There are many stories about The Great Resignation, but very few about its causes and what can be done to prevent it. Brandon Hall Group recently asked businesses if their employees feel their work stress is manageable and only 3% of organizations strongly agreed.
What makes managing employee work stress so challenging is that people often do not speak up about it, or in some cases, do not realize they are experiencing unmanageable levels. In addition, most employees’ normal day-to-day work environment has been disrupted, which can create other challenges. However, as with any challenge, this is also an opportunity — it’s a chance to reexamine employee workloads and the tools and processes that your organization has in place to support those workloads (or other stress-causing factors).
Although the consequences discussed here involve employees leaving, having stressed employees isn’t ideal, even if they stay, and having employees unexpectedly leave also causes the remaining employees more stress, which is already an issue. On the positive side, if your organization can give employees the support needed to help manage their stress, you will see benefits beyond better retention. For example, employees who feel that they are in a safe environment are more likely to seek development opportunities or volunteer to work on collaborative projects.
To improve your organization’s ability to manage employees’ stress levels and keep them from becoming unmanageable, you must determine what people, processes and technology you have in place to help manage employee stress. Organizations should ask those questions, along with the following:
- Who in your organization is ultimately accountable for monitoring and improving employee stress levels?
- What data and metrics will your organization use to measure the effects of efforts to reduce employee stress?
- When and what type of employees are leaving? Is retention occurring more often among one employee population than in others?
- What tools and technology are available to help measure, analyze and change the levels of employee well-being to improve the employee experience?
Make Employee Stress a Monitored Metric The only way to ensure employee stress is affected by your efforts is to have a way to “datify” it, then monitor changes to those levels. Stress levels can either be determined by self-assessments from well-being apps, direct measures such as wearables or other digital tools, or indirectly through work levels and/or changes in other metrics such as engagement and communication.
Determine the Cause of Employee Stress There are a variety of reasons employees might leave and not all of them are related to obvious external factors (although they certainly play a large part).
It can be useful to put the reasons in two groups: Work/life balance and stressful environment go together, then uncompetitive compensation/limited development opportunities and undervalued. The first group may be caused by factors under the employer’s control — but possibly not. The second group, however, is completely caused by the factors under the employer’s control. For this reason, it is important to know why employees may want to leave before implementing programs to keep them.
Create Learning Support for Managers to Notice and Mitigate Employee Stress The last two years changed the workplace without warning and the ongoing changes, along with other external factors, mean that managers must cope with the same stress as other employees — and more. How are they expected to manage their own stress levels, and recognize and support employees (including those they might no longer see on a daily basis) who may have unmanageable stress levels? If your own organization lacks the training necessary to help managers learn these new skills, there are third-party organizations that can assist and are well worth investigating.