Change fatigue poses a real risk of scuppering the success of any change initiative. A recent CEB Risk Management Blog post, Keeping an Eye on Employee ‘Change Fatigue’, spelled it out: Change fatigue has emerged as a top risk for 2017.

And prior research has shown that change fatigue is why the majority of transformations fail to deliver on their promises.

So what is this thing we call change fatigue? It’s that employee feeling of apathy and resignation. Maybe you’ve heard it when an employee says, “Whatever” or “Meh”– or seen it when an employee gives an eye roll. The impact is pretty serious, as in lower productivity, poorer customer service, higher expenses. The list goes on.

I like the CEB post because it sees internal communications well positioned to combat change fatigue. It also makes concrete suggestions to foster employee engagement and empowerment.

But the one thing that the post forgets to mention is listening.

Listening is so basic–I guess it’s easy to overlook. Yet, during a period of change, all the lovely live events, sparkly social media outlets, hip hashtags and badass branding are nothing compared to leaders listening to employees.

I’ve written about the listening topic before. And it’s worthwhile revisiting it again because it’s such a powerful practice. We all get dazzled by YamJams and unconferences and business strategy-themed scavenger hunts! Activities like these are fun and have their place. But they’re check-the-box exercises if don’t include real moments of connection between leaders and employees. Without listening, you’ll be back to “whatevers” and eye rolls.

As the internal communications pro, look for ways to work listening into your company’s change initiative. Ensure that you have real moments of give-and-take between your leaders and employees. You’ll be managing a critical risk and making an invaluable contribution to your company’s change program success.

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