Getting to Grips with a New Normal

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Cast your minds back a few weeks and you’ll remember that I wrote to you about leading my team through change (click here for a recap!). Since then, it’s fair to say that A LOT has happened in my world. As you’ll have seen, Geon Training Solutions as I first founded and grew has gone – but in its place, a bigger, better and stronger brand emerges. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock over Easter, you’ll be aware that we have proudly partnered and merged with the RE:GEN Group. Rebranding as a business and relaunching our proposition as a result, with the aim to move more mountains than ever before across the Education, Construction and Social housing sectors.

One the proudest moments in my career as a business owner – yes
But overwhelming to get my head around? – Also, yes.
AND a concern that my team may develop ‘change fatigue’ given how the past couple of years have panned out – Definitely yes!

When we discussed the topic last, I raised your attention to the fact that Change is constant. So much so that we should all be seasoned in how to cope with life’s curveballs, even when they’re a fantastic move forward, but we’re not. And let’s face it, that’s just because we’re human.

It’s thought that in today’s modern workplace, workers are interrupted seven times an hour and distracted up to 2.1 hours a day. What’s more, 4 out of 10 people working in business are experiencing a major corporate restructuring, and therefore facing uncertainly about their futures. It’s in this space of uncertainty where ‘change fatigue’ occurs. ‘Change fatigue’ and ‘Change saturation’ as you may also know it occurs when disruptive changes (whether good or bad) exceed your capacity to adopt it.  

Thinking back over the last 24 months, how many major changes would you say you had to absorb? Even if you weathered the pandemic mostly unscathed, you probably had to deal with exponentially more changes than you would in a typical 2-year period. 

In so-called normal times, under normal circumstances, most of us can deal with a certain amount of change, even if those changes are disruptive to our day to day. That’s because we’re equipped with something called “surge capacity.” Author Tara Haelle explains this as “a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw upon for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.”

The problem, Haelle tells us, is that our surge capacity is generally put into play for short-term needs. However, the pandemic created a long-term uncertainty that none of us are used to. Because the crisis is ongoing and impacts just about every aspect of our work and home lives, we haven’t been able to replenish our capacity – and we’re STILL seeing the consequences in the workplace.

So how do you deal with change fatigue with 0% surge capacity?

According to a recent Gartner study, employees’ ability to cope with change is 50% of what it was pre-pandemic. 

What’s especially interesting is that the study found that smaller changes create more fatigue. Changes that impact someone’s day-to-day life, such as moving to a new team or getting a new manager, impact employees 2.5 times MORE than larger, more structural changes, such as a merger or acquisition. (phewf!)

The reality is, many businesses just like RE:geon Training are rethinking our strategies to future proof our brands, and undergoing massive changes as a consequence. So how can business owners, leaders and managers reduce the impact of this change on their people, to boost their overall wellbeing and keep stress levels to a minimum?

2 factors that make change easier to handle

It comes as no surprise that some of your employees will have a greater capacity to absorb change than others. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other, it’s just the beautiful diversity of who we are as individuals and what experiences your people may, or may not have had in the past to shape how they now respond.

Knowing whether your employees have a higher or lower capacity to absorb change comes down to two defining factors: Trust & Team Cohesion.

Trust
– In this context, means that the employee believes that leaders, managers, and HR:
• Have the employee’s interests in mind
• Have considered the impact the change will have
• Say what they mean and are confident they will deliver on their promises

Where an employee experiences low trust, their capacity for change is cut in half. And that’s not all. Employees that perceive a high-trust change effort have 2.6 times the capacity to absorb change compared to those with low trust.

In times of change its good practice to over-communicate with your team members. Be transparent with information, but above all, seek first to understand. Make sure you understand how changes will impact each member of your team. Remember that communication is a two-way street, and this is a time when listening becomes even more important. It will also help show your team that you care about them, both professionally and personally.

Team Cohesion
– Refers to the extent to which team members share a sense of belonging and connection, with a growing commitment to and accountability for a shared goal.

Team Cohesion has been at the forefront of my efforts at RE:geon Training of late, to ensure that my team and the RE:GEN family successfully come together as one. We’d already established the aligning of our values, ethos and approach (which was a huge part in why the partnership came about) but once it became official, we needed to ensure that we, as a Group, worked towards a collective vision.

Most recently, we accompanied the RE:GEN Group at their Business Plan Update at Ramside Hall to announce the partnership internally. This was a fantastic event led by Lee Francis and the team, to keep everyone informed about what’s going on in the group, who are exceeding all expectations, and to identify how working together as one will shape our future – clearing up as much uncertainty (and stress) as possible. The event was a resounding success, and seeing my team fully integrated as part of a wider vision, and mission filled us all with nothing but pride, and I can honestly say it felt like our surge capacity was starting to be refilled.

Whilst we have all undergone a lot of “good” stress to get where we are today, the benefits can now be felt in abundance because we have a strong sense of GROUP cohesion. Building cohesion should start on day one and continue throughout a team’s lifecycle. If that’s something you’re looking for help with then the Atlassian Team Playbook provides free workshops and exercises to help teams align on goals, set expectations for behaviours, or clarify roles and responsibilities. As a leader, it’s worth revisiting many of these exercises when your team experiences change, so you can mindfully navigate them through any business disruptions. They’ve been a great support system to me.

While stress at work is common, and we still find ourselves up at night, we must accept and address the fact that we can never truly escape the feelings of stress and being out of control. What we can do however, is choose to act rather than react. Always remember that you are never alone, you have a team to hold you up when you feel down and even though I’m the leader of my team, I now have a wider Group and Board of Directors to support and guide me through. Testament to the fact that reaching out to those within our network has never been more important.

I hope that next year, the statistics are down, because the future is bright for us all. Now that we’ve ridden the wave of COVID and all that it brings, we have so many amazing new things to look forward to.

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