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Gartner Cautions HR Leaders That the Risk of Change Fatigue Among Employees has Doubled in 2020

Senior HR Leaders Discuss How to Address Change Fatigue at Gartner ReimagineHR, October 13-15


The amount of change that the average employee can absorb without becoming fatigued in 2020 has been cut in half compared to 2019, according to Gartner, Inc. Amid worries about the economy, job security, their health and the health of their loved ones, employees’ capacity to take on change in the workplace has plunged significantly.

Gartner analysts are discussing talent issues and the challenges critical to all HR executives as they reimagine the future of work at the Gartner ReimagineHR conference, taking place virtually in the Americas and EMEA through Thursday.

“The amount of change employees can absorb without fatigue – negative reactions to change such as burnout, frustration, or apathy – has plummeted at a time when more change is precisely what organizations need in order to reset,” said Jessica Knight, vice president in the Gartner HR practice.

To increase employees’ ability to absorb change, organizations need to transform how they lead change. Rather than leading change from the top down, progressive organizations have adopted an Open Source approach to change management that actively engages employees in all facets of the process. Gartner research finds that organizations that use an Open Source approach can increase the probability of change success by as much as 24 percentage points.

Gartner research also found two differentiators around employees who can better absorb change:

  • Trust: The extent to which employees believe that key stakeholders – leaders, managers, coworkers, and HR – have their interests in mind and do what say they say they are going to do. Employees who report high trust have an average capacity for change that is 2.6 times greater than those with low trust.
  • Team Cohesion: The extent to which teams share a sense of belonging and connection, along with commitment to, and accountability for, a common goal. Employees with strong team cohesion have a capacity for change 1.8 times greater than the capacity of those with low team cohesion.  

“Trust and team cohesion each represent a significant opportunity for HR leaders because they’re factors that can be influenced across the entire workforce,” added Ms. Knight. “While trust and team cohesion are particularly relevant right now when many employees are remote and dispersed, the impact of improving trust and team cohesion is similar even in more typical circumstances.”

Gartner research shows that the best approach to managing change and reducing change fatigue is to focus on how employees experience change, not just the outcomes of changed behaviors. A well-managed change experience is important for changes at all levels of the organization. Organizations must ensure resources are available, approachable and consumable for any change leader and change of any size or intensity.

“Empowering different levels of leaders and teams to shape the change experience ensures small-scale changes get attention; it also builds greater cohesion by enabling teams to define the desired experience for changes they are implementing,” said Ms. Knight. “It can build trust among employees as well, by supporting consistent delivery of that desired change experience.”

About Gartner ReimagineHR
Gartner experts will provide additional analysis on HR trends at the virtual Gartner ReimagineHR Conference taking place October 13-15. Follow news and updates from the conferences using #GartnerHR.

About the Gartner HR Practice
The Gartner HR practice brings together the best relevant content approaches across Gartner to offer individual decision makers strategic business advice on the mission-critical priorities that cut across the HR function. Additional information is available at Follow news and updates from the Gartner HR practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerHR.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and an objective resource for more than 14,000 enterprises in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

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