From the Office of the CFO: Three Ways to Minimize Change Fatigue in Finance Teams

May 22, 2024

5 min read

Picture of Adriana Carpenter

Adriana Carpenter

From the Office of the CFO: Three Ways to Minimize Change Fatigue in Finance Teams


Emburse's CFO, Adriana Carpenter, talks about how to keeps teams engaged, even during an era of frequent change.

    Change is a constant that needs to be embraced by every finance team. However, too much change over a sustained period can lead to feelings of fatigue and burnout.

    Finance teams have been faced with a wide array of changes over the past few years, whether it’s the pandemic-driven shift to remote working, the introduction of AI, or the greater focus on profitable growth for many early-stage companies. We’ve also seen a historic shortage of finance personnel entering and staying in the profession over the past few years.

    Adding these macro issues together leads to a massive amount of change - and that’s even before you consider industry- or company-specific changes. It’s no surprise that people feel burnt out.

    Add to this that 84% of CFOs report having a staff shortage, they can ill-afford to lose key employees. As a finance leader, it’s critical that you can effectively manage your team to maintain productivity and morale. What can you do to protect your most valued asset?

    1. Minimizing the potential for change fatigue

    Considering the old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, the best way to stop change fatigue in your team is to take preemptive measures to minimize the chance of it occurring.

    • Assess possible fatigue drivers: before initiating any change initiative, take a critical look at your team and its workload. Have recent changes increased the burden on them (both in terms of work volume and emotional)? Is this initiative time-sensitive or could it be delayed to allow the team to get used to recent changes? 
    • Consider external help: if the constant pace of change is reducing your team’s ability to focus on their core tasks, two alternatives could be to bring in temporary help on their workload (especially more low-level/administrative work), or hire a consultancy to help deliver the new initiative. 
    • Use technology to help ease the burden: If you’re asking your team to go through large amounts of change, it’s often going to take a considerable amount of both their time and mental energy. Wherever possible - and obviously this requires the prior knowledge of upcoming change - clear their plate from “busy work,” so they can focus on these bigger issues. Many processes within the finance department - expense and AP processing, treasury, quarter close and accounting to name a few, can be hugely automated by specialist solutions, reducing the burden on your team. While this is certainly not a short term solution (and the move to automate processes is another project that teams will need to take on), long-term it can deliver huge efficiency benefits. 

    Read more: Attract and Retain Your Best Employees by Automating Menial Tasks

    2. Identifying the symptoms of change fatigue

    The biggest and most drastic symptom of change fatigue is team churn, but if you’re not in tune with your team, it can come as a complete surprise. The symptoms can be subtle. Look for non-verbal signs of burnout, like frequent or unplanned days off, or a drop-off in the quality of work. Unless a team feels empowered to speak up proactively, it’s likely they may simply suffer in silence until they hit their breaking point. At that point it’s often too late, as they have another job offer and are giving you two weeks’ notice.

    The best thing a finance leader can do is be proactive and vigilant. Don’t just leave it to managers to pass on messages from front-line staff - speak to them directly and openly.

    As a leader you should also err toward overcommunication - have frequent check-ins and empower everyone on the team to speak up about their concerns. If you’re in an office, walk around the department and see how the team looks and behaves. If you’re remote, check in via Slack or email. It could be as simple as asking them on a regular basis how they’re coping with all of the change - and even if they’re feeling ok, they’ll certainly appreciate your proactive approach to their well-being.

    3. Dealing with change fatigue in your team

    Even with all these processes in place, change fatigue can set in. If this happens, the first thing to do is acknowledge what the team is going through. A personal call or email will have more impact than a department-wide communication, and it will also allow for individual feedback, so you can address the specific concerns of each team member.

    Even if you’re unable to impact the level of change and its impact on the team, make sure that they feel appreciated for dealing with the additional change. Publicly thank them for their work and ensure that they know their efforts are being recognized. You could also reward your team as a token of your - and the company’s - appreciation. This could be anything from something as simple as gift cards, team nights out or spa days. It’s a lot cheaper to keep existing employees happy than to hire new staff to replace them.