindness; putting employees inside continuous chaos and unclear expectations just accelerates the burnout.
  3. Be ruthless with focus: Per #2 above, it’s important that everyone in the company not try to do everything on their own and not do everything in a silo. Also, it’s important to make sure that employees have the power to say no to something if they have too much on their plates, or if they don’t feel as though their own time is being maximized at the company. Meetings can be the death knell for those who have work to do as well. Give your people permission to say no. Also — let your people share what didn’t work in their jobs, and share best practices for both winning AND losing. Does your culture support experimentation and failure? Or are employees taught to cover up and hide their mistakes, rather than own them?
  4. Let employees overhaul their job descriptions: Give employees permission to STOP doing things that don’t contribute to strategic priorities per above. While being strategic, look at ROI on activities — what’s bringing in the most value, and ask what can be cut because its output and activity do not generate the greatest revenue? Also, it’s worth it (either at performance management time or another time) for people to rewrite their job descriptions, esp. now after the pandemic. Are people still doing the same job they were hired to do? Let them adjust their job descriptions to what they enjoy doing, what they’re good at, and give them permission to let the rest of the stuff go. If they’ve taken on more than their job descriptions, pay them for those extras!
  5. Prioritize and celebrate professional development: Of all items, I think this is the one that will likely retain individuals the most to a CEO or company leadership. Personal professional development and lifelong learning are hard to teach as a desire or want — people either have that desire, or they don’t. So, when you find the individuals who ask for some type of professional development, let them do it — and pay them to do it. Someone said you either should be getting paid on the job, learn on the job, or ideally both. If neither is happening — it’s time to move on. Don’t be the leader that doesn’t keep wooing their employees by denying the professional development that so many employees need right now to make their careers better, and to add value back to the organization. There are plenty of companies out there that will.

This may sound obvious, but I’ll say it anyway in closing — just ask your great talent what they need, and then do what you can to say yes to their needs. Maybe they need more flexibility in their schedules, or maybe they need the ability to work from anywhere, or maybe they need more money to pursue another degree or support their families. Whatever ‘it’ is — the mere act of asking shows a leader who is checked in, even if they can’t get everything that an employee wants.

That’s it. I know it’s easy to focus on hiring more ‘new’ talent — but don’t ignore the talent that has been showing up for the last 2+ years and that keeps showing up for the organization. For if you do ignore them, you’ll have fewer of them moving forward, because they’ll be leaving next….

Dr. Erin L. Albert is a healthcare career coach, inter alia. The opinions above are hers alone.



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Erin L. Albert

Erin L. Albert

Pharmacist, author, lawyer, intrapreneur. Opining is my own. www.erinalbert.com