Culture4 min read

Elon Musk isn’t the only reason Tesla is successful; how to empower your team and avoid burnout

Elon Musk is on the brink of burnout. Overstressed and overworked, “this past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my life,” he recently said in an emotional interview with The New York Times. “It was excruciating.” He had been working 120 hours a week, he said, and it had been detrimental to his health and his personal life. “This really has come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing my friends.”

This unsustainable work-life balance led to some disastrous decisions and spooked investors with his (now withdrawn) claim that he had funding secured to take Tesla private, a claim which resulted in two lawsuits and attracted the glare of the US financial regulator.

Despite being one of the most forward-thinking and innovative CEOs in the world, Musk still suffers the same risk as all of us – burnout.

Tesla are now on the hunt for a new second-in-command to help lighten Musk’s load. But according to analyst, Josh Bersin, Musk isn’t the only one suffering from burnout at Tesla.

After spending the day with the Tesla L&D team (who he speaks very highly of), Bersin said that:

“While no-one seemed upset about it, the pace of work at Tesla does wear on people.”

 

That said, he was confident that – while their LMS wasn’t doing the job and they hadn’t quite nailed the implementation of their Learning Experience Platform – Tesla was delivering great things based on its culture. People are given trust, they are empowered and they move fast. He added:

“In this world of fast-changing skills and companies that are growing quickly every day, a culture of innovation, learning, and collaboration can be as important as tenure and experience.”

 

But based on Musk’s experiences, burnout can have terrible consequences on output for even the brightest employees.

So how do you move fast, innovate and avoid burnout? While there are many paths to consider, here’s our take on how organisations can deliver results and maintain a healthy balance through the lense of learning:

1) Scale collaboration

Musk recently commented, “if you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”

For a visionary like Musk, relying on just one other person to drive an organisation forward is risky business. Tesla’s Chief People Officer once said that they’re looking for how people think – “there is no right answer if it’s never been done before”, so why ask just one other person to do the work for you?

The key to accelerating change is to help everyone learn together, at scale. For a company of 40,000 that’s tough – especially when, as Bersin found out, their LXP isn’t up to the job. Learning tech doesn’t have to be just about guided pathways or content curation. Some Hive Learning clients host ‘problem solving’ forums in the platform to access the collective thoughts of employees across countries, time zones and departments to solve major problems in just 24 hours.

What’s more, if problem solving lives in your learning tool, employees can easily find and access that content time and time again. When you take advantage of knowledge sharing across the group, you not only move faster – you lighten the load for everyone.

2) Make learning visible

Bersin tells us that at Tesla, people are learning, evolving, adapting and innovating everyday – and they’re empowered to do that. But when workloads are piled high, people often default to putting their heads down and shutting off from the rest of the group.

According to Christina Maslach, author of The Truth About Burnout, some of the most common causes of burnout are a lack of community and a lack of reward. While Bersin’s experience of Tesla was that everyone was friendly and knowledgeable, social sharing helps people feel connected and rewarded for the work they’re doing.

Encouraging teams to share their progress and learnings everyday can help mobile teams in fast moving organisations increase the pace of knowledge sharing, but also feel more connected to their global colleagues and the organisations’ vision.

According to Hive Learning research, 81% of users feel more connected to their organisation when they have a forum to regularly share their learnings and receive instant feedback from the wider working community. And according to Harvard Business Review, learning something new is one of the most powerful ways to beat stress.

In summary, burnout isn’t good for innovation. Our recommendation for Elon Musk? Help the Tesla team scale the learning and collaboration they’re so brilliant at for a happier, healthier, even-faster moving workforce.

Hive Learning is the intelligent learning experience platform that helps organisations turn learning and collaboration into daily routine. For a free consultation on how to scale learning and collaboration in your organisation, please contact Edwin Abl – edwin.abl@hivelearning.com.

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