Joining a video call with a client while holding a screaming toddler, answering the door for a delivery, and quieting a barking dog. And doing it five days a week for nearly two years. If that’s not a recipe for burnout, then I don’t know what is.
The fact that 44% of employees report feeling burned out doesn’t surprise me at all. What does surprise me is that the figure isn’t higher. With a similar number of employees considering quitting their jobs, it’s past time to start addressing corporate burnout.
Marketers are no strangers to burnout. The pressure for growth and performance has been intensifying amid higher consumer expectations, shrinking budgets, and a swirl of technology and content. The pandemic magnified this complexity. So much so that nearly 70% of marketing leaders say that the last year completely exhausted their teams, according to new Accenture Interactive research.
But here’s the good news: This same research found a core group of marketers globally (17%) who have bucked the burnout trend to become “Thrivers” energized to meet future challenges. That’s compared to the “Strivers” and “Survivors” who feel like they’re merely persevering or totally burned out.
Leaders can learn from what Thrivers do differently. After all, they deliver an enviable performance premium. Thrivers are 40% more likely to perform better in revenue growth and profitability, plus they’re 80% more likely to perform “far better” in customer satisfaction.
Get to know people—again
Marketers know how complex the landscape has become. Customer demands are getting trickier, and all the while, employees want to feel that their work is meaningful.
Thrivers ground themselves by getting reacquainted with customers at a time when many have re-evaluated what’s important to them and are seeking out businesses that understand it. This takes the whole enterprise getting curious (and accountable) and using both traditional and new data sources and feedback mechanisms like surveys and social medial engagement to develop a multidimensional view of what makes customers tick. It’s about who they are, not just what they buy.
Customers aren’t the only ones who’ve done this pandemic-inspired soul-searching. Employees have as well, and getting to know them again is equally important. So leaders should seek out feedback here, too. Ask employees how they’re doing and what they need to do their jobs well. Create an environment where they are comfortable answering truthfully. Companies that do this well can set up employees to embrace their inner Thriver.
Cut out what doesn’t matter
Thrivers manage complexity by decluttering to help people become more productive and fulfilled at work.
For example, they used the pandemic as permission to rewire marketing. Now, the rest of business is poised for this same rewiring. It’s all about letting go. The responsibility starts with leaders who can empower their people to do the same.
No matter the functional area, tedious and repetitive tasks are ripe for this letting go. While not a panacea, when deployed with intelligence and input from users, automation can provide some of the reprieves that exhausted employees desperately need. Business leaders should take a collaborative approach here, consulting and discussing the possibilities with employees first (remember: we’re reacquainting) and investing in technology second.
But knowing what to let go of, when, and how can be overwhelming for leaders. There is no right answer because decluttering plays out differently in every company. That’s why I tell leaders to start by asking this question of everything their team does: “What would happen if we stopped doing this?” It’s a powerful way to zero in on what matters the most to customers and employees.
Rally around a higher calling
What does the business stand for? Thrivers ask themselves this question often, and it’s one that business leaders must ask and take ownership of with intention. The responsibility for differentiation and customer experiences that bring the brand purpose to life is a whole-organization job that must be championed from the top.
The C-suite can encourage departments to make it a priority to remind their employees of the deeper “why” behind their functions, roles, and responsibilities—and how they embody the brand purpose. For some, that could be mean regular townhalls that translate how that department positively strengthens the organization’s purpose. For others, that could mean programs that recognize employees’ and customers’ stories that embody the brand’s purpose.
The more that business leaders can embrace this responsibility as a shared ambition, the more they can get rid of ambiguity, cut through organizational silos, and use the brand purpose as a lens for setting priorities and allocating resources. The benefits of this are twofold—first, it’s meeting customers’ need to spend on brands with purpose; and, second, it’s giving employees a point of collective difference to rally behind.
Letting go of “how we’ve always done things” can ensure that the systems and ways of working being built back now makes sense for people and businesses. That’s how to ensure a better future for all: one with less burnout and more brilliance.
Jeannine Falcone is Global Marketing Services Lead at Accenture Interactive.