HBR Says Employees Are Tired Of Change. What Should Employers Do?

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently shared some alarming findings: employees are increasingly becoming tired and unwilling to support organizational change. According to a Gartner survey cited by the article, employees’ willingness to support enterprise change plummeted to a mere 43% in 2022, a stark decline from 74% in 2016. These statistics shed light on the mounting challenges business leaders face as they navigate accelerating change.

Employees' willingness to support enterprise change collapsed to just 43% in 2022, compared to 74% in 2016.

Organizations are changing faster than ever, with employees now encountering an average of 10 planned enterprise changes in 2022, compared to just two in 2016. These changes encompass a wide range of initiatives, including restructuring efforts to enhance efficiency, cultural transformations to unlock new ways of working, and modernizing legacy tech systems.

In 2022, the average employee experienced 10 planned enterprise changes, up from 2 in 2016.

Yet, the pace of change isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. Organizations still face an urgent need for digital transformation while grappling with rising inflation and talent shortages, while simultaneously refining hybrid ways of working. In short, the need for business transformation isn’t going anywhere. So how can business leaders support employees through change fatigue and increase change willingness? In this blog, we’ll share HBR’s take and insights from Volonte’s change readiness experts on building a workforce that is energized by change.

HBR: Prioritize Change and Manage Fatigue

HBR points out that organizations are demanding too much out of employees, pushing change too fast with a top-down approach where leaders set the strategy and implementation plan, and then bombard employees with communications without giving them avenues to have a say. But relentless sprinting from the pandemic has employees exhausted, resulting in depleted energy, reduced trust, and difficulty accessing information and resources.

Instead, companies should focus on two elements:

  1. Prioritized Change: Maximize employees’ energy and prevent burnout by prioritizing change initiatives and communicating these priorities, so teams can manage their workloads more efficiently. Sharing this information beyond leadership teams allows for better alignment and coordination across the organization.
  2. Managing Change Fatigue: To manage change fatigue, Gartner recommends three strategies:
  • Build proactive periods of rest to sustain change energy. You can do this by offering accessible and appropriate options like designated working hours, no-meeting days, planned project downtime, or company-wide days off. This can lead to a 26% increase in employee performance and 10x reduction in the number of employees experiencing burnout.
  • Involve employees in change. By including employees as active participants in decision-making, giving them the responsibility of implementation planning, and ensuring two-way communication, you significantly increase the chances of success.
  • Reimagine the role of managers as resilience builders who help employees navigate change and facilitate learning by connecting them with relevant expertise.

Volonte: How to Create Energizing Change Experiences

Change can be a powerful force within an organization, bringing energy, excitement, and enthusiasm to the workplace — if it’s done right. Successfully navigating change is no easy feat and requires deliberate effort. Neglecting change management (let alone creating change readiness!) has significant negative impacts on a business. You don’t need to look any further than Gartner’s research, highlighted in HBR, to understand the significant consequences of change failure.

To avoid these pitfalls, leaders should focus on creating change experiences that create more energy than they consume. So, how can organizations do this?

Foster Proactive Engagement

Don’t start talking about change with your employees when it’s already knocking on their doors. Instead, help your teams engage with change proactively and continuously. Starting the conversation early ensures that employees are prepared and ready to embrace upcoming shifts at your organization. Additionally, this empowers individuals to contribute their insights, ask questions, and become active participants in the process, ultimately leading to greater success. In fact, merely involving employees in change planning can increase your chances of success by 15%!

Take Action:

  • Initiate conversations and discussions about upcoming changes early on.
  • Encourage open dialogue, questions, and ideas related to the change.
  • Provide resources, training, and information to increase understanding and readiness.

Enable Mobility and Involvement

One of the most effective ways to create change experiences that energize employees is simply creating avenues for them to get involved. Think about this intuitively: nobody likes to have major change foisted upon them. And yet, transitions become easier when we have some agency in the process. The numbers back it up: when employees own implementation planning, change success increases by 24%.

Allow employees to become change drivers instead of sitting in the passenger seat by giving them the opportunity to actively contribute and shape the change process. This involvement fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment, leading to greater commitment, enthusiasm, and even advocacy for change initiatives.

Take Action:

  • Create change projects through which employees across the organization can contribute to directing and driving change.
  • Enable employees to contribute their feedback, experience, and expertise in planning and implementing change.
  • Shift employees to “change driver” mindsets, so they feel ownership in change implementation.
  • Recognize and celebrate individuals who actively drive and champion change initiatives.

Cut Change Noise to Boost Productivity

Change noise, characterized by confusion, miscommunication, and uncertainty significantly hinders the success of any transformation. When employees feel overwhelmed by change, productivity breaks down. Make it easy for everyone to understand what’s expected of them. By providing a structured framework, employees can navigate the change with confidence and know how they can make meaningful contributions.

On the Volonte platform, companies do this by creating Changeflows. These are user-friendly roadmaps that break down a change implementation into clear steps and tasks. They enable leaders to guide their teams through the change process, ensuring clarity and alignment at every stage while tracking individual progress in real time.

Take Action:

  • Communicate the objectives of the change simply, frequently, and effectively.
  • Clearly define roles, responsibilities, timelines, action steps, and channels for contribution.
  • Utilize tools and technology that help your organization streamline and track change.

By helping teams engage proactively, enabling active participation, and minimizing change noise through clear expectations and communication, organizations can create change experiences that generate more energy and enthusiasm than ever before. In fact, change can be your new superpower.

Wondering where to start? Let Volonte’s enterprise change management platform do the work for you. Streamline your change implementation, engage your teams proactively, and track progress with ease on our feature-rich platform. Schedule a conversation to see how.