Episode #106 – How to Prevent Burnout Among an Organization’s Top Employees

Samantha: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, executive search consultant and veterinary recruiter, Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary employers hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about how to prevent burnout among an organization’s employees. Hello, Stacy, and that you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Samantha. As always, I’m glad to be here.

Samantha: Stacy, I typically associated burnout with situations where an employer isn’t hiring at all and tries to make its existing employees do more work to make up for it. However, isn’t the economy good right now? Aren’t employers more than willing to hire?

Stacy: That’s a great point. Times are good and employers are willing to hire. But they still find themselves in situations where they don’t have enough workers to get the job done.

Samantha: Which situations are those?

Stacy: Right now, qualified candidates are difficult to find and to hire, especially within the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. Let’s say an organization has an employee who quits and this employee happens to be an important one. It’s going to take time to find a replacement. During that time, the work the person did still has to be done. As a result, the organization may ask other employees to “pick up the slack” to the best of their abilities.

Samantha: And then the longer it takes for the organization to fill the position, the longer those employees have to “pick up the slack”?

Stacy: That’s right.

Samantha: Is that one of the reasons that you advise employers to fill their important open positions with the best candidate in the shortest amount of time possible?

Stacy: That’s one of the reasons, yes. The other, of course, is the lost productivity associated with keeping a position open for too long.

Samantha: So the problem is that organizations are having difficulty filling their positions because qualified candidates are so scarce, and in the meantime they still have to get work done. So they ask other employees to “pick up the slack”?

Stacy: That’s right, and what some employers don’t realize is that this kind of situation creates a spiraling effect.

Samantha: What does that mean?

Stacy: Well, if you lose an employee because they leave for another opportunity, and you have to rely on other employees to “pick up the slack,” then that increases the chances that those other employees are going to get burned out. And if those employees get burned out, that increases the chances they’ll leave the organization for another opportunity, too. And the more that happens, the more the employees who are left will get burned out . . .

Samantha: And then even more of them will leave.

Stacy: That’s right. It’s the kind of situation that can escalate quickly if you’re not careful. Before you know it, employees will be leaving faster than you can replace them, and as an employer, that is NOT a situation that you want to find yourself in.

Samantha: So what’s the solution?

Stacy: Well, one of the solutions is to not drag out the hiring process. You must hire the best candidate you can in the shortest amount of time possible. That is priority #1, and it’s a priority for the reasons that we just discussed.

However, sometimes it is not possible to hire the person you want to hire within the timeframe that you want to hire them. After all, sometimes candidates decline offers of employment, sometimes they accept an offer from another organization, and sometimes they accept a counteroffer from their current employer. That stretches out the hiring process, and then the employer must deal with that.

So if that happens, there are steps that the employer can take to prevent their employers, especially their superstars, from burning out.

Samantha: What steps are those?

Stacy: There are three of them, and we’ll address them one at a time. The first step is to effectively engage the employees. We’re discussed this before, and this is always an important step in terms of employee retention. An employer-employee relationship is like any other relationship. If one party isn’t fully engaged, then it’s only a matter of time before they fall out of the relationship. In this case, they’ll leave the organization.

Samantha: What are some ways that an employer can engage their employees effectively?

Stacy: Well, first you must appreciate your superstars. You have to let them know that you appreciate their efforts. You can send them an email, sure, but telling them in person how much you appreciate their work is better. In fact, you might be surprised by how far a few kind words will go. The last thing you want is your most valuable employees thinking that they’re not appreciated. And if you don’t tell them that they’re appreciated, then how are they supposed to know?

The second way to effectively engage employees is to recognize them. This is like an extension of appreciation. When you appreciate an employee, you’re usually just interacting with them and them alone. However, when you recognize an employee, that’s usually done in a wider setting, in front of their peers. Basically, it’s a larger gesture of appreciation.

Engaging superstar employees through both appreciation and recognition leads us to our next step.

Samantha: Which step is that?

Stacy: That step is to motivate your employees. Now, the good news is that when you both appreciate and recognize your employees, it will help to motivate them. However, once again, you should strive to go a step beyond that. You should intentionally try to motivate them as much as possible. One way to do this is by casting the organization’s vision for the future, including what role the employees play in that vision. Another way is by challenging the employees.

Samantha: Challenging them motivates them?

Stacy: Yes, that’s especially the case with superstar employees and high performers. They like to be challenged. That’s part of what makes them high performers in the first place. However, you must challenge them in the right way. If you give them criticism, make sure that it’s constructive criticism, and you certainly don’t want to belittle them in any way. And above all, you should be encouraging, and this leads us to our final step.

Samantha: What is our final step?

Stacy: Our final step is to NOT overload your employees, especially your superstars. This may seem like a no-brainer, especially in light of everything that we’ve been discussing, but it’s far easier said than done.

Samantha: Is one of the reasons for that because top performers usually do a lot of work, anyway?

Stacy: Yes, that’s right. It’s tempting for company officials to just keep piling work on top performers. One reason they do it is because these employees are capable of high levels of productivity to begin with. Management is used to them getting large quantities of work done. Another reason is because these employees also typically do work with a high degree of quality. So management is getting both quantity and quality out of these employees, which is exactly what they want. However, that’s also where the temptation lies. They’re tempted to keep piling more and more work on these employees, which eventually burns them out.

Samantha: And then they leave?

Stacy: That’s right. And then you run the risk of creating that spiraling effect that we talked about earlier in the episode, and that’s the last thing you want.

Samantha: So the issue of employee burnout essentially goes back to making sure that the organization is hiring the people that it needs and retains as many of its employees as it possibly can, especially its top performers. Is that right?

Stacy: That is absolutely right. This is yet another reason for employers to enlist the services of an experienced Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter. A search consultant specializes in helping organizations find the best candidates in the marketplace and then help their clients to hire those candidates as quickly as possible. When this happens, it means that important, high-level positions are left open for a minimum amount of time.

And this, by extension, means that other employees do not have to “pick up the slack” as much. Or if they do have to help, they won’t have to help for a long period of time. It’s when the time frame just keeps getting wider and wider, with no end in sight, that people begin to think about looking for a new employment opportunity and changing jobs.

And there’s another way that search consultants can help employers in this type of situation.

Samantha: What’s that?

Stacy: They can help their clients retain more of their best employees. As an Animal Health recruiter and Veterinary recruiter, I have earned the Certified Employee Retention Specialist (CERS) certification. This means that I can better help my clients to improve their retention rate. That’s because I’ve undergone training in this area, and I can provide that knowledge to my clients and consult them about the best ways to retain their employees.

Samantha: And when an organization is better able to retain their employees, they’re less likely to be in a position where their other employees will burn out.

Stacy: That’s right. You can see how an executive search consultant can be helpful in a number of different ways to Animal Health and Veterinary employers. They directly impact the bottom line of these organizations in a positive way, both in the short term and the long haul.

Samantha: Stacy, as always, thanks so much for all of this great information today. And thank you for joining us!

Stacy: You’re very welcome, Samantha, and thank you. It’s been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health Employment Insider!