Managing change and avoiding change fatigue

With employees unable to absorb change as effectively as before, how can leaders successfully introduce change in 2021

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The upheaval and rapid organisational change that many businesses experienced in 2020 has fundamentally changed how businesses implement change and how employees react to it.

Research conducted by Gartner near the end of 2020 revealed that an employee’s capacity to ‘absorb’ change without becoming fatigued has fallen by 50% compared to 2019. Change fatigue manifests itself in many different forms with these ranging from burnout and mental exhaustion, through to indifference and active resistance to change.

One of the key outcomes of COVID has been the constant incremental changes that individuals have experienced both in their personal and professional lives. From working from home, on/off lock downs, restricted mobility and a more blended work/personal life, this build-up of little changes has overloaded many people which has accumulated in employees ‘turning off’ to valuable business change.

24% of fatigued employees are more likely to intentionally behave in ways that work against changes the organisation is trying to implement and a further 19% are more likely to leave.

This is a bad combination for those businesses who are at a point when they need to implement change, and when employees’ acceptance of change is at its lowest.

How to avoid employee change fatigue

  • Manage the change experience
    In the current environment of remote working and increased isolation, businesses should continue to dedicate resources, time and flexibility to managing an employee’s wellbeing and reduce the impact of constant little changes. More than ever before it’s important to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of our employees and imagine the change load that they are experiencing with yet another lockdown.

    Leaders need to challenge themselves and see whether the introduction of certain changes are necessary and think how they could be introduced in a way that’s least disruptive to employees. Empowering employees to co-create and continuously encouraging a two-way communication is essential for reducing the cognitive load that change can bring.

  • Communicating with purpose
    Remote working has highlighted the importance of support and inclusion on employee productivity and their acceptance of change. Communication is key to this and with reduced physical face time, employees need to feel like they are being heard. Leaders need to be able to tune in to what is being both said and not said, and be very intentional and purposeful in their communication.

    Clear 360 channels of communication are essential. What has changed in 2020 is that employees are less forgiving if words don’t follow action, or if either part of the messaging is exclusive to any groups.
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