The Turnover Problem

It's not secret that companies everywhere are struggling to retain their talent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2019 the annual average turnover rate in the U.S. was 44.3%. Employee turnover is expensive. According to analyst Josh Bersin, the total cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to almost two times their annual salary. Enough losses like these in a year can be devastating to a company's bottom line. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to solving this problem. There are many factors that contribute to the increasing turnover rate. However, there is one factor that stands out when compared to others: employee burnout.

What is Employee Burnout?

Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress - resulting in either physical or emotional exhaustion - that generally involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and a loss of personal identity. A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% reported frequently feeling burned out at work, while another 44% reported feeling burned out some of the time. Many HR professionals agree that employee burnout is contributing to rising turnover rates. A 2017 study found that nearly half of HR leaders said that between 20-50% of employee turnover is caused by burnout. Some cases are even more extreme; the same study reported that nearly 10% feel that burnout caused more than 50% of employee turnover.

Increasing Employee Performance

The Causes of Burnout

While the specific reasons that an employee is feeling burnout can vary, there are several common trends. Chief among these is that employees are feeling overworked, dealing with unclear job expectations, handling dysfunctional work environments, struggling with a work-life imbalance, or any mix of these. One thing these all have in common is that they're generally problems that are beyond the employee's ability to address. While there are certain steps they can take in each instance depending on their situation, many times it falls on you as their employer to bridge the gaps that they cannot. If you don't take the proper steps to do so, it'll be a literal coinflip whether or not you'll be able to retain them.

With that said, let's take a look at several ways your company can prevent employee burnout.

Provide the Right Tools

Have you ever tried eating soup with a fork? That feeling of futility is one felt by many employees all over the country. One of the biggest reasons employees leave is because they aren't given the tools they need to succeed, or the tools they do have are outdated or ineffective. It doesn't matter how much work they do, if your employees don't have what they need they're going to fail. The more this happens, the more it wastes their time and can add to any feelings of stress and inadequacy they may have. Make sure to provide them with the right tools for the job so they can have what they need to succeed.

Avoid Scope Creep

No one intends for scope creep to happen, but that doesn't excuse it. It can be easy to keep giving new tasks to a promising employee who has been exceeding expectations. You trust them, and you know that by giving them the task you can ensure that it gets done. Cut to six months later and that employee is absolutely inundated with special tasks that have no relation to one another. That employee's work is going to slip due to stress and overwork. At that point, you've all but guaranteed that you won't be able to retain them long term. Make sure to spread tasks out evenly amongst you team. By spreading out the load, you can help decrease your team's stress and help them stay effective.

Create Clear Roles

This is a problem that many smaller businesses run into. Oftentimes, employees will be forced to wear multiple hats - and these hats often get passed around. Workers can find this frustrating as many times these roles aren't related to what they were initially hired for. Think a software developing being forced to man the reigns of a company's social media. Employees facing this will be left feeling lost and unsure of whether or not they're doing a good job or performing. They'll feel there is a lack of direction and focus - something that contributes to burnout and turnover. You can avoid this by assigning distinct roles and functions to each person. Let them know exactly what they should be doing and what is expected of them.

Comprehensive Guide to Preventing Employee Burnout

Improve Communication

This one seems common sense, but it often isn't. In fact, this is something many leaders struggle with. A recent Interact study found that 91% of employees surveyed felt their leaders lacked effective communication skills. This can stem from many sources - from managers keeping them in the dark, being vague, overcommunicating, being aggressive, or any number of things. You need to take a step back and objectively look at your communication style. Are you being a noncommunicative leader? If so, you should look for steps that you can use to improve your communication with your employees.

Give Them Feedback

Another place that employee burnout can stem from is a lack of feedback. A common trend in the reasons for burnout is employees feeling lost. Whether that comes from unclear expectations, uncertain roles, or not receiving feedback - if an employee feels lost, they're probably on their way out the door. It's important to let employees know how they're doing, what they're doing well, and what they can do to improve. By doing so, they'll feel as if you and the company by extension are invested in their personal growth and success. People want to just feel like they belong, and if you can help them do that, you'll increase your chance of retaining them.


This is by no means a comprehensive guide to preventing employee burnout. This is, however, a good starting point for addressing the issue in your business. We hope that you are able to take the strategies above and use them to deal with many of the underlying problem that contribute to employee burnout. By doing this, you may be able to lower your company's overall turnover rate and decrease the amount of money you may be losing on turnover each year.

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