Be aware of change fatigue

Change is all around us and not always consciously noticed (perhaps that is a good thing?). Change may be experienced all day long: the current availability of our favourite breakfast cereal, changes in the route of our daily commute, the tech we use to travel or pay for items, people and processes at work, family and friend’s lives, our health and circumstances. At times it can feel overwhelming.

Continued change can cause significant fatigue if managed poorly.

The World Health Organisation is telling us that Coronavirus is in over 200 countries, areas or territories and continues to spread, with the possibility of second waves being mentioned every day. How are you feeling as you navigate this particular change and the disruption and opportunity that it brings? Are you clear on where you are in the nation's journey to recovery? Do you understand the rules and regulations you must follow? Are you weary of the endless news coverage? Perhaps losing interest? You may be feeling a mixture of all of these emotions. What works for one section of the community may not work for another.

Audience-centric messages

You are more likely to gain buy-in to a message that builds trust and integrity by being audience-centric. This is when the same message intent is set out in a slightly different way for each category of recipient, primarily so that that they receive the message in terms that they understand and with relevant context. This helps land the message more sweetly and builds advocates to help drive change with those who are more resistant in their sphere of influence.

Simplicity and clarity of communication

Similar to this global health crisis, business and transformational change requires clarity of communication amidst the chaos that change can bring as we pivot between what we’re used to and what the new expectations are.

With business change, if unclear messaging is given, the journey ahead is made all the more difficult, and fatigue or disconnect can swiftly set in. Simple and clear direction sets out intent and frees the recipient from having to make assumptions in purpose and desired outcomes

Once you’ve lost your audience, it’s so much more difficult to re-gain their attention and buy-in. This applies to leaders and employees alike.

When managing the initiation and planning phases of major change, messaging evolves from the orginal planned pattern, and becomes nuanced as a result of new findings, new developments, changes to people, process and technology. So bear this in mind when considering the wording of successive messages.

Repetition of message (to a point) is a good thing – yet the repetition is needed across a variety of channels and intervention methods, to appeal and capture interest and attention of colleagues, who will then begin to pick up key messaging themes as they filter through their subconscious. Each repetition can reinforce the message by giving a simple, unambiguous statement of the reason and the expected outcome.

Communicating change with clarity is important. Each successive message should:

  • Remove ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Reassure and attempt to put recipients at ease.
  • Build on earlier messages sent ahead to signpost impending change.
  • Grab attention and buy in, with short punchy summary statements
    (for those in the UK, think about the ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ slogan used during the lock-down phase of the Covid-19 pandemic).
  • Anticipate and answer likely questions, thereby providing reassurance that the change has been well thought through and the impact on different audiences has been considered.

People don’t like surprises. Signposting works well. Tell people that something is coming so that they can prepare. Begin with headlines and benefits to whet the appetite with extra detail available should they wish to access it.

Communicating with clarity helps build much needed resilience during times of change. There are plenty of examples in recent months of known businesses that have communicated very poorly with their people (and as a result, existing and potential customers too) and exacerbated the concern and anxiety of their colleagues.

Support your co-workers by incorporating well thought through, empathic communication plans as part of your change programmes. They will be so much more receptive to change if they know what is coming and why it is happening.