No matter where your organization is in its digital transformation journey, one common hurdle can slow or even stop your progress: change fatigue. Change fatigue often comes on slowly as your teams are worn down by workflow disruptions, process changes, and new technology learning curves. Often, it manifests in the workplace as employee apathy, frustration, confusion, and stress. Most detrimental to transformation, however, is passive resignation because it can fracture teams and erode trust between employees and management.
There are a host of reasons why employees might be resistant to change. Whether they fear promised outcomes won’t be achieved or their long tenure with the company has created an “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” mentality, an unwillingness to commit can add to the fatigue felt by the entire organization.
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If you suspect change fatigue is weighing on your employees, consider these four ways to mitigate the effects:
1. Implement a bottom-up approach
Instead of a hierarchical structure, strive to empower teams at all levels to contribute to the innovation process.
It won’t be possible for every step of your transformation journey to come from the bottom up, but by building a culture of mutual respect, you will have greater buy-in from employees. Treat your employees like adults and trust that because you hired them, they have the skills to rise to the challenge and meet expectations when it comes to change.
A more inclusive change plan means reduced resistance from your employees. By following through on your commitments, reducing decision-making risk, and strengthening employee trust, you create a track record of positive decisions – ensuring greater buy-in the next time.
Treat your employees like adults and trust that they have the skills to rise to the challenge and meet expectations when it comes to change.
2. Have an open-door policy – and mean it
As growth happens, it’s important to have an open dialogue about what has changed, what changes are upcoming, and points of friction in your newfound processes. Make it known that as a leader and driver of change, you welcome conversations both good and bad from your teams.
An ‘office hours’ policy where employees can connect one-on-one not only lets them be heard but also eliminates frequent interruptions that can disrupt workflow. Further, a dedicated time for digital transformation discussion removes any feelings of intimidation around knocking on your office door. For team leaders who are significantly impacted by the change, an open line of communication will make it easier for them to make decisions knowing that they are clued in. Transparency reduces ambiguity around project milestones and enables your employees to establish a workday structure amid constant change.
Office hours can be adapted for remote, hybrid, and in-person teams using video conferencing software.
[ Want more advice on change management? Read Change management: 3 outdated ideas that could hold you back and How to help your team embrace risk. ]
3. Proactively focus on employee experience
With input from your employees, work with your executive team to design the ideal employee experience. What is the stress level during an average workweek? How do teams communicate? What does the right work/life balance look like?
When you know what you are striving for, you can work backward to implement solutions that provide that experience. For example, software company CreativeX switched to a four-day workweek model during the pandemic after surveyed employees reported significantly higher stress levels. On the extra day off, employees are encouraged to be intentional with their time and engage in activities that help make the other four workdays impactful.
4. Shift the language around change
When discussing upcoming changes with your employees, be it in person or written, it is important to consider what language you’re using. A large project with a beginning and end date, a set budget, and massive goals can be intimidating. Traditionally, change means the end of one thing and the beginning of something new. Instead of defining transformation by business objectives, explain how the outcomes will move your organization forward.
Shape your conversations around change as continuous optimization of your business model rather than the end of one thing and the beginning of something else. Employees who may be reluctant to let go of the processes that work for them (considering they have already been implemented into their routine) may be more willing to adapt if they can see the positive impact on their work-life.
Finally, remind your teams that your digital transformation plan was designed to optimize and enhance their workflows by automating tedious processes, making work and decision making easier, and giving them more time to focus on the heart of their work.
[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]