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How Major Change Impacts Staff Turnover

Without a doubt, change within an organisation can be a stressful time, but what impact that may have on staff turnover should be considered when you decide changes are necessary. Ensure that your change management initiatives align both management and employee objectives in the best way possible.

The change process should ensure that employees can participate in its implementation to avoid communication gaps. Thus, keeping employees connected will offer the highest chance for change success. A staggering 70% of change management initiatives fail and many do so because the employees do not actively buy into the change, in some cases causing them to leave rather than face the unknown. Productivity can reduce as staff become unsettled with the changes around them. Stress affects some people more than others and having a change management consultant ensure the people side of change is correctly handled will give the project the best chance of success.

staff turnover from stress in the workplace

Three Types of Stress

Physiological stress disturbs a human’s internal milieu and will often manifest in headaches, high blood pressure, or stress-affected illness worsening. Change can cause heightened reactivity when faced with stressful situations for those naturally short on patience or tolerance.

Anticipated stress –fear of the unknown. Anticipating the worst, waiting for ‘the talk’ or even feeling stressed about any upcoming news, even without knowing whether it could be good or bad. Anticipatory stress causes a range of emotional and physical reactions before being given the information needed to answer whatever issue has us anxious.

Perceived stress – these are stressors you feel whether real or imaginary. How you think about events and your ability to cope with what is happening can often differ considerably from your actual coping ability. Perceived stress can elicit physical, mental, and emotional responses in the same way as real stress. Thoughts on what ‘could’ happen can be more damaging than knowing what is happening, leading to high stress levels.

Stress and Change Management

You may wonder why we mention stress first. Well, simply put, any change management within an organisation will be stressful for some and possibly many of the business employees. Whether employees are initiating the change, managing the transition or being at the coal face to handle the task when changes are made, even those not affected but working alongside them can be affected by the atmosphere and change process.

Organisations with knowledgeable and experienced change management experts on board will know the support required to move a business from one operating state to another is undoubtedly stressful, and employee buy-in is essential. If you can remove individual stressors, you can remove much of the consequential staff turnover. Involving the workforce as early as possible, being honest, open, and understanding of consequences to productivity, providing training and time for people to adapt, using milestones and incentives for employees to feel an active part of the process will ensure a greater chance of success.

Understanding the stress phases that change invokes and the associated employee reactions is essential to manage the change initiative successfully. The Kubler Ross change curve shows the five stages that people can yo-yo through on the path to acceptance.

Change Management and staff turnover

There are many reasons that staff turnover can become higher during periods of change, some of which stem from worry, insecurity, inability, such as:

  • Fight or flight
  • Avoidance
  • Inability to change
  • Insecurity over ability
  • Jumping before pushed
  • Change fatigue

Issues with staff turnover can also arise in other business areas, not just those directly affected. The environment can become toxic or, at the least, unsettled, and co-workers can become as equally stressed and concerned as those directly targeted for change.

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How Can You Avoid Change Having a Negative Impact Leading to High Staff Turnover?

Often being heard is enough to ease anxiety and fear. Organisational ethos should seek to move to a more fluid state, where change is more readily accepted, and employees are motivated to play a part. The direction of change should align with clearly defined organisational goals and communication open and two ways. Agile project management courses help businesses embed a culture of innovation, foster collaboration and manage uncertainties and risk to give businesses individuals equipped to achieve the fast pace of change often required to operate in the world we find ourselves. The ability to configure project lifecycles assess leadership styles and effective communication methods to ensure that projects deliver on time and budget, without high staff turnover that can often result.

When leaders, change and project managers understand the implications for the people side of change within an organisation, they are better placed to avoid many pitfalls. We are without doubt in times of significant change, often fast-paced with delivery required both on time and on budget, so dedicating time to people is critical.

Avoiding Burnout

When individuals are exposed to prolonged workplace stressors, they suffer emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and lower professional efficacy. This is termed ‘burnout’. People can easily change and feel pessimistic about the job and make negative evaluations of workplace accomplishments. Change can be taken on board as a direct personal failure, feeling unfulfilled or inadequately rewarded. Especially change requires extra commitment, learning and often extra work by employees. It is not surprising that some can feel unappreciated and look to move elsewhere.  To reduce this, leaders and change managers must realise the impact that change can have on productivity and accept dips or provide extra resources. At the same time, new techniques may require additional short-term resources. Management must provide regular feedback and incentives can undoubtedly help encourage momentum and drive. Inform, reward, and celebrate even the small steps towards reducing the likelihood of increased staff turnover.

Resistance to change is related to burnout and burnout to turnover. To overcome this, organisations must have a change management process that identifies the need and drivers for change, reduces the impact on staff, and manages their needs as highly as the business needs to be successful. After all, the company cannot operate without staff and hiring new can be a more significant task than managing those already there sympathetically.

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