Is Poor Digital Transformation the Silent Killer of Employee Motivation?

Topics such as mental illness, employee burnout, and poor employee onboarding were rarely broached until recent years due to the archaic ‘suck it up and move on’ mentality.

However, in today’s age with all the advancements in the digital sector, the effects of poor digital onboarding can be seen on the burnout rates among employees undergoing frustrations linked to these changes. Continued employee frustration can lead to a lack of productivity and in turn, a lack of work satisfaction and ultimately employee burnout.

The silent killer which I’ve seen time and time again is the impact that poor digital transformation has on employee morale. Managers expect employees to seamlessly adapt to completely transforming the way they work. Too often the pressure to onboard when there is no digital adoption strategy clearly outlined causes significant stress.

Countries like Japan, where people are literally dropping dead from stress and overwork, are placing more emphasis on careers and not enough on well-being.

This is one of the main reasons why the well-being industry has skyrocketed over the past few years. Online healthcare companies such as Headspace, which has seen significant growth of 250 million in less than three months, are becoming more and more popular. Finding satisfaction with both your personal life and your career is challenging, but it can be done by finding the proper balance.

I decided to look to some of the experts in the field for some tips and insights to overcoming burnout and gaining the ability to retain your career in today’s digital world:

Mario Peshev, CEO at DevriX

“While I’m not a medical professional, I’ve been through several burnouts and some of my team members have blanked out for a few weeks before getting back on track.

Here are several observations and thoughts of mine regarding burnouts.

Burnouts are often not directly related to work.

All of my burnouts, and most of the cases I’ve observed, were not directly related to work.

Sure, work overload is a contributing factor. But more often than not, there are family troubles, sick family members, additional responsibilities or duties (looking for a new house, car troubles), or an uncomfortable office environment which may be a serious contributing factor to the problem.

Which is why I’ve seen people burn out while spending no more than 5–6 billable hours at the office. Their mind is fully occupied with other problems that they don’t have a practical, quick solution for, while being a high priority on their list.

Skills may not match the job description.

The skills gap is one of the reasons why burnout is common for entrepreneurs. Starting a business depends on business chops, marketing and sales skills, understanding tech requirements, dealing with finances and legal contracts, negotiating requirements with prospects, offloading work to team members or third-party vendors.

Most people need to run a business for 5–10 years in order to get comfortable dealing with most activities (and grow a thick skin). Fresh entrepreneurs often don’t make it through the first few years — leading to 90% of the startups failing.

This could easily translate to an employee at work. The caveat is aligning the skill set with the job requirements. Inexperienced, entry-level employees may require another 2 or 3 years in order to get fully “up to speed” with the business goals.

Larger corporations may have open positions for inexperienced team members. Smaller and mid-sized teams are usually fast-paced and require more from their team members. They need to stay on the market which requires higher motivation and more time spent. A misalignment may easily overburden an employee and lead to a burnout.

Work-related burnouts are easier to intercept earlier.

Read the rest of Mario’s answer here.

Stan Hanks, Digital Gyrovague

“I classify burnout in two classes:

‘Push’ burnout — the burnout that comes from working so long and so hard on something that you just don’t have any more “push” to apply (sort of like glycogen exhaust in exercise)

‘Drag’ burnout — the burnout that comes from doing the same thing over and over and not making perceptible results. As in “man, this is a drag.”

Push burnout is usually avoidable. It happens when you try to do too much too fast, without the right resources. The problem, and it’s a really serious problem, is that this is usually the result of someone higher up the food chain making commitments based on business expediency without bothering to get a realistic commitment from the people actually doing the work that it is in fact possible. Or even when that does happen, from something completely unexpected coming up.

The result is being forced to work extra-long hours, for what is patently a really stupid reason.

What’s even worse is when you wind up working really really long hours for a reason that you really believe in, because you drank the Koolaid. You know that you shouldn’t be pushing so hard, but you can’t help it, because “it’s the right thing to do” — until you just can’t do it any longer.

My favorite example of this comes from Tracy Kidder’s book The Soul of a New Machine, in which the engineer responsible for the really tight timing structure of the microcontroller for the Data General Eclipse resigns, leaving a note that I’m going to a commune in Vermont, and will deal with no unit of time shorter than a season

(BTW, if you want to learn all about “push” burnout, this book is a must-read)

Solving for this is easy:

You don’t make market-time driven commitments; you adopt an “it’s done it’s done” philosophy, and using continuous integration, roll out pieces a bit at a time, maybe even daily
you don’t overcommit your staff, ever, and you don’t let anyone else do it either
you apply the principle of “open allocation”, allowing people to choose the tasks they will work on rather than assigning them tasks. For the tasks that no one chooses, you have to apply incentives to get someone to sign up for them. Or hire them done by outsiders.

Drag burnout is much, much harder. It’s typically found when you’re working on “open problems” in pure R & D and some fields of engineering where you know there’s probably a solution out there somewhere, you just don’t know what it is again.

Solving for this is simple, but not easy:

You make sure that everyone has projects that have shorter term deliverables that are not open-ended
You celebrate every success as a group
You cross-collaborate, a lot
You know when to call it ‘close enough’

I hope this is of help.”

Read the rest of Stan’s answer here.

Overcoming burnout when poor digital transformation is in play isn’t easy. The key to reversing the effects is to implement a proper digital onboarding strategy in order to alleviate the stress your employees are experiencing. Technology is only being propelled forward, so it’s time that we jump on the bandwagon and begin evolving to adapt to the digital changes around us.