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Employee burnout - data is the key, says Rich Bye, Workday Global Product Vision and Strategy

Sarah Aryanpur Profile picture for user saryanpur July 5, 2024
Companies should increase their use of personalized, data driven information to improve employee engagement, and avoid the risk of burnout.


Here’s an alarming stat from a recent study, The Workday Peakon Employee Voice Data; Addressing Organizational Burnout Risk - nearly 30% of employees are at a high risk of burnout. Moreover managers at high-risk organizations are two times as likely to be at risk of burnout, than those in low risk companies.

The conclusions are based on data from from 2.6 million employees across more than 850 companies and 12 industries around the world, which use Workday’s Peakon Employee Voice offerings.

The survey found that specific causes of burnout risk differ by industry, but they are present in all of them. The highest proportion of high risk organizations, at 50% or more are government, energy and resources, media and entertainment.

Rich Bye, Workday Global Product Vision and Strategy, says lack of  engagement and employee burnout are two sides of the same coin:

If you have a burnout risk, then your engagement goes down and all the things that go with that. In the modern world we now have the ability to really understand the sentiment of employees at different times, and so be able to develop plans for the organization to help combat burnout risk.

Bye believes that the complexity of the world and how it impacts people personally, impacts employees at work, but unless an organization finds out how people feel, it will never know. He thinks there is a need for regular data to keep companies informed, and employees engaged, arguing:

I've been in human resources for 30 years, working for companies like Dell and BP, and we always did employee surveys once a year. The next year, you get all these initiatives, and by the time you do some of them, maybe the thing that the survey told you was now outdated.

The key to employee management is being able to react, and react quickly, according to Bye who comments:

It is being able to see that information and then being able to create short term plans to manage whatever those situations may be.


Bye believes in being able to plan a strategy based on regular data from employees, and understanding why employees feel the way they do, can help organizations avoid burnout risks. He also argues that employee engagement has a major impact on retaining people:

If you don't have to go find new people by just retaining somebody, you've solved a recruiting challenge. Now you can develop them and train them to do different things. At Workday we constantly talk about how do you up-skill, re-skill, or put people's skills in places where it's going to have the most value? I think that can be a huge benefit for them, and an organization.

Employee data gives companies real information as they plan strategies to avoid employee burnout, he adds:

I think that's really becoming much more sophisticated, and now the emotional aspects are coming into play, and that's where employee burnout can come in. The historical way we looked at it was around things like absenteeism and injuries that are really just about physical well being. They're not really addressing how you're feeling at work.

But prioritizing what is going to have the best impact and how to support these programs is difficult without the data, he notes:

That's why the data is important. Everybody would probably recognize some of the things that are happening and why they're impacting. But then how do you know these are my first, or second priority versus what's really important, but it's maybe the sixth priority, and maybe that's for next year, if that still applies.


Workday’s Peakon is already using AI to improve the quality of the data, for example, by interpreting different comments that mean the same thing.  Bye explains:

AI is able to understand that three people may have used different languages or different vocabulary, but it knows that those are similar terms, and therefore it can group those comments together.

This natural language ability is also able to dictate the next set of questions from previous answers, he adds:

It starts asking questions that are personalized to you based on the answers you gave previously, finding out how it's progressing, and trying to get more to the root cause.

With this additional data, managers can find out if their development plans are working, and maybe consider different training. Driving personalization at an employee, department, group, or a country level will become more prevalent.

Workday is continuing to try to tailor Peakon to provide data to help drive in the business, and still have the ability to do some more of the bigger annual surveys. Some companies still want to do one big thing every year, even if they continually listen throughout the year, Bye says:

Data-driven decisions can be based on continuous listening, and sentiment analysis, understanding how your overall health and wellbeing strategy is working, and how things like this fit into it.

Bye points to the the data from the survey as showing that people leaders have a very big impact on organizations and employees in terms of burnout risk:

They're almost like a force multiplier. If they're really good, then it's going to be doubly as good, and if they're really bad, that's gonna be doubly or triply as bad.

Having access to this level of employee data, allows companies to communicate their strategy more effectively, he believes:

A culture of transparency can start to come through. You're going to have to talk about some of these things if you're going to make decisions, and you have to be willing to be able to look at some information that's hard to look at, maybe it doesn't tell you a good story and doesn't make everybody happy.

Communicating so that people have a better understanding of what the company is trying to achieve is really valuable, and is one of the things companies often don't do well enough, he adds: .

It’s about communication and transparency. Telling people what a company is doing, and why. For example, we've decided not to rehire people for a period of time. Here's why we decided, here's what's going to mean, here's how it's going to impact you. So they're getting that full kind of understanding of what we're trying to do, which really helps with employee engagement.

My take

In today’s difficult economic climate, retaining a productive, happy workforce is critical. The more a company knows about how its employees feel, the better it can help them to perform, and avoid burnout. The tools available to organizations now, like Peakon, are evolving quickly, becoming more personalized and offering effective methods to measure employee engagement.

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