In the January/February issue of HR Magazine, Josh Bersin with Deloitte, makes nine predictions of “what’s in store for HR in 2015.” This is part three of a series of articles looking at each of these predictions.
In a recent study, Deloitte states; “…we identified a new human capital issue:…the overwhelmed employee.” Seriously? New? This is not just a tune Sam plays over and over, it’s a choral extravaganza. As one who has sat on both sides of the desk as an employee and being in HR for a number of years, this issue is anything but new. The report goes on to state that organizations are not ready to deal with this issue.
Employers cannot afford to “not be ready to address this issue.” Overwhelmed employees interact with your customers every day. Customers are just like employees, they leave because one person was rude to them. Stress breeds rudeness. While the overwhelmed tune has not changed, the words to that tune or the reasons for employees being overwhelmed has changed over the years.
For example, being overwhelmed used to come from a lack of technology. Now technology is being blamed as one of the contributing factors to stress. According to Deloitte, technology has imbedded changes in recruiting, education, training, analytics, and the way we work. Other contributors are the multi-generational workforce, trying to meet both capitalistic needs and community contributions, and artificial intelligence. Hmmm, mine’s been kinda’ artificial for a while now. OK, moving on… In addition let’s not forget “big data” – don’t get me started. The fact that we can now communicate with ease 24/7/365 only adds to the stress. Indeed employees in some organizations think it a “badge of honor” that a recipient finds their email was answered at 3:35 in the A M. Such activities only lead to burnout. So what can be done about this chorus of employees singing we are overwhelmed?
- Preventing having overwhelmed employees is a two-way street. Employees must speak up when they are over burdened with projects and unreasonable deadlines. Employers must establish a culture wherein it’s OK for employees to speak up about such concerns. Weekly meetings about project progress and new assignments and how they fit in will keep everyone on track, focused, and productive. Many of these can be one on one, but don’t neglect to have team project meetings as well. This helps everyone to better understand the flow of work, what is on each other’s plate and, can foster a more cooperative culture.
- On the other hand…that’s not to say that employees shouldn’t have projects and deadlines. Everyone needs specific, challenging, and attainable goals. With this expectation, most employees can prioritize tasks and manage time accordingly. For those who do have issues in these areas, training or coaching can provide the help they need to get on track and improve focus.
- Mind Tools suggests, as reported by Terri Egan and Suzanne Lahl, that a to-do list should be replaced with action programs. The action program consists of short – medium – and long-term goals. This way, both the employee and the manager have a better focus. Further such a program will also provide short-term completions or at least small wins at every level of a project. These short-term wins can be a motivating factor for both individuals and the team as a whole.
- Ensure each employee is in the right job. When people are doing something meaningful, they will be highly engaged and stress seems to melt away. This is what happens when we are doing something we feel passionate about.
- Recognizing and rewarding people for achieving goals and performing well helps create a positive attitude. Be sure you know how each employee on your team wants to be rewarded. For some, it’s public recognition, others want a monetary reward, and still others might want a paid day off. Be creative here. Some employees might want a day off to go work on their favorite charity, maybe someone has an interest in starting a Toastmasters Club at your organization, another might want to start or contribute to a newsletter.
- Develop employees and help them to “skill up.” If you promote from within, these employees will find a space in your organization reducing turnover, boosting morale, and keeping knowledge and expertise on property. In addition, it also reduces stress for the employee if it becomes necessary to leave the organization for whatever reason. Moreover, development programs may help reduce law suits for dismissal.
- Implement flexible work hours. This alone may help to reduce the stress a single parent faces or the worker who has a parent for whom they are caring. Some organizations offer one day a week at home. However, I have a neighbor who is in sales and works entirely from home, only going into the office one day a week. He is no slacker as he just won a national award from his company and I’ll wager his customer service is awesome.
- Look at your “connectedness” factor. Are people required to carry beepers, be available at all hours on their cell phone to the office? Once, our director of HR insisted that each of us in the department carry beepers. I once got beeped while at my grandmother’s bedside as she lay in the hospital. Not too long after that, my beeper accidently slipped out of my pocket and into the commode at work. Was that slip a Freudian one? Hmmmmmm Be careful about requiring employees to stay connected 24/7/365 as it will only serve to increase the overwhelmed factor not to mention increasing rudeness to customers.
- Stay on top of the stress factor at work by conducting surveys and speaking with employees about their workloads. Anonymous surveys can glean information about not only work levels, but preferences, new ideas, diversity, development, food, and a myriad of other elements that make up an organization’s culture.
- Hold town hall meetings and allow people to speak their minds freely. A town hall meeting where the CEO stands up in front of the employees and gives only his or her point of view and then ends the meeting is not a real town hall meeting or an exchange of ideas.
- Provide opportunities for better health for your employees such as either a gym on site or a reduced membership fee to a gym off property. Support lunch and learn programs on health, parenting concerns, technology, humor, healthy diets, money issues, retirement, etc.
- Help employees to have some level of empowerment and decision making in their jobs. Avoid micromanaging. Hiring the right people for the right job negates the need for micromanagement. In addition, adequately convey expectations about customer service.
Think about how these ideas can promote more engaged employees. Engaged employees are more productive and provide better customer service. After all, customers are the ones you want to overwhelm – not your employees.