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Creating an Effective Retention Strategy for Overwhelmed Employees

There are a lot of factors causing the Great Resignation – but a big one is attrition from employees who feel overwhelmed on the job. They may try to make it work for a while, but eventually if they’re not supported, they’ll accept another offer and leave. You need an employee retention strategy to keep your overwhelmed workers – here are five steps to relieve them. 

1. Set Firm Boundaries 

Employees today often feel stressed, burned out, and overwhelmed because the boundaries between work and life are so blurred. If they’re expected to be online all evening or respond to emails at all hours, that can be a major stressor. 

Even if they’re not expected to answer 11 pm emails from colleagues or managers, but they receive them frequently, they may feel obligated to monitor and respond in their time off. The same principle applies if they’re unable to take a vacation without checking in at once least or twice. 

Managers and HR leaders need to set firm boundaries about how the business uses emails, text, and phone calls outside of working hours and when employees are on vacation. This will benefit everyone in the organization. And if flexible working hours make this difficult, encourage employees and managers to use email scheduling functions to send that non-urgent email out the next day. 

2. Prioritize Progress 

One of the most common sources of frustration for overwhelmed employees is seeing work mount up and projects get piled on their plates. The work seems like it will never be completed, and there’s little emphasis on finishing the most important tasks. 

Making priorities clear helps overwhelmed employees focus on the most essential tasks. Being able to hone in on the essentials can help them to feel less overwhelmed. And once the most vital tasks are done, they can sense progress happening as well. An employee who sees no progress and has no clear priorities can feel permanently buried, and that’s something your retention strategy can’t afford. 

3. Invest in Development and Training 

Investing in non-monetary benefits like career development has a positive impact on retention. Overwhelmed employees may feel stuck in their roles because they don’t see a career path at your organization or because they lack the skills to advance. 

Giving them access to development and training can strengthen their resilience to deal with changes and increased workloads. And that added resilience can improve your odds of retaining them. 

4. Improve Communication

When employees feel they don’t know what’s going on at work – in their team, department, or organization as a whole – they can waste a lot of time searching for that information. Instead, your retention strategy should include an internal communications component. 

When it’s done well, communicating regularly and clearly with employees about business priorities, changes, and opportunities can help them feel more empowered. And you can also communicate about the benefits available to help them navigate their work and life, like schedule options, an employee assistance program, or wellness offerings. 

5. Take Burnout Seriously 

74% of employees say they experience burnout at work at least sometimes, according to Gallup. And that makes them a higher retention risk. Your employee retention strategy must take burnout seriously and look for ways to reduce it, or you will continue to lose employees. 

Common causes of burnout and overwhelm are heavy workloads and unrealistic manager expectations, according to SHRM – how can you reduce both of those in your organization? It might mean hiring more staff, training managers better, or reshuffling expectations to focus on the essentials. 

How to be a Resource for Overwhelmed Employees 

Overwhelmed employees need to know there is an end in sight to their state of overwork, and to feel supported in their tasks by their managers, leaders, and HR team. Taking these efforts seriously will reduce retention risk for both overwhelmed employees and those who are performing fine, and that’s positive for your organization’s long-term health. 

And letting employees know that you value their contributions and genuinely care about them is essential to your retention strategy. Open and honest communication, and a plan to solve those overwhelming feelings soon, will help all of your employees thrive and grow – and stay at your company happily.