June 7, 2022

Employees Are Leaving Sports: What Should You Do?

Employees Are Leaving Sports: What Should You Do?

You’ve seen the tweets. Folks in the sports industry are fed up with long hours and low pay – they’re burnt out and leaving the industry en masse. The allure of working in sports simply isn’t enough. 

After speaking with friends, clients, and colleagues in our industry I see a common theme killing the social sports industry. 

I call it the vicious cycle.

Imagine, you’re the director of social for an NFL team and you have a dedicated team of four to run the accounts. For fun, we’ll call them: Sally, Tom, Malcolm, and Tatiana. You’re in the groove. Everyone is working a 50 hour work week, hitting their goals, creating innovative content, and then BOOM. Sally gets offered another job and puts in her two weeks. 

You know with all the red tape, it takes three months to recruit, hire, and fill that seat with HR. You’re in the middle of your season and busier than ever. So what do you do? Tom, Malcolm, and Tatiana pick up even more hours to compensate for the loss of Sally and the cycle of burnout continues. 

Finally, HR fills Sally’s old seat and you have a new, hungry teammate eager to help. The team is slowly getting back into a routine, until a couple of weeks into new hire training…Malcolm puts his two weeks in. He wasn’t “looking” but when that recruiter hit him up on his ninth day of work in a row, he had no choice but to hop on a call to hear the pitch.

He was so burnt out over the last three months that he was open to new work and the appeal of a better work/life balance was so alluring that he simply couldn’t refuse. 

And the vicious cycle continues.

As an example, we here at STN had a professional sports team client where the primary contact changed four times in a span of 18 months. That kind of turnover is tough to overcome for any organization.

So what’s the solution?

It’s two-fold.

  • You need tools to be a better leader.
  • You need an outside partner that can help spike up support at a moment’s notice.

How to Be a Better Leader

STN has been named a Best Employer in Sports by Front Office Sports two years in a row. We’re known for our people-first culture, so it’s no wonder 30+ employees from sports teams have decided to join our growing team.

Our appeal is not simply our people-first approach, but the palpable support and encouragement from upper management. When upper management goes the extra mile to support the well-being of their team, employees feel heard, productivity increases, and feelings of burnout subside/fall away. 

Here are three battle-tested approaches that will improve your culture and that you can implement today for free!

1. Every Friday, have your team send you their score for the week on a scale of 1-5. Take it a step further and ask them to share where they are mentally, emotionally, and physically on a scale of 1-10.

At first, this may seem a little odd. Some employees might question the necessity, but we found that employees are more likely – and more comfortable –  to share this information in a written systematic forum when given a prompt.

What’s great about this is if someone on your team is emotionally at a 4 out of 10, as their manager you will want to act immediately to check-in with your teammate. You’ll take the initiative to reach out and ask how they are doing, how you can support them now and in the future, and if there is anything you can do to help.

Remember, we all want to feel supported and in the workplace it’s even more important that your team feels the care trickle down from the top. There’s a chance that one of your teammates has been at a 1 out of 10 in every capacity over the last month and you have no idea. A good leader wants to know how their team is feeling on a regular basis. If you can’t measure it, you can’t track it.

At STN, we use a platform called 15:5 that makes checking in with your team effortless. If budget is a concern, send out a weekly Google Survey to your team to help you stay informed about your team’s well-being.

2. More communication, more transparency:

People love transparency. That’s why, as the CEO, I send memos to my team at least once a month detailing the state of the business, what I’m excited about, and any professional and world news that might affect our team. So I don’t consider myself the Chief Executive Officer, but rather the Chief Energizing Officer. Here to boost team morale with transparency.  But it doesn’t end with me.

Transparent communication has become the backbone of our company and our employees are encouraged to speak up, share feedback, and become an integral part of every conversation. With open communication, what you share with your team can be the very thing that motivates them for the next three months.

Talk about everything. Whether it’s the elephant in the room, future plans, stats, data, or  what the team has accomplished. When employees feel impactful they usually feel safe and less willing to look for other jobs.

Constantly reassure your team that it’s okay to not always be okay. With recent trying times, it’s more important now than ever to be there for your team, make space for them, and allow them space to step away when needed.

3. Monitor your team’s hours:

We have a joke at STN that we have “time-back police” – it’s a person who reminds you when you have to take time off because you’ve worked too much (hours in a week, or days in a row).

I know in sports, this may be less realistic in season, but you have to find a way to rearrange shifts to prevent team burnout. If your internal team is maxed, don’t continue to overload, think about using outside partners to ease the load.

Let’s face it, no one is loving life working 11 days in a row. We get that. Use a software program like T-Sheets or Harvest to have your team track their hours, current projects, and capacity so you can help prioritize and find efficiencies.

You Need an Outside Partner That Can Help Spike Up Support At a Moment’s Notice

I get it. You care about your team’s well-being, want to stop burnout culture, but you have a limited headcount and you don’t have a ton of power to change that. You can probably justify doubling your staff, but HR and Finance would never go for it. We often hear that budget is easier to unlock than headcount, so using that on a trusted partner can make all the difference for your team.

In the last year, we’ve seen a huge increase of professional sports teams looking to STN to provide a stable yet flexible support system. Our flexibility allows us to cater to any initiative and help our partners overcome potential staffing challenges. For example, you might want to launch a TikTok campaign but lack the capacity. Instead, you find a partner you trust to own the campaign and create a better work/life balance for your entire team. 

You’ll realize that your partners will quickly become that peace of mind when unexpected changes arise; so if Sally quits you can lean on them to spike their efforts for three months. Or when someone is out sick or on an extended vacation, you’re not worried about the extra work falling solely on your team. That elasticity can be a game-changer for your culture.

It doesn’t have to be STN, but choose a partner that understands your brand. It’s so important to have a reliable partner as an option when you’re facing challenges or need to lean on someone for support. 

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite leadership quotes from author Ben Horowitz.

Take care of the PEOPLE, the PRODUCT, the PROFITS — in that order.

Ben Horowitz

Written by: David Brickley, Founder & CEO of STN Digital

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