Kevin Young, general manager, Skillsoft
Long gone are the days where employees were confined to working nine to five. Today, the explosion of the internet and social and mobile technology has led to a 24/7 global workplace with many employees taking on higher workloads and multiple job roles. Our recent poll of UK CEOs has uncovered that stress is one of the highest reasons for employees leaving the company – a finding that should provide cause for concern for any business. Not only can stress can have a disastrous impact on the company’s profitability and productivity, but unhappy employees can produce a lower quality of work and leave businesses with the unnecessary cost of providing temporary cover for employees on long-term sick leave.
Our poll uncovered that nearly three quarters (73 per cent) cite personal issues, including stress, as the main reason for their employees changing jobs – above pay (34 per cent) and job dissatisfaction (19 per cent).
The problem is that many managers only find out an employee is unhappy in their role on the day they leave or hand in their notice, and by this time it is often too late to rectify the situation and do anything to keep a valued member of staff. So how can businesses ensure that stress is reduced in the workplace and that employees remain both satisfied and productive in their job role?
Organisations need to take a hard look at their business environment. They need to ask themselves honestly if their staff are suffering from stress, and if so, why. This means giving staff the opportunity to talk openly to someone they trust in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously. If the stress is caused by job pressures, such as a lack of suitability for a role, inadequate skills or experience or a limited understanding of what is required, the employer has a responsibility to address this and introduce relevant job-related training.
More intangible issues, such as workplace culture, personal issues, conflict or management deficiencies, can be harder to pin down but these should be addressed with equal rigour. There is an abundance of high quality training available in ‘softer skills’ such as communications and negotiation skills, and companies should not hesitate to introduce this for managers’ as well as their teams.
We are all human, and not everyone gets on, but a supportive work environment and suitable training will help to resolve tensions and make a real difference in ensuring people have the skills to cope with the increased work demands.
Managers and team leaders with targets to meet can overlook this, but it is a well-known fact that ‘people leave managers’, not companies so an employer has a powerful vested interest in getting this sorted.
How to combat stress
When it comes to removing the causes of stress, many organisations just don’t know where to start. These are economically challenging times, with many businesses having to make difficult decisions just to keep going. Employee happiness can move down the agenda, well behind the important issue of keeping jobs open in the first place. This can be a mistake: ultimately people are at the heart of your business, and positive employees are more productive.
Training doesn’t have to be expensive, or to take employees away from the business. The use of technology has transformed the cost, delivery and range of training available. For example, elearning offers high quality, on-the-job, bite sized and modular training that enables employees to learn at the point of need.
Unlike classroom training, elearning training can be undertaken anytime and anywhere. This allows employees to brush up on their skills by taking refresher courses and solving on-the-job problems in real time. Any issues that may be causing employees stress can be addressed easily and immediately, and employees can learn at a time and pace that works for them.
Employers have little to lose and very much to gain from helping their employees alleviate stress. By ensuring that each employee has their own, tailored training programme to help them do their job more effectively and an opportunity to voice any concerns, employers can feel confident that they are giving staff every opportunity to succeed and stay motivated in their role.