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Every day, companies around the world are learning to adapt and evolve as COVID-19 forces millions of employees to adjust how, where and when they work. Yet, in spite of the challenges and constraints we’re facing as a global community, many organisations are responding effectively and learning how to adapt to ensure their success in the coming days and months, even in this unpredictable environment.
They are pivoting, innovating, and strengthening their teams in the midst of chaos. What do these organisations have that their competitors don’t?
Leaders — and employees — who are changemakers at heart.
Changemakers are people who are equipped and willing to mobilise others to make positive, impactful change.
When everyone else is focussed on business continuity planning, changemakers focus on culture continuity and ensuring their organisation has what it takes to weather the storm and get to the other side stronger than ever.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, changemakers were the leaders making a long-lasting impact on the culture and capability in their organisations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, changemakers become even more critical as they inspire and motivate employees with a united purpose, leading their people through uncertainty with clarity and connection.
To achieve this, they embody and practice three key characteristics that help them nurture an environment that is ripe for change and prepared to adapt.
These leaders take the time to listen to employees and welcome candid
conversations about what is and isn’t working in the current environment. They model the behaviour they seek in their people leaders by connecting with their direct reports weekly, even if they’re working remotely now – whether that’s through a video-conferencing tool, or a good old-fashioned phone call.
Changemakers prioritise and strengthen the employer-employee relationship with communication channels that enable two-way feedback.
While others still rely on all-staff emails, they’re tapping into the power of video, messaging tools, employee comments on internal blogs, and employee survey tools to check the pulse of their organisation regularly.
This helps them identify which levers to pull to motivate employees, keep them focussed and productive, and move the needle on employee engagement within their organisation in a faster, more agile way.
There are many ways to discover which teams need support the most. Changemakers keep their fingers on the pulse of their employees through surveys or telling insights, using data to determine the areas of their business where communications are or are not reaching, so they can explore options of channels to ensure that important company, safety, wellbeing or culture updates are read.
Changemakers have effective change management strategies in their toolkit and avoid a scattergun approach to crisis management. They prioritise and focus, and look for resources that already exist within their business to get things started. Changemakers take their people on the journey one step at a time.
While others are focussed on the limitations brought about forced closures or social distancing rules, changemakers focus instead on what can still be achieved in spite of those constraints.
They shift their mindset, reframing the obstacles they’re currently facing as an opportunity to refine your goals and focus on one or two important projects that will make a big impact on your people’s morale or your business success.
Changemakers identify and connect with the ambassadors or champions within their organisation — employees who are already engaged and can bring others along on the journey. These ambassadors are well aware and still connected to your company mission, ready to innovate and work differently, and have a natural growth mindset, so they can positively impact culture, overcome obstacles and showcase growth mindsets during times of crisis.
They are the ones who focus on the good news story, and focus on problem solving instead of problem finding. To make sure they’re ready to help you make waves and move your business forward, mobilise your ambassadors by getting them involved and take a moment to create visibility of their contribution and progress as it happens to inspire others.
Because behaviour that gets recognised, gets repeated.
As more and more organisations transition to remote work or put processes in place to limit physical proximity within frontline work spaces, Changemakers look for opportunities to connect people digitally.
To support their people and provide a sense of stability and consistency even as things outside of work change, they make it easy for employees to find and access information that supports them through this time. Whether it’s a feed of government or WHO announcements, links to financial or mental wellbeing resources, updated policy documentation, or a feed of good news stories from around your business, they do their best to give employees information wherever they are, whenever they need to access it, like this hub from our client Checkatrade:
They create online spaces where their culture and community can flourish and their employees can 'gather' and interact with each other.
These online spaces act as “digital campfires” where employees know they can find the information they need to get their job done; gain visibility about what is happening in other areas of the business; interact with each other through blog posts, comments, and social responses; and add to the stories of success through continual employee recognition.
HR Changemakers look for and leverage the types of tools that empower and enable better employee connection. Their constant goal is to connect their people, unite them under a common purpose, and consistently recognise progress to keep them motivated and on track.
Whether that’s explaining current business strategy through leadership communications, or by keeping them up to date on important COVID-19 updates so they feel informed and reassured by their employer. connection is always at the forefront.
As the outside pressure increases for many organisations, changemakers can take that pressure in their stride and find ways to put their people first. Changemakers understand their people are missing human connection (think of the "Belonging" tier in Maslow's Hirearchy of Needs), so they focus on a sense of purpose and belonging.
They achieve this by focussing on humanising connection through a variety of methods, such as daily video updates from leaders linked back to your mission. By listening to the needs of their employees, focussing on the initiatives that will keep them motivated and engaged during this time, and leveraging technology to enable connection and support, their teams will weather this season and be ready for whatever the future brings.
Above is a presentation on Changemakers from February, but many of the lessons apply even in the current environment.
Thank you to all the changemakers who continue to inspire their people through this challenging time. Stay safe and well and I wish you, your family and teams all the best on this change journey
Kylie Green is the Global SVP of Consultancy at Reward Gateway. She has over 20 years of experience working with world's top companies to take their employee engagement strategy to the next level and loves helping leaders find innovative ways to connect with their people and build high-performing, world-class teams.
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