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Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic

Hult International Business School (Ashridge)

Professor of Leadership and Management

Read more about Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic

Identifying warning signs: How to support HR leaders with burnout prevention

There are practical solutions to the key issues facing HR leaders that can help avoid burnout
turning_red

The last three years have had a significant impact on organisations worldwide, compelling them to adjust to new ways of working and managing workers. 

As a result, HR leaders are under enormous pressure to manage an evolving workforce while also implementing creative solutions to keep organisations running.

Stepping up but burning out

While HR leaders have stepped up to the challenge, they are also experiencing high levels of burnout. According to a recent report by Sage, 81% of HR leaders feel burned out and 62% are considering leaving the HR profession. 

This is not surprising, given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the pressure on HR leaders to deliver results in a highly uncertain environment.

Recognising and responding to red flags

As executives, it is essential to recognise the red flags of burnout and take steps to support HR leaders in achieving sustainable management. 

One of the key issues facing HR leaders is the unsustainable behaviour displayed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many HR leaders have been operating at Level 5 ‘Unbounded’. This is the highest level possible in my The Management Shift model, also known as the Emergent leadership model. 

Across the board, HR leaders were passionate about what they were doing, leaders embraced unlearning their leadership paradigm and accepting a level of chaos and, for many employees, their work became their life’s purpose.  

81% of HR leaders feel burned out and 62% are considering leaving the HR profession

Implementing sustainable strategies

While this level of behaviour can be effective in the short term, it is not sustainable in the long run and can lead to burnout. 

The challenge for executives is to help HR leaders tone down their high levels of energy and move towards Level 4 behaviours, which can be sustained with occasional forays into Level 5. 

This involves recognising warning signs such as increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, and signs of emotional exhaustion, and providing HR leaders with support and resources to help them manage their workload effectively.

One of the key issues facing HR leaders is the unsustainable behaviour displayed during the COVID-19 pandemic

Recognising the warning signs of burnout

One of the first steps executives can take to help HR leaders avoid burnout is to recognise the warning signs. 

Look out for signs that HR professionals are exhibiting Level 5 behaviours regularly, such as working excessively long hours, neglecting their personal life and health and becoming emotionally exhausted. 

Keep an eye on absenteeism rates, employee turnover and overall job satisfaction.

The challenge for executives is to help HR leaders tone down their high levels of energy and move towards Level 4 behaviours

Eight key tips that can help HR leaders avoid burnout

  1. Work-life balance: Promote a culture that prioritises work-life balance and encourage HR professionals to take time off when they need it. Encourage them to take breaks throughout the day and provide them with resources and support to help them manage their workload effectively
  2. Self-care: Encourage HR leaders to take care of their physical and mental health by providing them with resources such as wellness programs, mental health days and access to mental health professionals
  3. Build a support network: Create a support network for HR professionals where they can connect with peers, mentors and coaches who can provide them with guidance, support and advice. Provide them with opportunities to connect and share experiences with others in the profession
  4. Create sustainable HR practices: Encourage the development of HR practices that are sustainable in the long run, rather than relying on high-intensity, unsustainable solutions. Develop strategies that balance short-term needs with long-term goals and ensure that HR leaders have the resources and support they need to deliver on these goals
  5. Encourage the 80/20 rule: Encourage one day a week where HR leaders work at a slightly slower pace than they do in the days of the week that they work. This could be known as an admin day, or a day set aside for slower paced tasks and activities
  6. Regular check-ins: To see how HR leaders are coping and what support they need. Provide them with opportunities to share their experiences, feedback and suggestions for improvement, and use this feedback to improve HR practices and create a more supportive culture
  7. Encourage hybrid working days if the office environment is creating extra time pressures, stress or demands
  8. Daily mindset exercises  

Keep an eye on absenteeism rates, employee turnover and overall job satisfaction

The dangers of burnout

HR leaders have been critical in supporting organisations over the past three years, but this has come at a cost. 

Burnout is a danger, and HR leaders are not exempt. 

As senior executives, it is critical to notice the red signals that suggest burnout and take preventative measures. 

Encourage HR leaders to take care of their physical and mental health by providing them with resources

Level 4 is the norm

Senior leaders can help their HR leaders avoid burnout and achieve sustainable management by setting realistic goals, promoting a positive work culture, practising self-care, encouraging work-life balance, providing professional development opportunities, prioritising workload management, encouraging breaks, hybrid working and promoting open communication.

It is critical to note that while Level 5 behaviours should be used on occasion, Level 4 behaviours should be the norm.  

If you enjoyed this, read: HR’s newest problem: Managing leadership burnout

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Author Profile Picture
Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic

Professor of Leadership and Management

Read more from Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic
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