Digital transformation: 3 tips to counter change fatigue

Constant change and disruption can take a serious toll on employee motivation, causing fatigue, distrust, and burnout during digital transformation. Consider this expert advice to keep your team open and engaged
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As companies continue to adapt to the shifting priorities of our new normal, change fatigue is becoming a real threat to the mental well-being of employees.

Change fatigue is the sense of apathy that employees feel toward the changes implemented by their organization. This often occurs when  digital transformation efforts are ill-prepared or poorly executed, leaving employees feeling unsupported or unsuccessful. This can lead to burnout, distrust of leadership, and lack of motivation.

Playing catch up with digital transformation?

In this year of unprecedented change, change fatigue feels inevitable. Without the opportunity to anticipate and prepare for the challenges businesses face, many organizations are playing catch-up with their own transformations.

[ Are you over-communicating and not engaging? Read our related story: Remote leadership: 9 ways your style may backfire. ]

So how do you combat change fatigue as it’s happening, prioritize for enterprise agility, and attempt to make this time of transformation a little easier? Here are three strategies:

1. Speak openly about the change

Change fatigue can contribute to distrust when leaders behave as though drastic change isn’t happening, leaving their employees to silently wonder what could be coming next. People need validation that their struggles are noticed and appreciated, and when change isn’t communicated openly, they may begin to doubt themselves and their ability to adapt.

Having uncomfortable conversations about change, failures, and shifting priorities isn’t easy – but it's too important to avoid.

Having uncomfortable conversations about change, failures, and shifting priorities isn’t easy – but it’s too important to avoid. In this time of transformation, employees need to feel free to express their concerns or curiosities about what they should be focusing on. By starting these conversations at the company level, you’ll likely find that individual employees feel more comfortable coming forward with their questions or feedback.

[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

2. Align your organization to the right priorities through goal setting

Change fatigue can also occur when leaders fail to communicate the purpose of the transformation and the contribution needed from the individual employees. When your team members don’t understand what is needed from them, they may fail to deliver and then feel unsuccessful or resentful toward management for not being more coherent.

Setting transparent goals for the entire organization – from the executive to the individual level – will help convey the purpose of the objectives you are asking from your team. In turn, everyone can feel confident that they are focusing on the right priorities.

Start with the outcome: What are you hoping to achieve? If this change is successful, what does that look like for the company in the end? Clarifying the intention of the transformation and building designated goals around the desired outcome is a huge step toward enterprise agility and company-wide alignment.

We use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to align our workforce and combat change fatigue. By inputting OKRs into our own agile execution platform, we are able to see the entire organization’s objectives from any level and create company-wide transparency around goals and their purpose. This reduces confusion and increases focus and alignment around objectives.

3. Check in with your team

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do to combat change fatigue: Open the lines of communication and check in with your team. Change fatigue affects one’s mental well-being and should be treated accordingly. Instead of wondering how your team members are dealing with the changes that affect them at work, ask them directly. Provide tools and outlets to help them to work through these changes mindfully to avoid burnout and resentment.

Here are some ways to be considerate of your employees’ mental health when navigating business transformation:

  • Provide mental health resources such as counselors or workshops and encourage your organization to partake in them
  • Check in frequently with your team members, and use surveys or 1:1 meetings to discuss how they are feeling
  • Provide options for anonymous feedback to accommodate employees who may not feel comfortable expressing themselves openly
  • Allow individuals to speak freely and without judgment about challenges they are facing in their personal life that may be distracting them from work

Communication is key

Change fatigue may be inevitable in times of extreme business transformation, but you are not powerless. By being more transparent, open, and communicative with your employees, you can address change fatigue mindfully, and in a way that enables enterprise agility.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Andrea Lagan is Chief Operating Officer at Betterworks. Andrea is a customer experience veteran with nearly 25 years’ experience. She has successfully led teams responsible for driving business growth, customer retention, and exceptional customer experiences.