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Change fatigue risk to finance employee performance, warns Gartner
Tue, 27th Feb 2024

Gartner has highlighted a growing concern: increasing 'change fatigue' amongst finance employees, which it identifies as a business risk affecting employee performance. The warning was presented during a session at the recent Gartner CFO & Finance Executive Conference in Sydney.

The chief contributing factors to change fatigue are not solely the volume of changes an employee faces, according to Hilary Richards, Vice President Analyst in the Gartner Finance practice. She stressed during her presentation that the level of interruption brought about by changes is, in fact, more significant. "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 pointed out. “The most important factor is the level of disruption rather than the volume of changes”.

Change fatigue can drive down employee performance, leading to several adverse outcomes, including lowered intention to stay, responsiveness, and discretionary effort. As Richards explained, change-fatigued employees "exhibit much lower intent to stay, responsiveness and discretionary effort, among other negative outcomes". A common misconception among finance leaders, she added, is fixating on the number of changes an employee is experiencing, which is only part of the problem.

Gartner's research outlined three main reasons why the level of disruption is the most crucial factor behind change fatigue. Firstly, day-to-day changes, such as those affecting direct managers, team composition, and job responsibilities, are more disruptive to employees personally. These changes arrive in quick succession with little breathing space, leading to fatigue caused by the accumulation of small changes. Secondly, when organisations rely on top-down change management without encouraging employee dialogue and discussion, employees may feel disempowered. Lastly, reactive responses to change fatigue can lead to employee burnout and turnover if there's a delay in recharging between disruptive events.

Beyond the disruption factor, the exertion factor also contributes to change fatigue, Richards further added. The constant need to cancel personal plans or work overtime to accommodate workplace changes can lead to faster burnout rates, she warned.

To mitigate the impact of change fatigue, Gartner experts recommend that finance leaders consider multiple change fatigue drivers and adjust their project portfolio to reduce change fatigue. They also suggest developing a methodology to determine the level of small change fatigue amongst their staff and allocating new projects and initiatives based on this assessment. Gartner believes these strategies could play a crucial role in enhancing the performance and productivity of finance employees amidst times of change.