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The organisational cost of unexamined burnout
I once was talking to a recruiter who told me that employees who’ve been at an organisation 12 to 24 months are the easiest to lure away. When approaching passive candidates, this is the organisational tenure they target. This statement has always stuck with me.
I’m someone who must know the why. Every time I had a chance to ask a new recruiter about this 12- to 24-month window, they would confirm that they, too, target that timeline for passive candidates.
What intrigues me most about this common theory for recruiting is it can take up to 18 months to reach proficiency in a professional role. Often, these employees are leaving right around the time they’ve become established in their roles. These departures signal a significant organisational cost of unexamined burnout: diminished employee retention.
As an organisational people analytics specialist, I usually look at tenure as a factour in my analyses. Though burnout is the cumulative result of many factours, I was curious if there would be a strong correlation between burnout rate and organisational tenure. From this potential connection, we would be able to glean important insights into how to prevent employee burnout at every stage of the employee lifecycle.
Digging deep into the burnout data
Our Strategic Data Analytics team here at Ceridian de-identified burnout data – removing any identifying information to look at the data anonymously – from over 100,000 employees from the hospitality and supermarket industries in North America in the last two years (see graph below).1 We found a clear pattern: People with less than 12 months of tenure at an organisation are rarely burned out. This makes logical sense. Burnout can be mitigated by a change in job responsibilities, leadership, and/or environment. Changing to a new company should help alleviate or even cure burnout.
However, when people have between one- and two-years tenure, our data shows the percentage of employees who are burned out increases to 22%. This is high compared to evidence suggesting that only 10% to 15% of employees fit the true burnout profile at any given time.2
The percentage of employees who are burned out then drops significantly in the two- to five-year tenure category to 12%. This drastic drop is likely because those who burned out early in their tenure had a culture, values, or job mismatch with the organisation. They then chose to apply elsewhere or were more likely to respond when a recruiter reached out. We can infer that those who stay with an organisation find the role and their leader to be a good fit. Yet even this is subject to change as organisations, roles, and leaders are always evolving.
When someone is with an organisation for 11 to 15 years, our data shows burnout rates start increasing to 31%. We see the highest peak of burnout at 26 to 35 years at an organisation, with burnout rates hitting 43% of all employees in that tenure group. The burnout rate drops back down at 36+ years to 27%.
This upward trend likely occurs because the longer an employee stays at an organisation, the less they tend to move around. Someone who has been with an organisation for 35 years is likely an expert in their field and has achieved their workplace ambitions. This could lead to spending a prolonged period in the exact same role.
Here are four ways to help reduce employee burnout
If our burnout data for the hospitality and supermarket industries tells us anything, it’s that the earlier an organisation acts, the better. Our research shows that burnout is a reality for all employees, no matter how long they’ve been at an organisation. The burden lies with the organisation to figure out how to deal with burnout among employees. Luckily, our data provides some insight into how to reduce employee burnout at your organisation.
1. Connect consistently and conduct stay interviews
The early months and years of an employee’s tenure are crucial. During this time, new hires complete onboarding, learn organisational values, begin producing their work product, and sometimes advance to a higher position. Through each of these events in an employee’s early life at an organisation, one thing must remain constant: manager touchpoints.
Conduct consistent, at least quarterly, stay interviews with new employees for the first 24 months. A stay interview should cover topics like why employees stay, what would cause them to leave, opportunities for role improvement, and growth areas for the company as a whole. Essentially, the stay interview gives employees the space to reflect on their roles and their job satisfaction, further solidifying their opinions about the organisation. In fact, stay interviews have been found to reduce employee turnover by 30% in certain organisations.3 Consistent connection and routine stay interviews go a long way toward higher employee retention.
2. Support employees with longer tenure
As the chart above shows, the longer a person’s tenure with an organisation, the more likely they are to feel burned out. Organisations must work to help employees – especially those in the organisation for 11+ years – continue to grow and develop. That means giving them the opportunity to develop new skills as industries evolve and new tools and skillsets emerge. When you give people time for reskilling and upskilling, they are likely to feel more engaged at work and less burned out.
3. Offer job rotation and shadowing opportunities
Give employees opportunities to re-invent themselves. What they’re interested in at age 21 may not be what they’re interested in at 41. Allow people to job shadow or do a job rotation to gain insight into new fields and areas that might engage them. When you diversify people’s work experiences, they are less likely to feel stagnant in their role or disengaged from work that no longer interests them.
4. Set retiring employees up for success
Lastly, help long-term employees transition out of the workforce. Retirement can feel unsettling at first. Offer employees the option to work part-time until they’re ready to step away for good. Also, consider having internal or contract coaches to help employees of all tenures find the role that will keep them engaged and work through career transitions, including retirement.
Employees are an organisation’s best asset. They are brand ambassadors and recruiters, and they determine the success of the business. Work to understand them throughout their lifecycle and create programs to help prevent burnout at all levels of organisational tenure.
If you’d like to learn more about how burnout is affecting sectors beyond the hospitality and supermarket industries, explore our 2022 Pulse of Talent research report.
 Methodology: At Ceridian, we’re assessing de-identified data from clients that have opted into a program where we can use their data for research purposes. This data has been further segmented using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code to group clients into industries to look at industry-specific trends. The data used in this article represents over 100,000 employees across three industries (retail, hospitality, and supermarkets) in 2021 and 2022.
 Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter, How to measure burnout accurately and ethically, Harvard Business Review, March 2021.
 Richard P. Finnegan, Viewpoint: Stay Interviews Matter More Than Ever, SHRM, June 2020.