Finance employees are facing unprecedented levels of change and are becoming increasingly fatigued by it, creating a business risk that can drive down employee performance, according to Gartner.

“Change fatigued employees exhibit much lower intent to stay, responsiveness and discretionary effort, among other negative outcomes” says Hilary Richards, vice-president analyst in the Gartner Finance practice. “When considering change fatigue in their functions, finance leaders tend to fixate on the number of changes an employee is experiencing which is only part of the story.”

Gartner experts recommend that finance leaders consider several change fatigue drivers and chart them against project value to reprioritize their project portfolio in a way that will lessen change fatigue.

“It’s important to understand that the volume of changes is an important factor driving change fatigue, but it is not the most important,” Richards says. “The most important factor is the level of disruption rather than the volume of changes.”

Gartner experts define disruption in this context as the extent to which changes personally affect employees and interfere with day-to-day tasks and employee performance.

Three main factors make the level of disruption the most significant factor behind change fatigue:

Day-to-Day Changes Compound: Day-to-day changes, such as changes to direct managers, team composition and job responsibilities are significantly more fatiguing than large-scale, organisational-level transformations because they are more disruptive to employees personally. Employees must regularly absorb multiple changes simultaneously with little time to respond to one change before the next change hits, leading to small change fatigue.

* Relying Exclusively on Top-Down Change Management Disempowers Employees: Many organisations tell employees how they should implement changes in their day-to-day work, instead of investing in a communication plan that encourages dialogue and discussion of employees’ fears and worries.

* Reactive Responses to Change Fatigue Lead to Burnout: Waiting until employees experience so much disruption that they have to recharge versus proactively helping them stay charged can lead to burnout and turnover.

“Another significant factor in driving change fatigue is exertion,” says Richards. “If employees are regularly having to cancel personal plans or work out of hours in order to manage changes in the workplace, they are going to tire of this very quickly.”

In addition to reprioritising the project portfolio, Gartner experts recommend that finance leaders develop a methodology to determine the level of small change fatigue in their staff, and to assign new projects and initiatives accordingly.