3 Ways to Reduce Change Fatigue

In the end, reducing change fatigue can help support openness and readiness for new experiences, including training.

Today, more than ever, organizations struggle to keep pace with the volume and scope of changing business environments, activities, and needs. Team members are facing new requirements in working, performance measurement, and work outcomes. From returning to the office to new technology rollouts, some say the future is reaching us faster than ever before.

We all know change is inevitable, and resistance to change is just as predictable. New reporting structures, shifts in responsibilities, and changing processes can make team members feel adrift and uncertain about how to proceed. Fatigue from what feels like never-ending ongoing change is real. People are tired of the constant requests for change and tired of supporting the next “flavor of the month” change initiative.

New research from Gartner indicates that 74 percent of employees were willing to support organizational change in 2016; today, only 38 percent say the same. With change fatigue, people feel overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted, and they lack commitment to work and the organization.

The good news is that small changes can have a significant impact. Chief Learning Officers (CLOs), training teams, and trainers are essential in involving employees in the change process to drive new behaviors and requirements. Identifying and setting clear expectations is key to tackling change fatigue and supporting a people-first culture and mindset.

When people are ready to make the change, you should have two goals in mind:
  1. Engage and activate individuals and teams through a human-centered training approach.
  2. Allocate the right amount of time to support and manage the pace of change through training.
If you haven’t invested time in understanding and facilitating the change, your audience will stay where they are—exhausted and resistant to change. The good news? There are ways for you to prevent change fatigue. Here are three ways you can take action today to reduce change fatigue and improve training outcomes for your organization.

1. Meet people where they are.

All change is personal. Understanding your audience’s current state—including skills, change readiness, and mindset—is the first step to supporting your training objectives and growth across the team. Different team members experience change at different ages and stages. The point is that offering information based on readiness and where they are in their journey can boost business realization (the work outcomes) and performance metrics (training effectiveness).
Ask these questions:
  • Is there a clearly defined “what” and “why” for the change?
  • Do learners and stakeholders understand why the change is happening? Can they articulate it?
  • Have we taken the time to listen to individual concerns and feedback?
  • Do the people receiving training agree there’s a problem that training can fix?
  • What is the pain or gain for learners and stakeholders?

Set time to listen to people who will receive training about current gaps and workarounds to establish priorities and co-create solutions for the change. Think about change in terms of the scope of complexity and how it influences the work ecosystem. Ask and meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.

Through training, you can involve and empower people to take ownership of the change so it feels like the change is happening “with” them instead of “to” them. This will reduce frustration, give a broader perspective, and align team members with clear reasons and benefits of the change.

2. Mobilize and activate sponsors (top down and bottom up).

When employees are unsure of their roles or feel disconnected from the company’s vision, they may become disengaged and disinterested in their work. The consequences can be a lack of work interest, decreased job satisfaction, and reduced productivity. These factors ramp up feelings of change fatigue.

Identifying and activating senior leaders and managers to promote training is essential to reduce the risk for your training programs. From hosting Town Halls to sharing information at team meetings, leaders at all levels must be committed and aligned to the desired outcomes and the change process. Like a compass, leaders can confirm priorities and ensure that the team remains focused even with a change in direction.

Ask these questions:

  • Has a sponsor been identified to support your training initiatives?
  • Are they genuinely engaged or just providing surface support?
  • Do they have credibility and influence to support the change?
  • Will they increase buy-in and reduce resistance through participation?

If people don’t understand the requirements of training and are not provided with the necessary support to help them adapt, frustration and resistance will be the result. Consider other avenues of influence, such as team leads and other influential team members, to ensure communication and engagement are activated. Sometimes, having a well-respected team member share their concerns or experience around the change can support a frank discussion on improving and reducing change fatigue.

3. Focus on people skills and empathy.

Investing in employee resiliency is another way to boost training outcomes when facing multiple change initiatives. This involves building trust and team cohesion and creating a psychologically safe work environment. There are affordable ways to benchmark team psychological safety that can open conversations and set a firm foundation for future change initiatives.

Ask these questions:

  • Do people feel comfortable speaking up in team meetings?
  • Do people feel that the team values their opinions and ideas?
  • Are team members willing to help others with a spirit of goodwill (vs. transactional trading of favors)?
  • Do people feel they can take risks without fear of negative consequences?

When people feel out of control, setting clear expectations about training and the performance gap it addresses can provide more certainty. Look for ways to pay attention to emotions and feelings in yourself and others.

In the end, reducing change fatigue can help support openness and readiness for new experiences, including training. Take time to consider others’ perspectives and think about your role in their change journey. By taking their perspective and clarifying their gains, training engagement, adoption, and retention can be boosted to improve your outcomes.

Jenny Magic and Melissa Breker
Jenny Magic and Melissa Breker are change facilitators, coaches, and co-authors of “CHANGE FATIGUE: Flip Teams From Burnout to Buy-In.” They work with teams to apply strategic thinking to improve how people work together to support adoption of business and people change.