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The Solution for Employee Burnout

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Crystal Destefano
Crystal Destefano

The Solution for Employee Burnout

You’re listening to The Strategic Minute, brought to you by WRVO Public Media. I’m Crystal DeStefano, President at Strategic Communications in Syracuse.

The past 10-15 years of business have been dominated by an obsession with efficiency: How can we accomplish more work with fewer employees to save money and maximize profitability?

Certainly, continued efforts to reach new levels of efficiency are important to business growth and sustainability. But the most recent three-to-five years have shown this quest for ultimate efficiency has come with a grave cost: loss of efficacy and employee burnout.

We see it in national news stories and business case studies. We see it in our local community. But what we’ve found most interesting are the results of our efforts to mitigate burnout and loss of efficacy for our own clients.

One key to successfully supporting these organizations is a policy we implemented several years ago: We always have a minimum of two people on every client account.

We noticed an immediate shift in our own team’s performance and our clients’ overall satisfaction when we implemented this policy. With this structure, an organization’s internal marketing and communications employee (if the organization has a “department of one”) or employees not only have a public relations vendor, they get an entire team.

There are several layers of support, and strategic redundancy, built into the equation.

“Redundancy” is not a bad word. For many reasons, it is critical for organizations to ensure there are multiple people who are capable of performing the same tasks. They may not both perform that same task every day, but having multiple people who can support each other is helpful for short-term needs and long-term growth.

When an employee is sick, needs time off to care for a family member, or simply needs to be pulled onto a large project that requires most of their time, your organization needs someone to “cover” for them – so the work continues to get done, instead of piling up and creating a backlog.

Having a proper team also drives long-term innovation because each member brings a unique perspective and can share different ideas or observations. When everyone on the team is firing on all cylinders, the organization is achieving greater results than ever before—because no one is burned out.

I already know what your first reaction might be… Worried about the expense of investing in more employees? Keep in mind that employee burnout and turnover can ultimately be more expensive for an organization than adding a few team members in the first place. It can result in errors, oversights, delays, missed deadlines, costly hiring processes, and even major liabilities.

Am I saying you should just abandon efficiency? Absolutely not. We recommend the following 4 tips to successfully balance efficiency and redundancy:

1. Hire at the right time. Most of the organizations we know in this region would benefit from adding a few more people to many of their departments. It’s rare to see a business with a truly “fully” staffed team that has all the proper support systems and redundancies to ensure employees are set up to be continually successful. When your employees are still producing excellent work, but sharing that they feel increasingly overwhelmed, it is time to seriously evaluate whether the team needs to grow.

2. Stagger skillsets. Even when hiring within one department, look for people with various skills. Employee A may have skills in areas 1 and 2, where employee B has skills in areas 2 and 3, and employee C has skills in areas 1 and 3.

The diversity of skills and perspectives that each member brings… creates a well-rounded team, that can handle a variety of tasks and challenges. This ensures all necessary skill sets are properly supported when someone is unavailable. At the same time, it minimizes an employee’s “down time” when all staff are working because no two people have exactly the same skills or responsibilities. And as we’ve already established, having more people working on either problem solving or innovation can lead to better solutions and ideas.

3. Identify the right mix of full-time employees and vendor support. Finding this balance leads to maximum results for the greatest cost-efficiency. In fact, many external vendors bring another advantage to your organization: fresh perspective and varied experiences from working with multiple clients or customers. This overall mix of employees and vendors can truly launch an organization to the next level of its long-term success.

4. Shift your focus from efficiency to performance. There’s a difference between “peak performance” and “maximized efficiency.” The former allows for long-term sustainability, while the latter drives short-term results at the expense of long-term sustainability.

In our business of public relations, the reason we practice and advocate for additional support and redundancy on teams is to ensure we are always able to proactively identify and pursue strategic opportunities to share positive stories from and about the organization. This helps ensure our clients’ reputations are well managed and supports their business goals without interruption.

Depending on the industry in which your business operates, or the department in which you work, the specific reasons for additional support might look a little different. But the result is the same for everyone: smoother operations, higher quality work, happier and more productive employees, faster innovation, and long-term success.

If you’re a business owner or leader, I encourage you to evaluate your current department teams – and be honest! It’s important to recognize the long-term value of having a strategically selected team in any department, rather than relying on just one person to handle everything.

If you’re someone who’s currently on an understaffed team, I hope this helps you make the case to your management that some additional resources can actually save money long-term while improving productivity and results for the organization.

Thanks for listening to The Strategic Minute, brought to you by WRVO Public Media. If you want to learn more about what we do at Strategic Communications, visit stratcomllc.com

Crystal DeStefano is President and Director of Public Relations at Strategic Communications, LLC in Syracuse, N.Y. and host of The Strategic Minute podcast.