More often, a reliable employee who is always willing to go the extra mile, put in the extra hours, and take extra projects on starts slipping. Most often we think it’s a problem at home or outside the workplace. However, it could just be all the “extra” adding up to employee burnout, which was recently acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an “occupational phenomenon.” The WHO also identified the three most common symptoms of burnout: reduced or depleted energy, negative and/or frustrated feelings about the job, and a dramatic decline in productivity and efficiency.
For retailers in particular, employee burnout can be a major issue for their bottom lines during the holiday season, which begins earlier and earlier each year. For most retail employees, this time of the year means working at a breakneck pace as retailers try to surpass their forecasted revenue goals. But with grueling schedules, new sales promotions to learn on daily basis, and an influx of frenetic shoppers, it’s easy to see how so many retail employees become frustrated leading to burnout and high turnover rates.
For the retailer, highly productive and happy front-line employees are critical to customer loyalty, repeat shoppers and, ultimately, meeting or exceeding sales figures. So how can retailers ensure that their employees don’t hit a wall during the critical holiday shopping season? Here are a few important strategies to ensure holiday merriment instead of humbug:
- Foster an open feedback culture. Start by instituting a healthy and open workplace culture where associates can connect regularly with co-workers about what’s going on in their lives and in the workplace. This preventative measure will decrease feelings of mental and social isolation, while also ensuring there's a built-in support system at work during stressful periods.
- Give some incentives. Asking employees to come in at 4 a.m. on Black Friday or giving up precious family time over the holidays is taxing. Show them that these contributions are valued by ensuring that they take necessary and even extended breaks. Catered meals in the break room or additional employee discounts and fringe benefits will also demonstrate the manager and company’s appreciation of their hard work and dedication.
- Say thanks. It sounds like a no-brainer, but a simple thank you goes a long way and is often more valued than other forms of appreciation. During a difficult or long shift, a simple show of kindness and empathy can be just the right medicine for a stressed-out employee. In fact, many psychological studies have indicated that it’s not only good manners, but one of the most effective ways of helping someone through stress.
- Communicate value. Many holiday workers feel as if they're dispensable and mistreated by their manager or employer. It’s critical to explain to employees the value they bring to the business during the holiday shopping season — e.g., we need to drive X percent sales to achieve our goals. Associates that are treated as partners working toward an end goal are more likely to stay engaged and work toward it.
With the holiday planning season well underway, make a commitment to your most valuable assets — namely, your front-line associates who will help generate the bulk of the revenue of the year, interact the most with customers, and be ambassadors for your organization over the busy season. For families and friends, the holidays are a time of joy, celebration and appreciation. Sidestep the pitfalls of employee burnout by translating that helping holiday spirit to the workplace.
Cord Himelstein is the vice president of marketing and communications at HALO Recognition, a leading provider of global employee recognition and incentive programs.
Cord Himelstein is the vice president of marketing and communications at HALO Recognition, a leading provider of global employee recognition and incentive programs headquartered in Long Island City, New York. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @HALORecognition.