Battling burnout: Is change fatigue stalling growth?

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What is CHange Fatigue?

Change fatigue happens when you’re bombarded with too many changes in a short period, like new work processes, leadership shifts or even personal life adjustments.

When Nike embarked on a project to implement a new ERP system based on i2 Technologies software, its aim was to improve inventory management, demand forecasting and order fulfilment.

The project was budgeted at $40 million and scheduled for 18 months. After a series of difficulties – software bugs, data errors and integration failures – the project cost Nike $100 million in sales. Missing quarterly earnings and facing a class-action lawsuit from shareholders – this is known as one of the most famous examples of a digital transformation failure.

With transformation defining 2024, driving both disruption and progress, we must understand the demands of reinvention. Unrealistic goals, inadequate leadership, poor management and resistance to change are some of the most common pitfalls.
And beneath the excitement, acronyms and agile frameworks lurks a silent epidemic – change fatigue. This pervasive weariness towards constant reinvention threatens to cripple organisational growth and cost you top talent.

“Whether you’re at the beginning of your transformation programme or you’re in the middle of it, the most important thing to remember is this is more people management than project management.

Over that last 20 years, I’ve been brought in at various stages of these projects and appointing the right leadership, with lived experience of all the ups and downs is essential.”

Andy macewan, HEAD OF IN TECHNOLOGY, CHANGE & TRANSFORMATION AT DENHOLM ASSOCIATES

The culprits

  • Death by a thousand cuts: While large-scale disruptions might grab headlines, the daily grind of adapting to new managers, processes and workflows could have your team scanning job boards
  • Failed changes: When initiatives falter repeatedly because of inexperienced leadership, employees lose faith and become resistant to future attempts
  • Sudden, unplanned changes: Lack of communication and clear planning breeds anxiety and confusion, obstructing adaptation
  • The relentless pace: An unending stream of new initiatives leaves individuals feeling overwhelmed
  • Poor leadership: Top-down decisions, inadequate communication and neglecting employee buy-in creates resentment and disengagement
  • Meaningless change: Initiatives that lack purpose or tangible benefits breed cynicism and resistance
  • Neglecting the human element: Treating employees as cogs in a machine ignores their anxieties and needs, leading to burnout and plotting their escape!

The price of perpetual change

Harvard Business Review sounded the alarm about Change Exhaustion back in 2022, reporting that, “Too often, organisations simply encourage their employees to be resilient, placing the burden of finding ways to feel better solely on individuals. Leaders need to recognise that change exhaustion is not an individual issue, but a collective one that needs to be addressed at the team or organisation level.”

Change, for all its promises, can backfire spectacularly when it leads to:

  • Decreased enthusiasm: Proactive individuals become cynical, apathetic and withdrawn and searching for pastures new
  • Burnout: Emotional exhaustion, waning motivation and feelings of helplessness fill the ranks
  • Rising resistance: New initiatives are met with fear, anxiety and outright opposition
  • Eroding trust: Lack of transparency and ineffective communication can lead to suspicion and negativity

THE CADY FORMULA

Fortunately, we’re not powerless against this fatigue.

So how can you beat it? Vodafone opted for a real-time sentiment analysis tool to identify employees who need extra support during busy shifts. While Nestlé allows employees to choose their preferred methods for adapting to new workflows – increasing buy-in and ownership. 

Change Management Expert, William Cady, who has consulted with NASA, General Motors, and Ford on issues related to change, innovation and collaboration offers this update to David Gleicher’s change formula for overcoming resistance:

D x V x F x S > R which translates to:

  • Dissatisfaction (D): Recognising the need for change
  • Vision (V): Having a clear picture of the desired future state
  • First steps (F): Taking immediate, concrete actions to move towards the vision
  • Supports (S): Providing resources and assistance to sustain the change
  • Resistance (R): Overcoming obstacles and negativity
So, let’s say you’re implementing a new ERP system, which we all know is a significant change that impacts every department (and cost Nike $100 million). Using the Cady Model:

D × V: Dissatisfaction (Motivation) × Vision (Direction)

D: Highlight all the frustrations with the current system. Focus attention on the system’s limitations, causing inefficiencies and errors.

Essentially, you’re trying to create a natural dissatisfaction with the current state, motivating your team to embrace change.

V: The leadership team needs to develop a compelling vision of how the new ERP will streamline operations, improve data accuracy and boost productivity. Paint a picture of a more efficient and successful future and (most importantly!) their place in it to keep them engaged.

F: First Steps (Actionable Progress)

Ideally, you will have the opportunity to roll out an initial pilot program in a small department, allowing a team to test the new system and provide feedback. This first step demonstrates progress and provides employees with a hands-on experience, reducing anxiety about the unknown.

S: Supports (Resources & Assistance)

You create comprehensive training programs and resources to familiarise everyone with the new system. Additionally, you need to establish a dedicated support team to answer questions and address any technical issues. All of this support should empower employees to deal with change confidently and assure their contribution to the business.

R: Resistance (Obstacle to Overcome)

Despite all your efforts, some employees may remain resistant due to fear of automation, the prospect of mastering new tech, or simply disbelief of the project’s viability.

To bridge these gaps, open and honest communication is key. Clearly address concerns and continue to emphasise the benefits for both individuals and the company (growth, new opportunities, etc.) and provide ample support through training, resources and accessible channels for questions and feedback.

By addressing both the emotional (D, V) and practical (F, S) aspects of change, you can create a more supportive and engaging process, bypass unnecessary attrition and ultimately lead successful transformation.

Fuelling transformation, not fatigue

Here’s your final checklist to take change from a source of frustration to a catalyst for growth:

  1. Embrace human-centric change: Involve employees in the process, listen to their concerns, and tailor change accordingly.
  2. Emphasise value: Prioritise meaningful transformations that address real needs and deliver impactful results.
  3. Communicate openly and often: Foster open dialogue, share clear roadmaps and explain the “why” behind change to build trust and engagement.
  4. Build resilience: Invest in employee well-being, offer support systems and encourage healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress.
  5. Celebrate successes: Acknowledge and reward milestones, reinforcing the positive aspects of change and motivating continued effort.

True transformation isn’t about perpetual upheaval, but about empowering individuals, nurturing trust and creating a better future, together. This is by no means an easy feat, but by adopting these principles and recognising the human cost of change, we can transform it from a source of fatigue to a catalyst for growth, innovation and lasting success.

Talk to Denholm

We’re problem-solvers. And we’ve introduced clients to top talent that can bring new ways of working which will help combat change fatigue.

Contact our Head of Technology, Change & Transformation, Andy MacEwan on 07867 475 528 for more information about how we can support your next transformation project.

New Spirits Division

ANDY BRADY

HEAD OF HR

Andy Brady is a seasoned HR recruitment specialist, with over two decades of expertise in the field. With a foundation in Human Resource Management from the University of Derby, Andy swiftly transitioned into specialised HR recruitment. His diverse portfolio spans FMCG, Manufacturing & Engineering, Financial Services, the Third Sector, and Supply Chain, working at all levels from entry to executive positions.

ZOE LUMSDEN

Recruitment AdministratoR

Zoe joined Denholm in 2022 as Recruitment Administrator, after working in administration roles for nearly a decade. Most recently within the recruitment industry, she joins us with experience of supporting consultants, clients and candidates at all levels. Zoe has a passion for helping people and applies her positive attitude and approachable manner to support our team and deliver the best possible service to our clients and candidates at all times.

DREW GILLIES

HEAD OF AGENCY

Drew arrived at Denholm as an award-winning creative, having headed content strategy teams for marketing/advertising agencies in the UK/USA before a successful career in HR, people and culture. He has years of marketing experience and building teams on both sides of the Atlantic, priding himself on going the extra mile for clients and candidates alike. Drew always works with passion as our specialist in account management, planning and strategy, digital marketing, full-spectrum creative and traffic/studio management.

CALLUM BEVERIDGE

SENIOR CONSULTANT - TECHNOLOGY, CHANGE & TRANSFORMATION

Callum has been working in recruitment since 2018 where he has solely focussed on the Technology, Change and Transformation market across the UK and ROI. He works closely with his clients and candidates to build long-lasting relationships across several industries, including Technology, Financial Services, Professional Services, Healthcare, Education, Public Sector and more. He specialises in engineering roles across Software, Infrastructure, Systems, DevOps and Cloud, along with Software Testing.

EUAN ARCHIBALD

SENIOR CONSULTANT - Technology, Change & Transformation

Euan has been working in the world of recruitment since 2012, working to deliver bespoke services to both clients and candidates. Prioritising ‘future-fit’ candidates for clients, he works as an extension of his client’s business ensuring great representation in the market. He consults with each client to ensure excellent candidate journeys. Euan works focuses primarily on business analysis, project management and technical support opportunities.

LIZ PARSONS

SENIOR CONSULTANT - MARKETING

Liz has over 14 years’ experience in recruitment working across primarily the high-tech, pharmaceutical and FMCG sectors. She joined Denholm on December 1st 2021 following a relocation from Ireland to focus on Marketing recruitment. Liz’s experience ranges from high volume recruitment to executive search and she prides herself in her ability to fully understand a brief and her accurate matching skills. Frequently praised as being a clear communicator with a strong customer service ethic, Liz is well suited to the culture here at Denholm, where the client and the candidates’ needs are paramount.

ALANA SIM

DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR - CONSUMER

Alana has been working in recruitment since 2012, predominately within the FMCG & Consumer markets. Having recruited in both the UK & Asia Pacific markets, Alana has a sound knowledge of local & international recruitment. Partnering with brands to attract & hire the best sales talent in the market, Alana focuses on mid to senior level Sales appointments within the Consumer space. With a strong commercial & sales background, Alana identifies and engages the best commercially focused talent for our clients.

SCOTT CAITHNESS

CLIENT RELATIONSHIP PARTNER

Scott started his career working for one of the leading Advertising & Comms agencies in Edinburgh where he spent 7 years before moving in to recruitment in 2011. As such, he is well-networked in the Marketing & Comms space across Scotland. With a friendly and consultative approach, Scott is genuinely passionate about providing a positive journey to both candidates and clients alike and believes communication plays a big part in this.  A “thinking-outside-the-box recruiter”, he is known for helping candidates portray the best version of themselves and helping clients find talent for those hard to fill roles.

ANDY MACEWAN

HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY, CHANGE & TRANSFORMATION

Andy has been recruiting in Technology, Change & Transformation since 2001. Delivering tailored resource solutions as trusted advisor to clients ranging from start-ups through to global blue-chip organisations across contract, permanent, fixed term, and managed service/statement of work solutions. He has experience providing candidates for Helpdesk through to CIO and takes great pride in providing excellent customer service and ensuring each candidate journey is a positive one. An expert in his market he can provide guidance across current market trends.

JAMES BLYTH

HEAD OF MANUFACTURING & ENGINEERING

James has a decade of experience within the FMCG sector where he has partnered with a wide range of businesses placing key appointments at all levels including Director/ Board level. Driving growth across our Manufacturing & Engineering function, James specialises in Production, Operations, Engineering, Quality, HSE, Technical, NPD and Supply Chain. With his passion and expertise in these areas, James supports candidates and clients by working closely to understand their needs and wants providing exceptional service.

ANGELA MCCANN

DIRECTOR OF GROWTH

Having worked in the recruitment industry since 2000, Angela brings a wealth of experience as a Recruitment Professional and a proven track record of delivering a high-quality search and selection service to both public and private companies in the UK and internationally. Angela believes in a partnership approach to recruitment, ensuring a detailed understanding of employer/jobseeker requirements and delivering a bespoke service underpinned by professionalism, pragmatism and strong market knowledge.

Our Community

As well as working in close collaboration with our clients, and the online marketplaces, we are active members of groups that have been established to combat illicit trade. These include the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group, the European Intellectual Property Office, The Scottish Business Resilience Centre, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, and the China Britain Business Council. Members of our senior management sit on the boards of ACID (Anti-Copying in Design), the Scottish Ministerial Trade Board, and the European Union Intellectual Property Office’s Observatory Panel for SMEs, amongst others.

Each team member nominates good causes or charities that are supported on both an individual and corporate basis. Wherever possible, we support the employee’s involvement whether through time or fundraising events.

Our Environment

We deliver purpose-driven work from an extremely welcoming environment near the City Centre. We actively encourage the responsible use of resources, from using public transport to reuse, recycling, and, of course, a minimal impact office environment. We have benefited from the advice of the Energy Saving Trust and Resource Efficient Scotland. Our waste contractor also provides us with a monthly report on volumes and types of material and the carbon emissions avoided through recycling.

Over 80% of our employees can walk or cycle to The Lair and, pre-pandemic, 10% were using public transport as their normal daily commuting mode. Without doubt, online meetings will replace considerable miles, going forward, saving resources, time and energy. Where possible, when possible, the train remains our preferred option. 

Our People

Our people are our most important asset, and their mental well-being and happiness are core to our success. We love our diverse workforce, actively embrace flexible working (even pre-pandemic!) and encourage a healthy work-life balance. We have been recognised as one of the most diverse SME workplaces in the UK and are holders of the Scottish Business Pledge which exists to promote a fairer Scotland. We have also just been included in the 2021 Culture Leaders Top 25 – an accolade of which we are very proud!

We are a fully inclusive and nurturing employer and, despite being in tech, the majority of our team are women, leading to accolades in the Computing Magazine Women in IT Awards and the Amazon Growing Business Awards. We currently represent 15 nationalities and speak 20 languages. Age is no barrier, and we recruit for attitude, providing and encouraging appropriate learning and training for each and every role.

We are also proud members of IP Inclusive, a network of professionals working to make the intellectual property industry more diverse.

Our Purpose

Our aim is to combat illicit online trade by identifying and removing counterfeits for sale. Counterfeits not only damage brands, their reputations, and revenues, but can cause significant harm to the end customer – whether as a fake toy or a fake medicine – and the consequences can be life threatening.

Counterfeiting is a significant economic and social issue.

The OECD reports that counterfeit and fake goods make up more than 3.3% of the world’s global trade. Those involved in the trade of counterfeits have been linked to people trafficking, prostitution, and drug dealing.

As such, reducing illicit trade is about much more than brand protection but also about human rights, safety, and social equity.

And this is what we do, every day.

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We’re a passionate and professional team who thrive in issue-rich environment and we’re looking for Senior Communication Advisors, Communications Advisors and Communications Executives to join their fast-growing team. 

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In addition, to be considered for this role, you must be able to demonstrate:

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We’re a passionate and professional team who thrive in issue-rich environment and we’re looking to add a Communication Lead to our fast-growing team. You’ll be a trusted advisor to clients across several sectors in all aspects of communication, external affairs, marketing and issues management. Coming from an agency or consultancy environment, at Account Director level or above, you’ll report directly to the Managing Director and be responsible for a small and busy multi-disciplinary team. You’ll have first-class project management skills, be solutions-driven and excellent commercial acumen too. Alongside the senior team, you’ll work to drive the strategic growth of Aspect.

Your core duties will include:

  • Working with the MD to develop and deliver growth strategies 
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  • Leading the creation and execution of strategic communication programmes
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You’ll be a skilled communicator, interested and knowledgeable about the key issues shaping the external environment. In addition, to be considered for this role, you must be able to demonstrate:

  • 7+ years of senior leadership experience within an agency or consultancy
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