Network Innovation Spotlight / September 29, 2022

Addressing Burnout and Turnover: What Can We Do to Make People Want to Stay?, Part One 

By Brittany Rock, Senior Program Manager, Training & Community Development   

Editor’s note: This is a two-part piece on addressing workplace burnout. In part one, the author shares ideas on what organizations can do to help mitigate the effects of burnout and turnover using lessons learned from her participation in the 2022 Association for Talent Development Virtual Conference. In part two, the author provides recommendations and specific steps that organizations and individuals can incorporate in the workplace to help develop and retain talent.  

The Global Ties Network has experienced many transitions over the last two years, both in terms of how we work and the people we work with. This Network is incredibly resilient, but even the most resilient of organizations are experiencing pain points. Folks coped with grief brought on by the pandemic including the loss of loved ones, loss of community, and loss of ‘the way things used to be.’  

All this change and grief, for those of us lucky to retain our jobs, led to burnout as folks tried to push through and get things done, both professionally and personally, without taking a moment to process.  When folks exited their jobs, the work didn’t go away—it simply shifted to other employees, causing more burnout. This cycle has a real impact financially on organizations as well. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management states that employers spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary to find and train their replacement.  

So, what can we do? As part of my role on the Training and Community Development Team, we analyze our Network’s feedback to our End of Year Report and to our event and webinar surveys, and specifically ask: how can we better support the Network? This year, we asked: how can we support them in developing and retaining their staff? 

With burnout, turnover, and succession planning at the top of my mind, I took part in the Association for Talent Development (ATD)’s 2022 Virtual Conference. Over the course of several keynotes and breakout sessions, I began to piece together some components that I think can help mitigate the effects of burnout and lead to less turnover. 

Four Lessons Learned from the Conference 

Develop a Sense of Community: “Do I like the people I work with?”  

Jay Shetty, in his keynote, called on us to express gratitude to one person a day. He says that expressing gratitude that is specific, personalized, timely, and most importantly, out loud, benefits both the giver and the receiver in that it creates happiness for both people and reduces anxiety. “It’s impossible to have an anxious thought while having a grateful thought,” says Jay.  

Another way to develop community is to recognize the strengths that each personality brings to the work environment. Jay led attendees through an exercise that had them divide up into the four quadrants of the room, with each quadrant representing a simplified personality of the DISC model(D)ominance, (I)nfluence, (S)teadiness and (C)onscientiousness. He then praised the strengths of each personality type and how they serve to support each other in the workplace.  

Finally, it is important to set aside time to discover the commonalities across teams and roles. As Devin Hughes explained, gratitude can contribute to creating a more inclusive organizational culture, however, “you cannot give what you don’t have.” So, while it’s important to “fill other people’s cups,” he also said it’s important to recognize people not only for what they do but who they are.  

Develop a Sense of Purpose: “Who am I doing this for?”  

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the operational realities of our work that we don’t stop to think about what this is all for. Both Jay Shetty and Britt Andreatta encouraged attendees to shift their mindset from “These are the tasks I do” to “This is how the work I do benefits others.”  

Britt specifically offered a model for crafting an individual purpose statement: “I do (verb) for (audience) so that _______.”  

This specific point may be taken for granted in the nonprofit space, but it is worth reflecting on.  

Communicate and Provide Resources: “Do I feel valued and supported?”  

One of the foundational ways that people feel valued and supported is when they are well-paid and well-resourced. In the nonprofit space, the reality is that funding doesn’t always allow us to truly reflect the value of our team. So, what can we do instead?  

A simple, low-cost way of making people feel valued and supported is to set clear expectations and boundaries so that there is no ambiguity or stress about a job that needs to get done. Kevin Eikenberry says you can do this by communicating the following:  

  • The “what” of the work: What do you want done? What needs to be included? When is the deadline?  
  • The “why” of the work: Who is this for? How will it be used? What is the intended purpose and impact?  
  • The “how” of the work: How will we collaborate? How do we make sure all voices are heard? What are our expectations regarding communication (e.g. frequency, response times, etc.)? How do we all get on the same page to move everything forward (e.g. who sets the agendas)?  

Professional Development: “Do I have room to grow?” When is the best time to do this? 

A key skill for everyone from executive directors to program associates to develop is leadership. David Kelly highlighted the following nine core behavioral traits that can be learned.  

  • Integrity 
  • Innovation  
  • Listening  
  • Empathy 
  • Confidence  
  • Vision  
  • Communications 
  • Decision-making 
  • Problem-solving  

The best time to start these conversations and integrate these components into your regular processes is now. However, there are certain moments that are ideal. Manoj Kulkarni discussed learning moments that matter in an employee’s lifecycle, which include:  

  • Onboarding  
  • Daily & Process Events  
  • Role Transition  
  • Performance & Feedback Evaluations  

Supporting your team’s professional development has been shown to increase your organization’s reputation, and therefore reduce turnover, aid in succession planning, and attract better talent. While you may hope this growth will happen within your current organization, the reality is that this is not always possible. Professional growth can still benefit your organization as former staff move on to other roles within the Network or within your community as resources. 

How can Global Ties U.S. apply this learning to support the Network?  

Global Ties U.S. is uniquely positioned to support the Network throughout all stages of the employee lifecycle. We support the Network by onboarding new team members in their roles, whether they are an intern, board member, executive, or programmer. For those transitioning into other roles, we have a wealth of knowledge in our Member Portal to provide tools to support your staff. 

We also bring the community together through our events like the annual National Meeting, the regional Diplomacy Begins Here Summits, and our monthly Diplomacy Zooms Here virtual meetings. These personal and professional networking opportunities create space for our Network to share commonalities with peers across the country.  

To learn more, and for a list of specific action items you can start with now, check out part two of this piece.