Are you or those around you feeling tired, foggy, or somewhat overwhelmed? Are organizational goals being missed? Do you see frustration and animosity among team members? You may be experiencing change fatigue. The constant swirl of uncertainty due to economic uncertainty, continuing Covid cases, ongoing war in the Ukraine as well as the chronic stress of work challenges are proving that change fatigue is real.
Many organizations are experiencing change fatigue. It’s exhausting and demoralizing and causes us to consider how HR professionals can create effective, meaningful, and lasting employee engagement amid unending organizational change?
With a more than two decades of leading organizational change, I’ve seen change fatigue in nearly every project I’ve worked on. Just as we focus on whether the change is incremental or transformational, we should also consider how the change being implemented is impacting individuals, teams, or the organization.
Individuals suffering from change fatigue may display an erosion of well-being which impacts their physical, emotional, or spiritual state. The impact may show up as work being done poorly, or with mistakes, poor self-care, and low engagement. Teams that are showing signs of change fatigue may be faltering, display lack of process, experience frequent interruptions, and resource misalignment. The impact on teams can be seen in missed deadlines, frequent mistakes, resentment, frustration, and low team member engagement.
Organizations also experience fatigue from the number of change projects underway, and the seemingly never-ending change initiatives which are considered priorities. Missed annual goals, over-budget projects or schedules, and poor change adoption are some of the signs that change fatigue is negatively impacting the organization.
Human resource professionals are uniquely positioned to recognize and address change fatigue. The first step to determine the amount of change initiatives underway, the impact of those changes on individuals and teams and to focus on change management tools and techniques to mitigate the risk of change fatigue and to offer solutions or antidotes when it occurs.
- Prioritization and mapping; Much of the frustration and disengagement individuals and teams experience amid change is the lack of recognition of impact of change on stakeholders. Mapping the change initiatives with a stakeholder centric vision is essential in the quest to recognize the amount of change each stakeholder group is managing simultaneously. Creating this map and then prioritizing the changes impacting the stakeholder group can relieve the dread, and overwhelm stakeholders feel from multiple expectations, and the increased workload that often results from change.
- Building individual skills; Recognizing humanness is essential in adapting to and adopting change. HR professionals can make a difference for stakeholders by focusing on building resilience and vitality. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Vitality is the capacity to reduce disturbances that threaten one’s resilience. The dual focus on resilience and vitality combine to ensure individuals and teams have the capacity to adapt, the energy to adopt, and resiliency to accept and sustain change.
- Incorporate organizational change management tools and techniques; Developing the relevant and relatable story of change to share the reason for and vision of the future state is essential for the organization to successfully adopt change. Engaging leaders, creating compelling communication, training & development and sustainability plans are just a few of the change management tools used during implementation to assist the organization and its stakeholders to achieve the future state and realize the benefits of change. HR professionals are well positioned to deliver the tools and utilize change management techniques to lead this effort.
As organizations, teams and individuals experience change fatigue, HR professionals who can work with leadership to prioritize projects, build vitality and resilience, and use a change management approach to communicate, train, and sustain change will be invaluable to help build back some of the employee engagement that has been sacrificed due to the upheaval and rapid change which will continue for the foreseeable future. When change fatigue is reduced, engagement can increase, and those focused on retention, attrition and development of an engaged workforce will also realize the benefits of change.
April Callis Birchmeier CSP, PMP, CCMP™ is a PMP, a Global Guru in Organizational Culture, and internationally known organizational change management expert who has implemented change for government, health care, higher education, and corporate clients.
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