Overcoming Change Fatigue by Building Change Resiliency

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Throughout history it has been observed that change is our perpetual companion:

  • Heraclitus of Ephesus: “Change is the only constant.”

  • Charles Darwin: “It is not the strong of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”

Despite the fact that we have always had to deal with change, there is increasing recognition of the challenge of operating in a constantly changing environment. The question has become: How do we build the ability to resiliently respond to change?

Change resiliency is a pressing issue:

  • Seventy-five percent of CEOs believe that adaptability is a very important skill for the future, reflecting our rapidly changing environment (PwC, 2017).

  • HR leaders at our annual Signature event stated that change resiliency is a huge need in their organizations.

  • Building change resiliency is also one of the top emerging trends in our 2019 HR Trends Survey Report.

Change resiliency is still a relatively new concept and organizations are challenged to find specific, clear, actionable initiatives that can be used build resiliency. Here at McLean & Company we define resiliency as the capacity to bounce back from adversity and adapt to changeMany models provide guidance on how to effectively manage change, and there are some strategies to effectively sustain change, but there is still a lack of clarity on how to build change resiliency within an organization.

So how do we start to build change resiliency? Here are a couple of ground rules:

Building change resiliency is:

  • A long-term investment. Change resiliency will not happen overnight. Investing today in the change resiliency of your employees will allow them to continue to operate effectively in a constantly changing environment.

  • The responsibility of both the individual and the organization. Today, it is largely in the hands of the employee; only 10% of professionals say their resiliency is built by their organization (HBR, 2015).

  • Not an afterthought, it must be ongoing. Change resiliency is dynamic, and proactively approaching change resiliency will provide continuous development. This will ensure it is not bolted on when employees display change fatigue in the midst of the change.

McLean & Company recommends using a combination of organization-wide and individual tactics.

Organizational:

1) Treat failure as a learning opportunity. It is human nature to shy away from failure and this is one of the reasons that change can be so scary – the threat of failing in this new environment. Encourage individuals to avidly seek feedback and use experience and failure to fuel growth. Change the conversation around work – reframe projects as hypothesis testing where the outcome is learning rather than failure. Encourage leaders to role model this behavior by sharing their own failures and learnings.

2) Provide mindfulness and meditation practice (Wendy Quan, Founder, The Calm Monkey). This can help employees manage long-term, constant change. Give employees the tools to better manage their own response to change, learn how to operate calmly during change, and monitor their own response to stressful situations more effectively. This can take on many forms – whether it is onsite meditation sessions, suggestions of personal meditation apps, or access to personal mindfulness advisers.

Individual:

1) Develop your own “What’s in it for me” (WIIFM) (Phil Buckley, Change with Confidence). The WIIFM is a classic change management tactic: tell the employee why they should care about the change and how it benefits them. To drive resiliency, challenge employees, change agents, and leaders to create the WIIFM for themselves. An individual is much more likely to be engaged in the change and feel more control over the change if they have defined the WIIFM for themselves.

2) Focus on mindset (HBR, Psychology Today). Optimism is a key element of succeeding when faced with adversity. Individuals with a more pessimistic outlook are more likely to give up or slow down when faced with a challenging situation than those with an optimistic outlook on life. Changing a mindset can be incredibly challenging. Provide employees with tools and resources to help them purposefully approach change. A process to improve mindset to better respond to change may include the following:

  • Evaluate the causes of adversity. Identify if the cause of this adversity is controllable.

  • Review the cause of the adversity again and identify a different possible cause for the issue. Is it now something controllable?

  • Consider the worst- and best-case scenarios. Which is more likely?

  • Evaluate the emotional response. Identify if it is proportional to the challenge being faced.

  • Share stories of adversity, change, and failure.

Building change resiliency is a long-term investment. Above are just a few potential avenues. To start to build change resiliency, implement initiatives that are aligned with your organizational culture.

Now I am left wondering – how do we measure resiliency? Perhaps a topic for a future blog.

By Helen Fisher