Are Senior Leaders Aware of the Effects of Change Fatigue on Employees?

September 15, 20158:26 am541 views

The grinding, continuous volume of change may be wearing out employees, but often senior leaders don’t see it, according to a seven-country survey of senior executives’ at large corporations, commissioned by Ketchum Change.

Most senior leaders are unaware of the effects of change fatigue while their employees struggle to keep up. Among partners and C-suite executives, only 28 percent think change fatigue is highly prevalent in their companies, compared to 41 percent at the director level, and 47 percent at the SVP and VP levels.

“Dynamic business environments and a culture of continuous change is the new normal for large organizations, and it’s only going to accelerate,” said Tyler Durham, partner and president of Ketchum Change, the change management and employee engagement unit of global communications firm Ketchum.

“Employees don’t have time to adapt to one change before the next one is upon them. The challenge for leaders is to drive change in ways that energize and empower people and ensure their organizations are prepared both culturally and operationally to embrace change as opportunity.”

Many top-tier leaders fail to recognize the exhausting effect that continuous change and volatility has on employees and how that exhaustion can lower employees’ productivity, reduce their engagement and damage retention rates. Durham adds, “And if leaders aren’t aware of it, they will be unprepared for its damaging effects and the resulting costs on their business.”

See: 5 Quick Tips to Keep Employees Inspired with Their Jobs

Ketchum Change identifies four behaviours essential for businesses to be successful in changing environments. They further show a strong correlation between companies that have embraced a change culture and those that have a bright outlook on the future. These include:

  1. Transparency: Communicating with clarity and authenticity across borders, and employing the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor’s proven formula of open communication, decisive action and personal presence;
  2. Pioneering: Promoting curiosity and experimentation, and supporting risk-taking to break through and innovate;
  3. Dialed-In: Creating strong connections with internal and external stakeholders, embracing fearless listening and fostering co-creation;
  4. Agile: Driving forward through passion and resiliency to seize and act on opportunities in real time.

To succeed in an environment of continuous change, a different, more collaborative approach must replace the old top-down, command-and-control model. Outlining a clear strategy and goals (43 percent) and engaging with leaders across the organization to co-create the new environment (41 percent) were cited as the most effective ways to get leaders to believe in and actively lead through change.

Conversely, the most common impediment to successfully navigating through change was gaining input from across the business. Based on the overall study, it is clear that companies which manage change effectively have a more positive outlook on their future and good communication across organization is the key.

Business leaders and employees have never had to deal with change at the unrelenting pace we see today. Durham concludes: “Leadership behaviours, corporate cultures and organizations’ operating systems are going to have to adapt and become more liquid to address the new reality and seize competitive advantage or they will break under the strain.”

Pioneering behaviours, such as being an innovation leader relative to peer companies and seizing upon new ideas, are key drivers of business outlook and ability to thrive through change. However, people working in general management were less likely to see change fatigue highly prevalent in their organizations than those working in human resources, organizational development or communications.

Also read: Top 8 People Management Mistakes Made by HR Managers

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