According to the State of the Global Workplace report by GALLUP Consulting, 41% of the global workforce experienced high stress in their daily work during 2023. This data significantly impacts organizations because, among other consequences, it implies increased absenteeism, higher turnover, and lower productivity. It’s estimated that employee burnout and low engagement cost the global economy $8.9 trillion dollars (9% of global GDP) and has become one of the biggest concerns for organizations1.

Strictly speaking, we are referring to a condition better known as burnout, given the feeling of being “burned out.”

More burnout, less engagement: an inversely proportional relationship

Based on the organizational transformation projects we work on at Tandem, we see that burnout is no longer a passing symptom, but has become entrenched in company structures. Failing to dimension its proper relevance or assign it adequate treatment can seriously affect company results: employees tend to lose focus, take longer to complete tasks, give negative or aggressive responses, treat people poorly, and make bad decisions. In the long run, they lose motivation and commitment, and may even end up resigning.

It seems that globally, a fundamental change is taking place in the employer-employee dynamic. Organizations understand that salary and benefits are no longer enough to retain employees, but rather their emotional needs play a dominant role.

Temporary palliatives that can be very costly

We often approach the lack of commitment and motivation as an individual problem, focusing on remediation rather than prevention of symptoms. Along these lines, initiatives related to well-being programs such as bonuses, yoga classes, physical exercise, massages, and meditation apps, among others, are often implemented.

However, experience indicates that these are insufficient palliatives, which may have a positive effect at the beginning, but then become part of the conditions we take for granted, which are common to many organizations and do not generate a change in the employee experience.

Ultimately, the problem persists because we are not proposing a fundamental solution, but appealing to temporary mitigators for a situation that has become structural.

In-depth: a systemic proposal to boost well-being and commitment

Contrary to popular belief, lack of engagement responds to multiple reasons. At Tandem, we believe it is necessary to address it in a systemic and sustainable way over time, which is why we propose an approach that allows for holistic management.

Specifically, we work on two major dimensions through five levers to optimize the employee experience and, consequently, elevate the company’s performance.

  • What do we want to boost? We focus on stimulating people’s enthusiasm for being part of the organization, considering factors that drive staff motivation and bring meaning to their work. This dimension relates to attributes such as purpose, collaboration, sense of belonging, recognition, and flexibility.
  • What do we want to stop doing? We seek to identify obstacles and organizational burdens to facilitate people’s work and their experience. This dimension relates to attributes such as prioritizing value-adding tasks, simple routines, data-driven decision-making, competencies, and appropriate technological tools.

These two dimensions must be balanced in the objectives of the five levers. The key is not to maximize all levers, but to find the optimal combination based on the axes that generate the most pain, what people value and need most, the current organizational context, and the expected results.

  • Meaningfulness: focuses on building an organization where people feel proud to work, driven by leaders who inspire and are role models. At the same time, it puts an end to low value-added tasks, establishing clear priorities aligned with strategic objectives and ensuring focus on issues that will provide a competitive advantage.
    • As an example, in an FMCG company that aimed to strengthen employee engagement, we assisted in creating models to prioritize initiatives to be carried out by teams, ensuring focus on what’s important and taking care of people’s workload.
  • Interconnection: seeks to create an ecosystem where high levels of interaction, communication, and effective collaboration drive performance. In this regard, it is important to facilitate people’s daily lives, eliminating unproductive meetings, reducing participants in interactions, and simplifying bureaucratic processes.
    • Continuing with the case of the FMCG company, we clarified the mission of the involved area and the required interactions with other areas; we defined the necessary routines optimizing the number of meetings, their duration, participants, and best practices, and fostering collaboration between them.
  • Empowerment: based on building a company that boosts employee empowerment, where there is intelligent delegation and a “fail and win” mindset. This will be possible by leveraging to ensure that everyone has timely and automated access to reliable data and tools, so as to minimize meaningless reports and enhance decision-making at all levels of the organization.
    • Here we clarify the decision-making roles of team members so that it’s defined who makes what decisions, with what information, and thus empower lower levels of the company.
  • Realization: focuses on creating a collective feeling of achievement, clarifying both team and individual contribution, recognition, and professional growth opportunities. It is key to develop people’s capabilities and ensure the necessary knowledge to carry out daily activities and be prepared to thrive in a rapidly evolving environment.
    • We can see this axis applied in several companies through the creation of development journeys for employees that comprehensively address their needs in line with strategic priorities. Likewise, they must be attractive, easy to use, and the solutions, whether education, exposure, or experience, perceived by employees as boosters of their growth.
  • Comfort: seeks to adopt a flexible environment where people can manage their personal time as a unique way to ensure well-being and generate value. In this line, it is fundamental to promote practices, tools, and technologies to effectively manage tasks, priorities, communication, remote work, and workload under pressure.
    • In some companies, we have worked on defining the mindset, behaviors, and cultural artifacts necessary to foster a flexible culture throughout the organization.

From implementing this model in different companies, we have found that it allows driving decision levers that help strengthen the employee experience, their engagement, and mitigate endemic problems such as burnout, factors that lead to elevating the organization’s performance.

Many companies underestimate the importance of addressing this issue right now. But the key question is to start with a comprehensive diagnosis that allows us to focus efforts and align leaders, so that we put our people at the center of the organization’s effectiveness and continuity. At the end of the day, it’s about building a motivated and engaged team that boosts decision-making, improves the overall performance of the company, and ensures a prosperous future for the business. The real risk and cost lie in postponing this essential work.

María Vila Melo
Manager at Tandem
mvm@tandemsd.com

  1. State of the Global Workplace (GALLUP, 2024). ↩︎
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