Avoid Change Fatigue with a Human Workplace

What do senior executives say are the biggest emerging risks facing their businesses?

According to a recent survey conducted by CEB – and as one might expect – issues like data privacy and cybersecurity are very close to the top of the list. But what caught my attention was the topic that these executives say poses the largest emerging risk: change fatigue.

For many organizations, change has become a constant rather than a discrete event. Effectively responding to the now continuous stream requires a whole-person approach, in addition to specific change management practices.

That places HR leaders squarely in the space of equipping employees to avoid change fatigue. It falls to them to create a more human-oriented culture and a positive employee experience that can act as a buffer, and in some instances, an energizer of continuous change.

CEB defines change fatigue as the “frequency and volume of organizational change initiatives that increase employee fatigue and diminish their productivity.” It is the cumulative result of multiple changes at work over a relatively short time frame. Those changes can occur individually (a shift in responsibilities), departmentally (new programs or processes), and organizationally (restructuring).

Turning our attention from a specific change to the broader experience of work, there are multiple opportunities to create practices that limit the potential for change fatigue to occur.

Research on the employee experience points to the importance of belonging, achievement, and purpose, as well as maintaining happiness and vigor, on the extent to which employees engage in discretionary behavior. In turn, those discretionary behaviors are most crucial for the adoption of new changes – a willingness to go above and beyond to incorporate a new process or sharing new learnings with a colleague, for example.

Continuous change may still deplete some of an employee’s reserves, but with a positive employee experience, those reserves come from a much deeper reservoir.

To extend the metaphor, how can HR help employees build that reservoir? In short, by making work more human. Human workplace practices include a range of initiatives that may help avoid or buffer fatigue from continuous change:

  • Strong co-worker relationships as well as perceptions of organizational trust provide a conducive and supportive atmosphere to the adoption of change.
  • Meaningful work combined with opportunities for feedback, recognition, and growth provides motivation to actively participate in the change as a worthwhile and positive direction.
  • Empowerment and employee voice further allow employees to be active and energetic participants, while opportunities for work-life balance allow employees the time and space to recharge.

The more human the workplace and the more positive the experience at work, the better equipped employees and organizations will be to avoid the negative impacts of continuous change fatigue.

How does your organization address the effects of continuous change?

As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is the co-author of “The Power of Thanks” and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.

This post originally appeared on Compensation Cafe
Author: Derek Irvine