Handling constant change in the ‘digital storm’

by Cameron Edmond05 Aug 2013

Continual changes in the digital world have caused a ‘digital storm’ to sweep the corporate realm, with some managers scrambling to make changes that, ultimately, leave their employees behind.

At a recent gathering of CEOs from REA Group, Seek and Carsales.com, they discussed the need for many organisations to speed-up their uptake of new technology, Business Review Weekly reported.

However, trying to move faster than the rest of the pack may risk alienating and fatiguing staff. “The common refrain we always hear when we go in to help executives with major change programs is ‘Our employees are pretty exhausted, morale is relatively low, there’s been a lot of change.’ They are change fatigued,” Vicki Daniel, co-director of Change2020, told .

‘Change fatigue’ is likely to occur when organisations attempt to roll-out large amounts of change in a short period of time, perhaps even continuous change over longer periods. Not only will this exhaust employees, but it may manifest an attitude of indifference towards change, as employees take each announcement of changes less seriously.

“I would love companies to breathe,” Daniel said. “To have less priorities on their action-list each year, but do the things that they do have as priorities well and do them fast … and don’t give up half way.”

Managers should be careful not to become overawed by new digital technologies and systems, and to evaluate them the same way they would any other advancement: does it show value and return? How will it be structured?

Although Daniel advises caution, she does believe there is merit in daring to push forward. “We all love the small nimble companies and individuals that jump on the technology quickly because they are almost like a proving ground.”

Daniel recommends managers should “ask the dumb questions” to their technology experts to gauge the relevance of new digital movements. “If you cannot get a plain English answer out of a technical person about how easy it is to roll the technology out, how easy it is to use and what value it will bring, I’d be very suspicious.”

Approaching new technologies with caution, while exercising open and honest communication with employees, is the best way to find the middle-ground of staying at the forefront of change without losing control.

“I’d be really pushing for business people to be very curious, have a look around at what competitors are doing, what people in other industries are doing with the new digital technologies, read widely … but never ever be overawed by the technology,” Daniel said.

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