Overworking Employees Impacts Turnover
overworking employees

Actual Comments of Why Employees Leave

“When you keep adding to the workload without adding staff to cover it, the quality of care the patient receives will go down. Prior to these changes, I loved my job for the first two years.”

The Solution:

When you hear something like this, it brings to mind questions that include:

  • >> Are we understaffed?
  • >> Has recent growth made it necessary to expand hiring
  • >> Were recent staff reductions too deep?
  • >> Are we asking too much of certain employees in particular departments?

But for businesses in fields where people’s health or lives are in the balance, the most important question to ask is:

  • >> Are tragic, preventable mistakes being made due to the overworking of key employees?
  • >> If not, are life-altering mistakes more likely to happen?
  • >> Is quality of care (in a medical setting) being compromised?

“Overwork” has existed in the workplace since time began. Perhaps the earliest civilizations asked too much of the first hunters and gatherers. But here is how most of today’s overworked positions were created:

Cost-cutting has been a major drumbeat in business for years in a row. After waves of layoffs in the early 2000s and again in 2008 with the great recession, the average corporate American is probably doing the job of 1.3 people.

Some feel this more than others (thanks to efficiencies), but that is not an unreasonable estimate. Our national GDP dipped after the 2008 crash but returned to modest growth in Q1 2010 because, in part, employees who survived the rounds of cuts worked harder, more efficiently (which can also include “by cutting corners”), longer.

Now that the general economy seems to be turning the corner, employees at short-staffed businesses will feel empowered to seek more reasonable workloads across the street at competing companies.

If your peers or competitors—including, we would suppose, in the health care industry—are ramping back up toward pre-2008 levels, your overworked employees will notice the new jobs.

Is it time to re-staff some floors that took a hit in 2008 (or 2009, or 2010 or 2011…) with more nurses (or more social workers, case administrators, etc.)?

Not to sound dramatic, but in the health care field—as in other businesses where your employees hold the lives of their customers in their proverbial hands—overworking employees is a concern that extends well beyond turnover issues, to that of life and death.

Staffing is a balance. It’s elastic to a point. And then things start to fracture, unravel. Ask the military, who will tell you that to remain combat effective, military units (platoon, rifle squad) can experience no greater than 35% attrition. A typical U.S. Army platoon has 40 soldiers (four squads of 10 soldiers each). So a platoon can only lose 14 soldiers before it is effectively “degraded,” and no longer able to be “combat effective.”

Platoons don’t get wiped out because they get wiped out. They get wiped out because first they were degraded beyond a tipping point, rendered ineffective, and made vulnerable to the enemy.

Business is not that different.

Of course, it’s always easy for HR to suggest the hiring of more staff. We, of course, understand that not every business is in a financial position to expand hiring in response to turnover caused by workloads.

In that case, HR has to ask the question of upper management, what can be done to lessen the demands on, say, nurses on this particular floor to bring their workloads down to ensure the quality of care and keep mistakes from happening? To make it less likely that good people will leave the organization for less stressful environments?

(This blog post is brought to you by HSD Metrics, an exit interview company that helps companies reduce employee turnover by providing automated reference checking, exit interviews, and by measuring employee retention. The comments from exiting employees that are featured in this blog are collected from actual exit interviews conducted using ExitRight®, HSD Metrics’ exit interviewing service. If you are interested in learning more, contact us today. Because we place the privacy of our clients at the top of our priority list; the names of all involved parties are kept completely confidential.)