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Stamford, CT, December 8, 2020

Gartner Says Finance Leaders Must Protect Employees’ Mental Energy Through Times of Change

Finance and Shared Services Leaders Need to Better Recognize and Account for the Impact of Small Changes

The pace of change is wearing down finance teams, so finance leaders must navigate both big and small changes to protect employees’ mental energy, according to Gartner, Inc.

“When employees go through periods of heavy change, particularly as we are experiencing this year with COVID-19, it takes more effort to meet the same expectations for timelines, quality and quantity of work,” said Tamara Shipley, vice president in the Gartner Finance practice. “Over time, excessive effort breaks down employees’ mental energy, leading to change resistance and turnover.”

A Gartner, Inc. study of 499 finance and shared services employees in January 2020 showed that half (49%) reported low mental energy related to coping with changes.

“Low mental energy means change fatigued employees who are half as likely to be committed to remain at the organization and three times more likely to resist change,” said Ms. Shipley.

While many companies endorse change management, efforts center on making big changes successful. And big changes comprise only 4% of the changes that impact employees.  The research showed that the biggest impact on employee mental energy could be gained by supporting employees through the effect of small changes which make up 96% of the changes employees need to cope with.

Gartner defines a big change as a sizable disruption such as M&A, a new job, an RPA implementation or major system upgrade. Gartner defines a small change as a lesser disruption that is typically handled on an individual or local level. For example: an incremental update to a tool, new expense submission requirements, or a co-worker leaves or joins the team. Only about a third of leaders perform key support activities for smaller change (see Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Small Change Support Activities
Percentage of Employees Agreeing with Each Statement About Their Leaders

Source: Gartner (December 2020)

“Finance leaders generally do not understand the cumulative impact of many small changes on their employees until it’s too late,” said Ms. Shipley. “Discovering low levels of employee mental energy after it’s become entrenched is not the best time to remediate it.”

Many leaders rely on formal annual employee surveys to monitor employee engagement. This is too infrequent to properly gauge the impact of the many small changes and hurdles that employees face week to week. Instead, Gartner experts recommend that managers carry out a weekly assessment of the impact of small changes on employees as one way to get ahead of and support their teams.

The study showed that a focus on supporting employees with the impact of small changes drove more than twice the gains in employee mental energy when compared to a focus on big change initiatives.

“Often managers do little to support small changes, and therefore some basic support can drive very noticeable improvements,” said Ms. Shipley.

Gartner experts recommend that finance and shared services leaders immediately take stock of the impact of small changes on their employees, particularly considering the disruption stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There is much more leaders can do to ensure their employees get the support they need, and it starts with more timely awareness of the issue by leaders and their teams," said Ms. Shipley.

Gartner for Finance Leaders clients can read more in: Protecting Employee Mental Energy Through Change

Non clients can read how to Monitor Key Finance Talent Trends, Covid-19 Changes for Finance, and 10 Lessons From High-Value Finance Teams.

About the Gartner Finance Practice
The Gartner Finance practice helps senior finance executives meet their top priorities. Gartner offers a unique breadth and depth of content to support clients’ individual success and deliver on key initiatives that cut across finance functions to drive business impact. Learn more at https://www.gartner.com/en/finance/finance-leaders. Follow Gartner for Finance on LinkedIn and Twitter using #GartnerFinance to stay ahead of the latest expert insights and key trends shaping the Finance function.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s most critical priorities. To learn more, visit gartner.com.

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