Engaging an Exhausted Workforce

May 27, 2021  |  Karen Kislin

Most financial institutions are focused on growth over the next 18 months; attracting new customers or members and especially growing loan balances in order to succeed with significant margin compression. To meet these goals, organizations must have an engaged workforce.

After a year of unprecedented disruption, uncertainty and stress, more employees are experiencing burnout. According to Spring Health’s December 2020 survey results, 76 percent of employees are experiencing symptoms of burnout, and 57 percent of those cite the main reason is not the workplace, but COVID-19. Another third of respondents experiencing burnout reference political issues as the cause.

How do employers manage employee burnout when the source of the burnout is not from work? The key here is managing what you can control and influence.

One financial institution in the Midwest partnered with Raddon to measure how much its employee engagement was suffering. Not only did employees have the challenges of working from home at the height of the pandemic, but the institution restructured its leadership team to realign reporting divisions, as well as underwent a core conversion during the same time.

Despite these challenges and the prevailing environment, the results from the Employee Viewpoint Survey revealed that employees were actually more engaged. The institution identified three main reasons. These themes provide great insights and lessons for any organization on how best to manage an exhausted workforce and, in the process, achieve sustainable growth.

1. Focus
When the institution underwent a core conversion and leadership restructuring during statewide stay-home orders, it was forced to focus its enterprise wide energy on this one significant deliverable. Employees dropped other projects and focused training initiatives on the new core. Other ancillary training, such as ongoing sales training, was cancelled for the time being.

Focusing your organization on just a few key initiatives will help align your workforce efforts and provide a collective feeling of teamwork and clear accomplishment.

Mental health experts at Spring Health say one major tip in managing your team’s burnout is assessing their workload. Management needs to set clear expectations on duties and give each employee adequate time and resources to complete their work well, without undue time pressures.

2. Cross-Departmental Collaboration
The core conversion created the opportunity for employees to work on cross-departmental teams. In a remote environment, more employees were connecting with co-workers from other departments to work toward this common goal.

Workplace collaboration helps create an environment where employees feel valued for their unique skills and their continuous input, which reduces the risk of workplace burnout. Organizations that have seen the success of cross-group collaboration recommend it because of the innovation it spurs among co-workers and how it cultivates more empathy at work. The very nature of cross-group collaboration gives employees more opportunities to understand how others perceive various situations. When you work together to overcome a mutual challenge, people can identify with, and become invested in, each other’s well-being.

In order to succeed in this margin-compression environment, organizations need to break down silos and continue to foster a culture of collaboration across departments to further drive employee engagement and combat the effects of burnout.

3. Mindful Management
When employees moved to remote work, the leadership team of this Midwest institution set expectations for all managers to proactively check in with employees every week. They established touch-base calls with all employees to ensure managers were regularly checking on how their employees were doing in the new work environment amid stay-home orders. They were not focused on checking in on projects and deadlines.

This approach aligns with the need to keep communication channels open to help manage employee burnout. It also helps demonstrate leadership’s commitment to practicing and demonstrating empathy.

As companies move to new work environments – in-office, hybrid, remote – the transition is a form of disruption that could spur additional burnout. In the Spring Health survey, 26 percent of employees cited the need for empathetic management to help mitigate burnout and support mental health.

Practice Empathy

There is no going back to the way we were working before the pandemic. Having such expectations will negatively impact your workforce. Moving forward, organizations must emphasize empathy, which is the ability to recognize emotions in others and to understand other people’s perspectives. Practicing empathy in the workplace includes:

  • Giving your co-worker your full attention, being curious about their lives and interests, and looking out for verbal and nonverbal clues to help you fully understand their situation
  • Setting aside your own assumptions, acknowledging your colleague's feelings and allowing an emotional connection
  • Taking positive action that will improve another’s well-being

Even though we have all gone through this pandemic, along with an atmosphere of economic, political and social strife, we must understand that every single person has had varying experiences. I’ve heard it said that we may be on the water together, but each of us is in a very different boat. Some employees are single, some married; some have school-age kids, some don’t. Some employees are caregivers for ailing family members. Other employees may have experienced partners or roommates losing their jobs or having a reduction in pay. Furthermore, different employees may have similar circumstances, but they may approach those experiences or manage their situations very differently.

By fostering a culture of shared focus, cross-departmental collaboration, mindful management and empathy, your organization can strengthen relationships, improve engagement and, ultimately, reduce the effects of burnout.  

Learn more about how Survey Services from Raddon and the Employee Viewpoint Survey can accelerate growth and profitability for financial institutions.

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