Change is hard. Everybody knows that. But top-level execs don’t seem to recognize just how much strain it’s putting on their employees.
A recent survey from Ketchum Change revealed a disconnect between the awareness of change’s impact between the C-suite and lower-ranking officials: Just 28% of C-suite executives said change fatigue was highly prevalent in their organizations, compared to 41% at the director level and 47% at the vice president level.
According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, in Ketchum’s survey of 500 leaders of large corporations in seven countries, three-quarters reported the existence of change fatigue in their organizations, and 3% said it is highly prevalent — but perceptions varied depending on where respondents perched on the food chain.
In other words, the higher you go in a company, the less sensitivity execs feel for employees who are on the front line of change.
The study found that 95% of respondents reported that effectively managing change is critical to a business’ success. So, in these days of growing dialogue about the importance of employee engagement and empowerment, the study results can’t be good news.
Change can be corrosive
Change fatigue happens when employees are so battered by change that they can no longer handle it productively. Burned out or apathetic, “they foot-drag, ignore or destructively oppose change because they know they won’t be able to adjust to today’s change before tomorrow’s is making new demands on them,” says the Ketchum report.
The report, titled The Liquid Change Study, said the most common impediment to effectively managing change is failure to gather input and ideas from employees across the business.
Ketchum’s prescription? Become a “liquid state employer.”
According to the report,
companies that manage change effectively have a more positive outlook on their future and good communication is key.
Conversely, lack of transparency is one of the top internal barriers to thriving through change. It appears that companies the least hopeful about the future of their businesses are much less likely to communicate about change on an on-going basis or engage employees in a dialogue around changes.
Business leaders and employees have never before had to deal with change at the unrelenting pace we see today. As a result, leadership behaviors, corporate cultures and organizations’ operating systems must adapt and become more liquid to address the new reality and seize competitive advantage.
The four characteristics that make up a “liquid” organization, according to Ketchum:
- They are transparent, and leaders within them communicate in a human way
- They are pioneering, and encourage taking risks to stay ahead of the market
- They are deeply dialed-in with customers, consumers and employees, and listen carefully to them, and
- They are agile and flexible, and can turn on a dime to capitalize on opportunities.