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2016 was only the pebble dropping into the pond. 2017…18…19 will be the ripples that we need to contend with, with much yet unknown and no doubt, many more surprises to come. All we know is that change is constant.

As HR professionals we have a vital role to play in driving, developing and maintaining performing, productive and positive workplaces, despite the changes afoot and the uncertain environment within which we operate.

Change management has always been a challenge, particularly for large organisations and no more so than now when, as a result of such a turbulent external environment, change seems simply relentless. It’s creating a growing problem in UK corporates – change fatigue.

Change fatigue is pushing people to think beyond the infamous Kubler-Ross change curve. More and more we have been using a new spectrum during change programmes – with the ‘done by’ at one end (those pushing the change) and the ‘done to’ at the other (those on the receiving end of the change). This promotes new conversations around ownership and the need to include people, rather than deliver finished products.

From this thinking we’re seeing a new set of ‘sharp tools’ emerge. These are people who recognise change as a two-way street, they’re good at implementing it and also mindful and insightful about the forces pushing them to change, as well as the opportunities they have to influence it.

They are the new breed of change agents (which probably needs a new name now).

In order to be successful in any change process, HR professionals need to ensure they are both equipped to be change agents and that they are also able to identify and field an organisation’s strongest people during change to act as change agents too.

To do this, they need to become experts in exercising empathy (emotionally skilled around self and other management), resilience (secure and in control of themselves), and drive (fired up, energetic and inclusive), as well as recognising these characteristics in other people – because they are the three areas that are fast becoming the most valuable currency within the change economy.

Here’s our top five tips to for HR professionals to deliver successful change in the current ‘change fatigue’ environment:

1. Recognise where people are on the change spectrum and actively plan ways in which you can move them (both ‘done by’ and done ‘to’) – the more you can move them to the middle (i.e. the change agent, or energiser, space) the better

2. Don’t be blindly optimistic about a positive response to change – there are many options for people (we talk about five key ones), and you will see each one. Rather, have a plan for each

3. Look for good ‘raw’ material in your change leaders and agents – skill around the three areas I listed earlier, looking for those that are natural and live them daily, rather than polish or expertise

4. Create opportunities for your change agents to work at their best – authentic activities and events that allow them to be themselves

5. Don’t focus purely on skills training to support fundamental change – tools are useful, but they hit the rational, not the emotional, and the latter is far more powerful 

The Change Spectrum – the five responses to change
Embraces – often seen when the change is positive and actively desired by people.
Endures – OK…I’ll do what you ask.
Watches – ‘wait and see’ and the unworkable initiatives will be removed in due course.
Blocks – apathy turns into negative action and people take up arms against the change
Withdraws – driven by fear, despair or apathy, they opt out.

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