Many leaders agree that highly engaged employees are a valuable resource to their company and are willing to spend time and resources to cultivate more engagement in their organization. But there's a subset of highly engaged employees that are at risk of burning out and leaving the company ––the individuals who are both highly engaged and exhausted.
Recent studies show that as many as 1 out of 5 highly engaged employees falls into this category. These individuals experience high levels of stress and exhaustion due to their “always on” mentality with work.
For managers who have employees in this category, there are several ways to curb the exhaustion before it leads to burnout or turnover.
Employee burnout not only impacts the individual –– it hurts the organization’s bottom line as well.
The average cost of turnover for an employee is 1.5 times their annual compensation. This figure doesn’t include other costs associated with regrettable turnover including recruiting, training, lost revenue, and customer impact.
Companies often depend on highly engaged employees to fortify the team, particularly in challenging times. But what most leaders don’t realize is they're at risk of losing one of their most valuable resources when they increase demands on these individuals for a sustained period, without providing additional support to help offset the increased workload.
Why engaged employees are linked to burnout
Researchers at Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence identified two key factors that influence burnout for highly engaged employees –– resources and demands.
Within the group of highly engaged employees in the study, 1 in 5 were in the high burnout group.
The study found that while this group reported having high resources such as supervisor support, they also reported having high demands, like consistently working on multiple projects and being asked to attain hard to achieve goals.
Individuals with high demands and high resources were most likely to burnout, with many reporting they were considering leaving the workplace.
In contrast, 2 out of every 5 highly engaged employees reported something different. Similar to the burnout group, they also had high resources but their overall demand level stayed low. This group experienced what researchers called optimal engagement – they were able to do their job well, but not placed in situations where they couldn’t achieve success.
This data sheds light on several ways leaders can support their employees to avoid bottoming out.
How to maintain engagement without burning out
Match Talent to Task
Leaders can set their superstar sellers up for success by ensuring goals and workloads are realistic for each individual. As we know in strengths-based coaching, the more opportunities managers can find to match the right task with the right talent on their team, the more success and growth there will be.
Create Sustainable Work Practices
Establishing workplace norms that foster employee well-being can go a long way in preventing burnout. Time boundaries with email, encouraging single tasking (instead of multi-tasking), fostering social support, encouraging regular breaks from work, and acknowledging extra effort are all ways managers can provide resources for their team.
Engagement Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes
It’s also important to remember that engagement looks different for different types of people. Engagement isn’t necessarily synonymous with being happy at work. It’s about having a stake in the game and a sense of purpose. As Beth Sunshine, Founding Partner of Up Your Culture, recently explained:
“We define employee engagement as the emotional commitment and a willingness to give your best at work,” explains Beth. “If employees are engaged, they feel as though they have a stake in the game and a sense of purpose. This allows them to want to give their best at work. When they know what they are playing for and understand how they play a part, they are willing to put in the effort to achieve success.”
Look for ways your engaged team members are contributing to the purpose and mission of your organization –– and acknowledge it when you see it in action.
Are Your Employees Engaged in the Right Way?
While many employee engagement conversations tend to focus on what happens when employees are not engaged, it’s just as important to make sure your employees are engaged in the right way.
Providing the right set of resources, with reasonable workload expectations, can keep your highly engaged employees as key members of your team.