A large number of Australian employees are looking to change jobs, according to two new reports. And a major reason is burnout. What can organisations do to stem the tide?
Returning to work following a mental-health related injury takes three times longer than it does returning after a physical injury, suggests research.
So it is vital that businesses implement simple organisation-wide solutions to mental health and burnout problems in order to keep retention and productivity rates high. This is more important than ever because new reports show people are job searching more and organisations have high turnover rates.
According to recruitment firm Hays, 40 per cent of Australians will be seeking a new job in the next 12 months and another 28 per cent haven’t decided whether to stay in their current role or look elsewhere. This comes from the company’s 2019/2020 Guide (HSG) which surveyed 1,600 professionals across 25 industries (including HR). In the report summary on the Hays website, Managing director of Hays Australia and New Zealand, Nick Deligiannis, said that 33 per cent of companies talked to had a turnover rate rise in the last 12 months.
Hays isn’t alone in trying to track employee behaviour. Research and advisory firm Gartner released its 2019 (first quarterly) Global Talent Monitor (GTM) which surveyed 1,909 Australian professionals. It found that in the first three months of 2019 only 30 per cent of respondents had a high intention of staying in their current roles (a drop of 8 per cent since last quarter) and almost half were actively seeking new jobs (an increase of 5 per cent).
Why are there movements?
According to the HSG, there are a few reasons professionals are thinking or planning on leaving their current roles:
- over half say there is a lack of promotional opportunities;
- 42 per cent cited a lack of new challenges;
- a quarter say they have had poor training and development; and
- another quarter cited poor work-life balance.
Gartner’s information suggests that this last reason might be more dire than it sounds. It found that one of the top reasons people are job seeking right now is because many are on the brink of burnout.
Burnout is a very real and serious issue that is only becoming more prevalent, just recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) included burnout on its 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases – classifying it as an “occupational phenomenon”.
The organisation found the most prominent symptoms of burnout are “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
“It takes three times longer for someone to come back to work following a mental health issue as opposed to a physical injury,” says Gartner’s HR advisory leader Aaron McEwan.
A common cause of burnout is obvious enough – working overtime. The HSG says in the last 12 months, 31 per cent of survey respondents indicated an increase in overtime or extra hours spent working at their organisations. Fifty seven per cent said they weren’t paid for the hours they worked overtime.
The GTM shows that employees are aware of expectations to work overtime but the “workforce simply cannot give anymore.” It shows that Australia’s workforce discretionary efforts (the willingness and ability to work overtime) are at the lowest point since 2014, coming in at 15.7 per cent. McEwan attributes this to high expectations within organisations despite the fact that they have reduced overall resources.
“What jumped out to us as alarming is that workers have hit a wall and that has showed up in January, February and March – not at the end of the year,” says McEwan. “Organisations have stripped the fat in every area of operations as they look to drive efficiencies and move their business into the future.
“Growth targets are high, and for years, organisations have expected their workers to do more with less and achieve continuous results against a backdrop of constant change and increasing complexity.”
Hays and Gartner both point to solutions that businesses can start implementing to retain talent and help curb burnout.
“To counter the effect on attraction and retention, employers will need to reinvest in training, offer career development pathways, think beyond staggered start and finish times to offer genuine work-life balance initiatives and give diversity policies more than mere lip service,” says Deligiannis.
McEwan says implementing small changes with care require little effort but yield great results. “It’s quite simple really — organisations need to declutter.”
To effectively ‘declutter’ the workforce, McEwan says you need to reduce unnecessary tasks that slow employees down. For example, if an employee wants to take annual leave, the process could be streamlined by reducing the number of sign-offs that are required.
Another solution is implementing an Employee Value Proposition that focuses on what employees value most. According to the GTM, that value is respect.
“I think empathy costs nothing, being nice costs nothing. Look at your workforce and recognise the effort that they are putting in and the sacrifices they are making,” says McEwan. “If organisations are serious about competing in the future then they can’t just attract the ‘right talent’ – they need to keep them.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated the Hays report had found that the average turnover rate in Australia is 33 per cent. This is incorrect. There is a quote from Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand, that says 33 per cent of companies had reported an increase in turnover in the last 12 months.
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