Combating Burnout and Employee Turnover By: Paroma Nandi December 2, 2013 Young professionals today quickly learn that the 9 to 5 work-day is only a conventional term that will rarely represent their everyday. A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited that Americans on average work 8.8 hours a day and it’s widely suspected that many Americans work even longer hours. A brief discussion with your colleagues, would likely reveal that many routinely exceed the 40 hour work week, and that feelings of being overworked and exhausted are common. The nonprofit sector experiences a high turnover rate of qualified, passionate professionals; due to the demanding work and long hours, much of which goes uncompensated. Many organizations will maintain a maximum number of hours allotted to work a day, however, due to the daunting number of duties and the high expectations, individuals will exceed their hours in and outside of the workplace. A manageable work-life balance is what employers often promise, yet rarely deliver. The reality is that individuals are committing to work longer hours, work through complex problems, and deal with inefficiencies because they believe in their job and mission. The nonprofit sector recruits individuals that want to make a difference in society no matter the cost to themselves. However, by instituting a self-sacrificing work ethic, many of these truly talented individuals will move onto greener pastures after succumbing to burnout. So the question many organizations are asking is, “How can we prevent burnout and retain employees?” For an organization to retain their best employees they must invest in them. Increasingly nonprofits are paying competitive wages, therefore working at a nonprofit no longer means a second-rate salary. Yet, unlike private organizations, nonprofits lack the luxury of providing additional perks. According to the 2013 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey conducted by Nonprofit HR Solutions LLC, nonprofits surveyed saw a 9 to 17 percent increase in turnover from 2012, and 90 percent of nonprofits surveyed do not have formal strategies for retaining staff even when acknowledging retention is a core organizational problem. As new professionals enter this sector, nonprofits need to ensure that the resources spent on investing in new hires are meaningful. The idealistic and self-sacrificing attitude can only last so long in the face of burnout due to emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. The following recommendations have been compiled to help organizations combat burnout and retain their best people. 1. Value and Invest in your Employees In and Outside of Work
As nonprofits emphasize the relationships they foster with their clients, they must also focus on their employees. It’s critical to foster an environment where employees are appreciated both for their work and their individual identities. Organizations can develop this by allowing open discussions in the workplace and encouraging employees to openly advocate for new and creative ideas. In addition, they must understand that their employees have lives outside of work. Such a strategy may include allowing flexible schedules, providing reduced or free childcare, having affordable family healthcare plans, sponsoring gym memberships, and taking time to encourage extracurricular activities
outside of work. When an organization buys into an employee’s whole life, you can expect that employee to buy-back into the organization. 2. Mentorship Program
As new hires come into the office, there can be a time period of confusion and overlap of work. Such a period can result in lost time and frustration for everyone. By coordinating a mentorship program in the office, the organization can foster relationships between veteran employees and new hires. Instead of countless hours of online training videos, the one-on-one experience and hands-on training are shown to be more valuable and effective. The additional responsibility given to mentors is also beneficial, since it gives these employees credibility for their expertise, and thus recognizing the importance and value of all employees. 3. Tuition Assistance or Reimbursement Benefits
Many private companies, like Deloitte, Apple, Lockheed Martin, or Starbucks offer their employees forms of tuition assistance or reimbursement. In addition, many of these companies provide certificate classes or workshops for professional development. As tuition for higher education becomes more expensive, individuals are inclined to search for jobs that provide this benefit. The nonprofit sector needs to follow suit. By investing in an employee’s education organizations can guarantee that staff members have the skills and certifications required to carry their mission forward. By providing time and money for employees to take courses in related fields, organizations will successfully gain highly qualified individuals. These employees will be able to handle complex problems and will have the ability to work through demanding schedules and work requirements. 4. Employee Exchange Program
An exchange program allows employees to temporarily transfer to different location sites within the organization or potential partner organizations. Such a system might allow employees to take a break from their routine and allow them to learn from different sites. Each location may face a unique range of problems, therefore, employees are able to experience different methods of organizational management. An exchange program also helps an organization see how well their staff can manage change, integrate themselves in a new environment, and cultivate diverse relationships, as a means of recognizing future promotional potential. This program emphasizes adaptation to new circumstances and the exchange of ideas, and thus highlights and values the employees’ intellectual capital. By implementing these programs, organizations can invest in their employees and prevent burnout. The Wounded Warrior Project is an exemplary nonprofit that values their staff. They were selected as the “Best Nonprofit to Work For” by The NonProft Times for the past 2 years. They were cited in the commendation for instituting a “Compassion Fatigue Workshop” for employees due to the emotional stress that was burdening staff. The workshop developed helped employees relieve stress. Like Wounded Warrior Project, nonprofits need to be on the lookout for
burnout, as it can spread through their organization. By implementing programs to combat burnout, nonprofits can warrant that their best employees remain committed to the organization for years to come, rather than merely using their nonprofit time as a professional stepping stone.