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Heading Off "Change Fatigue" is a 2023 Priority

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Image: medrooky - Alamy Stock Photo
The last three calendar months of the year are typically a time when workplace leaders do some of their most intense work. Not only are you typically trying to deliver on the OKRs for the year that you're in, but you're also trying to set priorities and begin the strategic and tactical planning for the year ahead (if you haven't done so already). In the spirit of the Q4 planning sprint, Gartner released its list of the top five strategic initiatives HR leaders are prioritizing for the new year. One of the phrases jumped right out: Change fatigue.
What that means in practical terms is that the workforce is getting really tired of near-constant disruption, according to Gartner. The report continues, "Employees are growing more resistant to change — in 2016, the Gartner Workforce Change Survey showed 74% of employees were willing to change work behaviors to support organizational changes, but that number dropped to 38% in 2022."
Approximately half as many employees are okay with changing how they work now compared to the number who would have gone along with an employer-initiated change in 2016.
So, from the HR leadership perspective, a priority for 2023 is to have HR leaders acknowledge that change fatigue is real and something to be dealt with while still making whatever changes the business leadership deems necessary.
However, there's another way to look at this data point documenting employees' dramatically shrinking willingness to roll with the changes at work. This resistance to change is not a challenge the employees are issuing to leadership; it's a signal from employees to leadership.
There is no one job market for the United States — a job market is shaped by geographic locale and by industry, so several job markets can co-exist in different states. But there are trends that cut across all the job markets, among them data that the Great Resignation was not followed by the Great Nobody Plans to Go Back to Work. Instead, what we're seeing are record high rates of job-switching as people move to different jobs for better wages.
In other words — people are fine with changing jobs, with the attendant changes in how they are going to work, when the change happens on their terms, and they can perceive clear benefits to that change.
If change is happening in the workplace for 2023, instead of taking the top-down approach of "We're going to change, and here's what you're doing, and when we expect it to be done," consider taking what I think of as the Google Maps approach.
In Google Maps, you enter your planned destination and your starting point, and the service tells you how to move from point A to point B. It offers options like the fastest route, and pedestrian and public transit alternatives. And then, as you're using Google Maps to travel to your destination, you may decide that their suggested route is ugly, so you take a scenic detour you like, and it takes ten minutes longer, but you had a pleasant time and still arrived where you needed to be when you needed to be there. You used a combination of something else's instructions and your own agency to get to where you needed to go.
Maybe take that approach with workplace change management in 2023. Let workers choose their detours, let them use their own agency, preferences and know-how to take that journey, and they'll probably be a lot less resistant to being told where to go and how quickly they need to get there.
Change fatigue is about being tired of feeling out of control. Workplace leaders in HR have a great opportunity to help their organization manage change in a way that excites and empowers employees in 2023.

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