Burnout is a topic that seems inextricably tied to our conversations around the workplace. We hear about it often in relation to the tech industry and startups; according to one survey, almost 60% of tech workers said they suffer from it.
But burnout is prevalent in countless other industries—consider the plight of healthcare workers over the past year. The Department of Health and Human Services just earmarked $103 million to address the problem. In an obvious way, this impacts direct patient care and clinical care. When burnout is high, innovation suffers.
How can burnout be addressed, then, and how can innovation be used to combat the fatigue that holds us back? It starts with intentionally building and maintaining a great culture. When employees have a shared perspective rooted in strong shared culture and a sense of belonging, their focus can be on creativity, problem-solving, and innovating.
The following four indicators are signs you’re on the right path to develop and continue a culture that supports innovation—and, by proxy, keep burnout at bay.
Open communication leads to deeper connections
When team members understand leadership’s perspective, they are more likely to embrace different ways of thinking and working. When leaders know their team’s perspective, they gain insight into day-to-day operations that can inform groundbreaking innovations. All perspectives are valuable, and tapping into that value requires open communication. Unfortunately, research shows that about 50% of workers don’t feel comfortable sharing their opinions.
We’ve had success by conducting quarterly surveys to measure engagement. Team members are encouraged to provide their honest opinions and insights. When these surveys showed that specific departments suffered from burnout, we implemented a policy of no meetings on Fridays, as well as scheduled break times for team members to take a walk, exercise, or grab a healthy snack.
We’ve also had great success with town halls, where all team members hear directly from leadership on important business and people updates. This provides team members with time to ask questions, share feedback, and build rapport. Our intranet software is also an important tool to increase engagement, share knowledge, and build camaraderie among coworkers. After putting each of these communication tools to work, there’s no question that these changes improved our performance and helped us make strides in creating a culture of innovation.
Roles and tasks mean something
Never underestimate the power of purpose. Without purpose, work is just work, which makes team members quickly disengage. People want to care about what they do. Just ask the 8 in 10 Gen Zers who report they would like their work to be meaningful, or see the 94% of millennial workers who want to contribute to a cause by using their unique skills.
Leaders have a unique responsibility to connect the work team members are doing to the impact they hope to have. At our company, leaders share client testimonials, patient feedback, internal success stories, and examples of positive impacts on the community. Share stories about how your company is making a difference, and you’ll see how your mission-driven team is more connected to their work.
During our company’s team-building program, people from across the company share stories of the impact their work has on the company, clients, and their partners. When our company’s members read these stories, they see how their work translates into real, meaningful experiences for our customers.
Proactive conversations are a priority
Leaders often ask for feedback and then consider that box checked. In reality, gathering information is only the beginning of an important cycle of continuous improvement. In a truly innovative organization, information is a means to an end, and not the end itself. Feedback can be quite revealing, but it’s thoughtful follow-up conversations that can truly “move the needle.”
The feedback we gather helps to inform positive and preemptive communication across the organization. Leaders frequently provide praise and positive reinforcement to team members, facilitating continued innovation and engagement. These constructive conversations enable both individuals and the company to learn, grow, and unite.
We also provide crucial conversations training to support open, candid conversations in the workplace. According to research from professional coaching platform Bravely, 77% of people at startups and 78% at large companies said they often choose to avoid difficult conversations. Companies with strong, supportive cultures proactively help people get important matters out in the open—no matter how uncomfortable it might seem.
Alignment of values with talk and action
It’s important that your organization communicates its values clearly and executes tactics consistently. If your organization values a culture of innovation, communicate that importance while putting your plan into action. This commitment might require you to divert some resources from production at times, but it’s an incredibly worthwhile investment. A workforce that feels valued will help you enjoy the impacts of innovation down the road.
Career paths don’t happen in a straight line—by empowering people with tools, training, and resources, they’ll excel in their unique development journey and support a culture of innovation. To invest in our people, we created Zotec University, a learning development platform offering hundreds of custom learning journeys to help participants hone their skills. We also offer a performance development platform that places team members in control of their own career experiences.
Creating a culture of innovation takes careful planning, purposeful decision-making, intentionality, and consistent communication. By investing in your company’s core values and culture, you’ll enjoy a more motivated, engaged, and happier workforce. More than that, you’ll see burnout take a backseat and then benefit as innovation thrives.
T. Scott Law Sr. is the founder and CEO of Zotec Partners, a financial healthcare company.