IT leadership: How to defeat burnout

In recent years, people have had to contend with major life stressors — health concerns, childcare challenges, and family issues while working from home — in addition to ever-changing work environments and work commitments. The risk of burnout remains high at all levels of the organization and can have disastrous effects on team culture.

Helping teams manage stress is critical to maintaining a healthy team environment where all employees can thrive. At Liberty Mutual, we do this by focusing on three things: we live our values, we empower our people, and we focus our teams on outcomes for our clients, not outcomes.

Foundation counts: Living our values

We are founded on five core values:

  • Being open, which means getting involved with all people and possibilities
  • Keep it simple by being clear and transparent
  • Putting people first by acting with dignity, empathy and respect
  • Making things better by being proactive and challenging the status quo
  • Act responsibly by doing the right thing and persevering

These values ​​are the basis of our identity. As we think about helping our company navigate the stresses of today’s world, these values ​​help us respond in ways that support our employees and serve our customers.

Strengthen employees: Equip our managers

As we think about how we can help our employees manage stress and avoid burnout, we also think about how we can empower each employee and provide tools that enable their managers to support a healthy work environment. With approximately 7,000 managers in 29 countries, it’s critical that we provide tools that can help employees at all stages of their careers and address a variety of variables.

[ Also read Motivate your IT team using this leadership advice. ]

A few years ago we introduced a program called Leading at Liberty for all leaders. Our goal was to provide tools to help our managers and leaders develop skills that support their teams and provide psychological security.

In addition to Leading at Liberty, we have also launched several toolkits to help leaders lead through change. An empathy toolkit offers tips on fostering an empathetic culture; our resilience toolkit helps build the resilience of managers and their teams; and our integrative leadership toolkit helps managers think about these elements from a personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural change perspective.

As a global hybrid organization, these toolkits were key to helping managers navigate remote work and combat burnout. They have also helped leaders build trust during uncertain times.

results, not expenses

What sets Liberty Mutual apart from other organizations is our purpose. We exist to help people embrace today and confidently pursue tomorrow. This is our North Star and helps define and guide everything we do.

We also understand that tackling burnout requires combining work and results. To ensure this happens, we spend time defining intended outcomes – the realization of expected benefits – versus outputs – for example simply enabling a new feature in a system.

Success is measured by achieving results and realizing benefits. For example, the result could be the ability to deliver features faster than before. The keyword is “skills” that help us deliver better products and services to our customers. A result is much greater than an output like simply turning on a technology.

Strong leaders create clarity and help their teams focus on the results that matter. They also bring together people who have the right information and skills to get the job done.

These nuances are significant in the context of burnout. When you’re working on a project and you don’t know why you’re doing it or what the intended outcomes are, you have no connection to why it’s important. When that happens, you’ll likely feel like you’re working a lot but not doing anything worthwhile. By focusing on outcomes instead of outcomes, we were able to alleviate that overwhelming sense of burnout while prioritizing the results of our work.

Strong leaders create clarity and help their teams focus on the results that matter. They also bring together people who have the right information and skills to get the job done. For more insight into leadership, I recommend General Stanley McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams, which emphasizes the need to create “shared awareness and context” in an organization.

Bringing everything together: Working meaningfully with tools that enable progress

While we have values ​​and a process that aligns teams for results, burnout remains a point of discussion in many work environments. This is in part due to employees’ need for a smoother workplace, along with advances in technology that require new skills. When people come to work, we want them to have the right tools to avoid friction and make their work run smoother.

As we introduce new tools to improve the employee experience, we also recognize that employees feel differently comfortable with new technology. To counteract this, we are concentrating heavily on training. We’re methodical to ensure our training helps employees develop new skills as their jobs become even more tech-enabled. Training isn’t just about checking boxes; We constantly strive to create the time, space, and mechanics for our teams to learn new skills.

From the perspective of tech people, we’re thinking about how we can provide training that enables our teams to grow. For example, we run a 32-week full-stack engineer program that is self-paced but also includes weekly, instructor-led online sessions. This ensures that the skills our people learn are connected to the outcomes we expect and the tools we need. Our goal is to support our employees in adapting to the new requirements of our customers.

Burnout is likely to remain an issue for the foreseeable future. At Liberty Mutual, we strive to create an environment where we put people first, support our teams and deliver the right products and services to our customers. Our values ​​guide us as we create new tools, new opportunities, and new ways to empower and motivate our teams.

[ Learn how CIOs are speeding toward goals while preventing employee burnout in this report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]

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