When managers create a psychologically safe environment for their employees it can have up to a 46% reduction in change fatigue, according to Gartner.

Gartner defines the concept of change fatigue as negative employee responses to change, such as apathy, burnout, and frustration, that harm organisational outcomes. The current impact of change fatigue can be felt across the board; employees who are change fatigued are less inclined to stay with employer, have lower levels of trust, and are less willing to go above and beyond at work.

“Organisations can no longer afford to ignore change fatigue,” says Andy Karr, vice-president in the Gartner HR practice. “In today’s workplace, employees now experience multiple, stacked changes that lead to burn out. Employees don’t get the opportunity to ‘recharge’ without intervention. To address these challenges, HR leaders should ensure change fatigue strategies are an inherent part of their change management plans.”

The common approach

Most organisations know that involving employees in change initiatives increases the likelihood of them being successful. Typically, this centers on empowering employees to co-create change decisions, own implementation planning and talk openly about change.

“We know employee involvement strategies make change successful; the question is what strategies will make employee involvement more successful,” says Karr. “Simply involving employees in change efforts is necessary, but insufficient – organisations must provide those employees an environment of psychological safety if they want that involvement to be productive.”

Psychological safety

There are two key components of psychological safety:

* Safety to experiment: Comfort in taking risks to accomplish team goals, even if it results in failure.

* Safety to challenge: Comfort pushing back against the status quo and contributing to transformation efforts.

To create an environment where employees feel supported to take risks, organizations must reframe well intentioned experimentation failures as successes. These moments often generate valuable learnings from testing a hypothesis or exploring a new opportunity.

While change and uncertainty go hand in hand, employees need to be active participants in figuring out what will, or will not, work when making big changes.

When employees feel safe to challenge that status quo, those key-knowledge holders can help leaders course correct when best laid plans conflict with the realities of the work. Leaders need access to the best information when making important decisions and employees are often the best place to get it.

“To re-engage employees in change management efforts, organisations must align culture goals around psychological safety with their change management efforts,” says Karr.