Avoid Stress, Save Staff

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Avoid Stress, Save Staff

Much like the wildflowers that are plentiful during this time of year here in Texas, the parking market seems to be in full bloom. Things are hopping in parking from full parking lots to new technology installations and even investment activity in parking companies. While that is a good thing for many people (and much better than it was this time two years ago), this activity level comes with added stress for those who have to support it. This month’s question asks how to combat one of the downsides to all this growth.  

Dear Kevin, 

Parkers are back in force on our parking lots, and our team is busier than ever. Do you have any suggestions on how we can help avoid losing our staff due to the stress? 

Worried in Washington, DC. 

Thanks for the question. This item is a timely issue as many teams face the loss of good team members, seemingly out of the blue. While the “great resignation” has been ongoing for the past year for several reasons, the rise of burnout among parking professionals has been growing. There are many reasons why burnout can occur. The first, and I would argue one of the biggest, is daily workload. While most people are willing and able to put in the extra work necessary to get the job done occasionally, keeping that pace up for a prolonged period is detrimental to morale, productivity, and even well-being. It has been shown that stress levels impact the human body’s ability to fight off illness and directly impact mental health. With many teams still not being at their pre-covid staffing levels, this leaves fewer people doing the work regularly. 

Dealing with the challenges of learning new technology and making (or dealing with) the operational changes required by that new tech can be time-consuming and stressful. Ironically, new technology, put in place in many cases to help deal with lower staffing levels, can increase stress levels and lead to burnout. While, in many cases, this technology will, in the long run, make the operation of the parking location easier and more efficient, in the short term, it can make life harder for those using it. 

Another reason for burnout can be a lack of perceived appreciation. When everyone is working hard, it can be easy for leaders to deprioritize the work needed to ensure their teams feel valued and appreciated. While the acts themselves can be as simple as a personal thank you, public recognition, time off, or even having the leader join them on the “front lines,” these small acts make a big difference. 

While we just discussed a few of the many reasons people could be experiencing burnout, let’s discuss a few things that can be done to help. The first, in my opinion, is quality leadership. I strongly agree with the adage that “people join companies, but leave bosses.” This concept is especially true in stressful situations. Invest in the leaders of your organization. Understand that management and leadership are not the same, and it is a skill that takes both time and training to master. 

Next, regularly conduct what HR professionals call “stay interviews.” These are periodically occurring conversations that can be done separately or as part of a regular check-in. These conversations ask staff members hard questions such as “are you happy here,” “what can we do better,” and even “are you considering leaving?” If the answers are not positive, develop a plan to address the concerns quickly. A vital part of this process includes not waiting until the end of the year to give out promotions, bonuses, and other incentives. Considering the cost of finding and training a new employee and the lost productivity impact of having a person missing from the group (while putting your other team members at a higher risk of leaving), it is typically cheaper to pay your existing employees more now. 

However, for these interviews to work, there has to be an environment of open and honest communication across all levels of the organization. An information vacuum is seldom filled with positive information and feelings. When information is not passed from the upper to the lower levels of an organization effectively, uncertainty and anxiety can quickly form in an organization. Additionally, if people on the team do not believe people above them hear their comments, or if they are being heard and are not taken seriously, this increases dissatisfaction. 

I hope a few of these ideas help with your situation. As the old saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” Even the best-run organizations lose people, so make sure your documentation and training are up to date and ready to go. 

If you have a question that you would like answered in a future column or would like to drop me a comment, please reach out to me at kevin.uhlenhaker@flashparking.com. 

Article contributed by:
Kevin Uhlenhaker
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