A good friend of mine is working at a very large consultancy. She is well qualified to do so, she is thought of highly (evidenced by promotion) and enjoys working for her current employer more then the previous one. That is to say, the work she undertakes at the new employer (new being approximately 18 months) is more varied, more challenging and generally of greater interest.
However, she is often working well in to the evening to meet deadlines for clients to compensate for understaffed teams.
She complains of chest pains, breathlessness and a general hopelessness at the exhausting roll call of client and partner requests. Week after week brings deadline after deadline in her portfolio of clients. You may think it’s her, she doesn’t delegate well enough or she doesn’t cope well with stress. You might be right; certainly if she was an isolated case it would indicate that. But I know that it is isn’t. One of her junior colleagues recently called in complete distress with the same symptoms and the same anxiety about unmanageable workload.
Ok, may be they are too junior in general and need to grow in to this unwanted work life balance. May be so, but I can also tell you one of their seniors was recently in hospital for two days with the same symptoms.
This is not a team of hundreds; it’s a team within a team. I have one other insight that suggests this isn’t an isolated scenario. Another friend previously a Director in another specialism at the same consultancy opted to leave after he had observed a growing trend towards treating the people as an asset to be sweated to the maximum rather then assess his options for Partner.
For almost all organisations (I can’t currently think of an exception) the people are the most important asset. Yet, how many companies are not looking out for their staff, not actively assessing the work life balance or when they are assessing and the results flash red not acting decisively enough to make a more positive working environment.
In the above example I am reasonably sure all three people are considering their options; at best internal transfers, at worst (from the companies perspective) a new company. Either option leaves a stretched team with even less resource.
Getting the work life balance right for your team is a very big step in ensuring your churn rate stays at a manageable level.