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Change Saturation: Employee Burnout Solutions for Leaders

Employees are resilient. They pivoted during a pandemic, transformed with the digital landscape, and morphed from in-person to remote work to hybrid. Prosci has documented employee resilience since 2007, but recent research reveals an alarming trend. Prosci Best Practices in Research benchmarking data shows organizations are reaching a point of change saturation. The percentage of participants reporting being near or past the point of saturation has risen dramatically, from 59% in 2007 to 73% in 2019. 

Prosci predicts the rate increase will climb well into 2025 as organizations accelerate change to stay competitive. In fact, Gartner research suggests employees are experiencing an average of ten enterprise changes simultaneously.  But frequent change takes a toll. Most employees report feeling burned out by the constant churn. Their willingness to embrace yet another transformation has plummeted. 

What is Change Saturation?

Change saturation is when the amount of organizational change exceeds the employee’s capacity to effectively implement the new changes needed for organizational and professional growth.  

Enterprise change initiatives increased roughly 400% since 2016
Gartner Webaiinar

What are the Symptoms of Change Saturation?

Change saturation manifests in various forms. Change fatigue, resistance to change, low agility, distrust of leadership, frustration, and job dissatisfaction are just a few examples. If left unmanaged, change saturation can spell disaster for organizations. However, with the right strategies from leaders, organizations can overcome saturation. 

How to Manage Employee Burnout

Constant change is the new reality facing organizations today. Frequent transformations can overwhelm employees, grinding progress to a halt. We recently assembled a panel of senior leaders from Fortune 500 companies to discuss change saturation and how they are helping employees deal with change in the workplace. 

Ten Principles for Overcoming Change Saturation

  1. Visualize the change load – Create consolidated project plans showing all changes across the enterprise. Seeing the volume visually helps leaders consolidate and prioritize. 
  2. Enforce prioritization – Hold leaders accountable for prioritizing, even if it means slowing or pausing initiatives. Excellent adoption of a few key initiatives will boost employee confidence and adaptability, outperforming poor adoption of many.
  3. Assess impacts – Not all change is equal. Measure the unique impression of each effort and customize your approach. Does an extraordinary amount of change impact the same audience?  
  4. Slow the pace – Paradoxically, strategic pauses in communication can help people absorb complex messages. 
  5. Repeat the “why” – Employees lose sight of the purpose amidst the frenzy. Revisit the rationale and big picture often. 
  6. Learn from experience – Connect groups with new teams who have done this before. First-hand experience is invaluable. 
  7. Direct feedback is essential – Regularly survey employees to gauge change saturation levels. Ask for details to understand what is causing feelings of change fatigue so that you can focus on mitigation. 
  8. Define the finish line – Clarify the goal. Employees need to know that they have made progress, and when they have achieved the desired “future state.”. 
  9. Upskill to develop change management competency – Helping individuals, managers, and leaders understand the fundamentals of change management can develop the organization’s capacity for change and  build organizational “muscle.” 
  10. Create a routineEnsure each change has an organizational change management strategy that includes communications, stakeholder support and management, and a feedback mechanism to incorporate and respond to employee feedback. 

Is Your Organization Prepared for Change?

The pace of change shows no signs of slowing down. But by understanding change saturation dynamics, change leaders can keep their teams energized, focused, and moving forward. If you are witnessing the exhaustion in your employees’ performance or want to get ahead of change saturation in your organization, our latest whitepaper has solutions. 

Our change saturation whitepaper includes research-backed strategies for managing change in times of uncertainty. We examine: 

  • The causes and risks of rising change saturation. 
  • Signs that saturation is impacting your workforce. 
  • Proven techniques to maintain engagement and momentum. 
  • Guidance from experienced leaders navigating uncertainty. 
  • How partnering with experts can help organizations adapt. 

Ready to turn exhaustion into engagement? Download our new whitepaper for new ideas. And if you’re looking for organizational change management expertise, get in touch. We’d be thrilled to talk with you. 

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Melissa Noonan, Vice President, Solutions, The CARA Group

Author Melissa Noonan, Vice President, Solutions, The CARA Group

Melissa Noonan serves as Vice President, Solutions for The CARA Group. She describes her role as enabling CARA to effectively deliver high-impact, client-focused solutions that consider each unique individual organization and their needs. As a member of CARA’s Executive Leadership team, she enjoys the dual challenge of serving clients, while positioning CARA for growth. Prior to joining CARA, Melissa has held several strategic leadership roles in broader Talent Management, Learning, and Change at companies including Andersen Consulting / Accenture, Hewitt & Associates (Aon) and ULTA. In these roles, she was instrumental in re-engineering key practices and programs, helping to commercialize services and position organizations for long-term, profitable growth. She has served in key leadership roles helping small to mid-tier consulting companies prepare to scale and increase revenue and profitability through client-centric business development practices, restructuring, and implementation of repeatable methodologies and offerings.

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