In February 2020, an article entitled What Does Burnout Have to Do With the Skills Gap? brought the following two statistics to light:
- “Roughly 20% of employees report high levels of engagement and job burnout, revealing that, although they are or were interested in their job, they can’t withstand the stress or pressure it entails.”
- “Last year , 79% of construction firms planned to expand their payrolls, yet nearly all of them worried about finding and hiring qualified workers.”
The above statistics are essential pieces to consider when discussing the skills gap, the number of skilled trades positions open versus capable and willing people to fill them. The first statistic listed above suggests an initial interest in a job isn’t the primary reason for the skills gap. The second statistic suggests demand isn’t necessarily an issue either. Instead, burnout is a massive contributor to the skills gap, and it’s a contributor that isn’t spotlighted often enough in the skills gap discussion.
What is burnout, and why does it occur?
Let’s talk about burnout.
According to HelpGuide.org, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”
One glance toward the skilled trades, and it’s easy to see why burnout may be one of their most prevalent and reoccurring plagues. Skilled trades are known for employees with high work ethics who aren’t afraid to work with their hands and challenge their minds and bodies. Skilled trades employees are essential, as COVID-19 proved, and they tend to work in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment where consumer expectations are exceptionally high.
So, what’s a company to do? How can burnout be prevented? First off, let’s identify what causes burnout. According to MindTools.com, burnout often occurs for one or more of the following reasons:
- “…if you don’t have much control over your work, or if you feel that you never have enough time to finish tasks and projects.”
- “… when your values don’t align with the actions, behaviors, or values of your organization, or of your role.”
- “Having unclear goals or job expectations.”
- “Working in a dysfunctional team or organization.”
- “Experiencing an excessive workload.”
- “Having little or no support from your boss or organization.”
- “Lacking recognition for your work.”
- “Having monotonous or low-stimulation work.”
Fight Employee Burnout
7 Tips to Avoid Employee Burnout is an article that advises employers to do the following:
- Equip managers with tools to fully understand employees’ workloads
- “Unreasonable workloads account for over a third of the root causes of burnout.”
- Offer flexible and remote working
- “A whopping 81% of employees polled in our ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’ survey placed importance and value on flexible working when we asked them what would improve their experiences at work.”
- Support employee wellbeing
- “… one sure-fire way to avoid employee burnout is to ensure the health and wellbeing of your people is always front and central to your business culture.”
- Educate your staff on burnout warning signs
- “During a staff meeting, go over the signs of burnout with everyone at the company. Are employees constantly stressed, having a hard time sleeping, or struggling to focus at work? If so, encourage them to take the issue to their manager before it gets to full-fledged burnout.”
- Give employees the tools they need to manage stress
- “Managers can mentor others in the productivity and time management skills– prioritizing, delegating, and focusing without interruptions or multitasking– that are needed to complete work successfully and quickly in especially busy times.”
- Encourage balance
- “In most jobs, there will be stressful peaks in which you must work hard to meet a deadline. After the deadline is met, take a step back as a group to regroup and decompress. Encourage the use of PTO to take a break away after a particularly stressful time. Go out into the community together and do meaningful volunteer work.”
- “When work is calmer, have each person on the team evaluate their system for personal productivity and time management to identify opportunities for improvement and address these before you hit another stressful peak.”
- “Managers also need to be a role model for balance. It might seem simple, but all too often, leadership doesn’t practice what they preach. For example, avoid sending emails at 2 a.m. or responding to Slack messages while on vacation so that your employees feel empowered to follow your lead and also set boundaries.”
- Personalize the employee experience
- “If you want to generate a great workforce experience for your people which means they feel supported and can fight burnout, it’s crucial to understand the current state of play. How do people feel about working at your company right now?”
- “Your workforce is a diverse mix of personalities, character traits, and generations, with most companies having employees from Gen Z right through to Baby Boomers. They all have different needs and values so taking a one-size-fits-all approach to your workforce will not work.”
- “… take time to ask your people what makes a great workplace experience for them? A reason why one employee may be facing burnout may completely differ from another.”
The skills gap is a ravine that manufacturing and skilled trades employers see and consider and address regularly. However, the conversation often focuses on attracting youth and adults toward their company and the manufacturing and skilled trades in general. Although efforts made to attract others to careers that offer financial and self-fulfillment are essential and should continue full-steam ahead, employers would be wise to also focus on the burnout risk among the people they employ. After all, the longer someone wants to work at a particular company, the longer that company has until they need to fill that position.
Author: Evelyn Lindell