“I can’t take the stress anymore! No job is worth this amount of grief.” Have these thoughts ever crossed your mind? Or have you perhaps overhead similar comments in your workplace?
Research suggests stress is a more common reason for employee turnover than hiring managers may realize. A recent international survey by Monster found 42 percent of U.S. respondents have left previous jobs due to stress. Even if stress does not lead to turnover at your organization, it is often a contributor to absenteeism and tardiness. The Society for Human Resource Management reported stress in the workplace translates into hundreds of billions of dollars lost each year in the U.S. economy due to reduced productivity, as well as health care expenses.
Although there are many reasons why employees may feel stress on the job, here are a few the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified:
Work roles. If a disconnect exists between employee and manager expectations, this can be a source of stress for everyone involved. Also in some instances, employees may be given too many responsibilities.
Task design. The way work is structured and organized can contribute to employee stress. Employees should be encouraged to take adequate rest breaks. It is also useful for managers to connect employees’ work to the bigger picture goals of the organization. This can make routine tasks more meaningful.
Management style. If managers do not communicate clearly with their teams and don’t involve employees in decision-making, it can create a stressful work environment.
Career worries. Employees can become stressed if they are unsure about opportunities for growth within the company. Job security is a major concern for many.
If you believe stress may be an issue for employees in your organization, the first thing to do is to identify the problem. Consider holding focus group discussions with employees to gather qualitative information and then issue a survey to collect data about employee satisfaction, stress levels and job conditions. It’s also a good idea to gather quantitative data on objective measures like turnover levels, absenteeism and numbers of sick days used by employees.
As the organization evaluates how to reduce employee stress, it’s important to remember how the hiring and recruiting process can play an important role. For example:
During the interview process, ensure the anticipated workload is in alignment with the employee’s abilities. Some applicant tracking systems enable companies to ask candidates questions online, as part of the application process. This can help identify upfront which applicants may be best suited for a job. Behavioral interview questions can also be helpful during face-to-face meetings to explore applicants’ prior work experiences.
Clearly define the roles and responsibilities associated with the job. Employees should have a good understanding of what will be expected of them, if they accept a position with the organization. Online job postings are one place to give applicants a sense for what a job will entail. It’s also essential to discuss job duties and work schedules during the interview.
Offer realistic job previews. Some organizations provide candidates with the opportunity to “job shadow” as a way to preview what a position will be like. This is a very effective way to align employee expectations with reality. The closer that alignment is, the less likely the job content will be a source of stress for the candidate, if he accepts the position.
Reducing employee stress and associated turnover should begin at the very beginning of the employee life cycle. That means identifying candidates whose capabilities closely match the job requirements and aligning applicant expectations with the organizational reality. The recruiting and interview process, as well as supporting tools like applicant tracking systems, can make these tasks considerably easier and inoculate companies against the employee stress epidemic.
To discover a few additional tips you can implement to retain great employees, download our eBook, “How to Prepare for Turnover, Job Hoppers & Employees on the Move.”