Minimising the risk of employee change fatigue

We all know that real change can ultimately only happen when employees adopt new processes, practices, systems, models.

There is also a lively debate playing out, discussing whether the pandemic is a time to hang on to as much of your core as possible, bunker down and hope to ride it out, or whether now is the perfect time to drive ambitious transformational programmes. For those who want to dance in the rain, with so much disruption in play an “all bets are off” mentality can take hold and suddenly a slew of initiatives are being spun up.

Truth be told, I’m with the dancers on this one, but it’s vital we all remember that people (your employees) have endured months of rapid and constant environmental and organisational change. They’re dealing with concerns about the economy, their job security, isolation, exhaustion, their health and the health of their loved ones.

Add in an unhealthy dose of cabin fever and understandably then, employees’ risk of change fatigue is higher than ever. To combat this, your change management programme has to focus on your employee experience, and you need to be sure to appropriately manage day-to-day changes.

Tips to combat employee change fatigue:

Of the many tips offered to help combat change fatigue among employees, for me these three are the most important and most effective.

  1. Up front, make sure that your change initiatives have very clear and defined outcomes which you can describe easily. More than that, start your initiative by talking about the objectives and outcomes, not about what you’re going to go through to get there.
  2. Place a premium on people’s time. Plan your change programme in the light of the capacity of the key people involved and affected. Don’t develop a timeline for the programme and then start assessing what needs to give to achieve it. Be sensible and appropriate upfront, make sure your people have the time to drive and adopt the change.
  3. You need to lead by example. If you don’t then employees will feel they are constantly told they need to adopt change, only for the leadership team to keep on doing what they always do, and for managers to maintain the same old routines. Despite an initial surge of enthusiasm, nothing ever changes.

The risk, and irony, then is that change fatigue can set in, despite “the way we do things around here” remaining very much the same.

To learn more about change management, join our training programme “How to deliver successful projects“. The whole course is invaluable and module 3 focusses on “How to Deliver True Organisational Change“.


Seven Guerrilla Tactics for Managers of Change

As Hart Square grows, we find ourselves more and more focussed on how change management practice works for our clients.

We have always recognised our work is simply the work with the people. And NFP technology partners agree even the rational keystrokes of code are powered by fizzing synapses.

In this brave, new(ish) world, who may we all turn to as our guide in the field? What advice is there that speaks from true experience not from the hearth or the classroom?

Where are the guerrilla tactics for engagement?

Guided by Patrick Mayfield’s brilliant Seven Principles of Stakeholder Engagement, here are seven tips to consider when you find yourself in the “old rag and bone shop” of change:

– 1. Never turn your back on influence. Your greatest blind spot is ignoring that person or team that has sway over opinions toward or away from the desired change.

Make a continual effort to understand what matters to these people most and work it into your engagement plan. Despite what you think, you will not have all the right answers.

– 2. Be brutal about scouting and recruiting the best in the ranks.

Line managers and executives will struggle to yield these valuable resources. You must work with them to make your case. These smart problem solvers will challenge the change in all the right ways. You will hand them back as change champions and if not already, change leaders.

– 3. Leave no one behind.

Engaging with those who are highly resistant or slow to change will make your efforts doubly hard. Anyone left behind the user adoption curve will face an incredibly hard-working life. This will affect future changes in the organisation. And simply: you will regret leaving people behind.

– 4. Befriend the Angel of Patience.

You will yearn for the lesson quickly understood, the update received without challenge and the “techy” response answered by nodding silence.

Yet you must structure and count time in your resource as a project or change manager for listening, seeking to understand, demonstrating your understanding, for learning.

There are many places for efficiency in your plan. This is not a place to tightly cut your cloth.

– 5. Do not be an Army of One.

It is inevitable at Hart Square to be part of a triumvirate that sometimes tends towards division. Project, and especially, programme engagement involves complex partnerships and conflict.

If you find yourself overwrought, remember to stop, regroup, understand what in your engagement has gone astray, and recover all available lost ground. Be human, basically.

– 6. Talk is not actually cheap in the world of consultancy.

Experience shows us how closely non-profit organisations weigh the cost against the benefit of commissioning Hart Square services. As a result, our contracts must never deliver engagement alone. Always remember discussion is invaluable when it is a catalyst for progress.

– 7. Never take your eyes off the horizon

As project and change managers, our accountabilities always include a duty to scan and identify emerging risks and opportunities. Use any metric, dashboard or toolkit available to help you respond to the climate around your project or programme. And always make your report.

Good luck!

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