Written by Nick Gold, MD. Speakers Corner
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, businesses have undergone unprecedented change. According to Gartner, the average business planned ten enterprise changes in 2022, compared with two in 2016.
Change is necessary in all aspects of life. If you’re standing still, you’re ultimately going backwards. But when business changes become overwhelming, staff can struggle to cope. 71% of staff say they’re overwhelmed by the amount of change at work. More than half of those employees are considering looking for a new job.
This reaction is known as change fatigue, and it can pose a problem for forward-thinking businesses. While change is necessary to keep moving forward, it can take its toll on your team. Our recent research shows that just 18% of UK business owners consider changes within an organisation to be the main cause of stress.
As business leaders, we must be able to recognise and tackle change fatigue so we can keep staff happy and thrive as businesses.
The post-pandemic boom of corporate change culture
Over the last few years, we’ve had to deal with a lot of significant changes in a compressed amount of time: Covid, Brexit, the cost of living crisis, and the war in Ukraine. In light of this, many businesses are having to redefine and rebuild themselves.
The pandemic changed everything for Speakers Corner. With the live events industry obliterated by lockdowns, we were forced to find a new niche in virtual events. When we realised we had done perhaps more online events than anyone else, we were able to shift our focus and guide our team, clients, speakers, and the whole industry through these turbulent times.
The scale of change demanded from businesses over the last three years is incomparable to previous times. And it often feels like there won’t be a time when things are less hectic than they are right now.
But everything comes in cycles. Understanding that transformation feels all-consuming right now, but we will have time to breathe. In fact, you have time to breathe right now if you manage change in a way that’s practical and sustainable.
Understanding the impact of change on employees
While change can feel overwhelming for business leaders, this can be magnified for employees, who often have less of a say in the changes required of the organisation.
This is where communication comes in. People want to know your vision at a high level. Communicating this to everyone is essential. From there, your management team can take over. They can have further conversations at a team and individual level to ensure everyone knows how these changes will impact them. Processes, timescales, workloads: all of these must be concrete and manageable for each team and staff member.
It’s also important to help staff understand that though your business transformation may take months or even years to complete, they won’t be in a constant state of upheaval. Knowing when changes are likely to affect them can help staff focus their energy and attention in the right place at the right time rather than fielding a constant stream of worry.
This comes down to good leadership and change management. And times of change are an excellent opportunity to showcase your leadership skills. While the transformation may be true to your vision, you don’t have to be the flagbearer of change. You can support other managers to help teams navigate turbulence and ensure staff feel safe and supported.
Recognising change fatigue
The signs of change fatigue are different in everyone. So you must treat your staff as individuals and understand they may have other problems at different times. They’ll also need additional skills to cope with these changes, so you must be willing to invest in these.
As a leader, avoid projecting your own opinions onto your staff. Don’t assume that because you’re coping or not coping, the same is true of others.
Instead, ask people how they’re dealing with the changes. If they tell you they’re struggling, have a plan for how you’ll deal with this. It could involve taking time away or adjusting the way they do their job.
Either way, ensure your change plan protocol will make a difference and give staff the support they really need to adjust to your new vision.
Navigating successful, sustainable business transformation
There are three key ways to ensure successful, sustainable change in your organisation:
- Treat people as individuals. This helps you understand the unique challenges each team member is facing, so you can create an individual support plan for them.
- Be brave. Try new things without succumbing to crisis mode. Don’t be afraid to get things wrong. Your staff and your customers want you to succeed, so be bolstered by this support.
- Communicate with your team. Let them know that you’re all in this together and you want to embrace new ideas from people at all levels.
These three practices allow you to embed a culture of change in your organisation rather than seeing your current project as a one-and-done affair. Instead of creating an overwhelming, all-encompassing Big Change Plan, view each act of progress as a small wave of change. This will significantly redefine how you and your staff view business transformation for the better.
Ultimately, making change part of the ongoing conversation can help staff feel more settled and adaptable. So they can achieve your vision with focus and positivity, ensuring they thrive alongside your business.