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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 organizations 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 organizations have that their competitors don’t?

Leaders — and employees — who are changemakers at heart.

Changemakers are people who are equipped and willing to mobilize others to make positive, impactful change. 

When everyone else is focused on business continuity planning, changemakers focus on culture continuity and ensuring their organization 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 organizations. 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.

Download our eBook to discover how to connect with your employees during the  COVID-19 pandemic»

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.

1. Changemakers put people and connection first

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 behavior 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.

how to lead employees during the COVID-19 pandemic

Changemakers prioritize 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 organization regularly. 

This helps them identify which levers to pull to motivate employees, keep them focused and productive, and move the needle on employee engagement within their organization in a faster, more agile way.

we-listen-1There 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.

2. Changemakers mobilize and problem solve

Changemakers have effective change management strategies in their toolkit and avoid a scattergun approach to crisis management. They prioritize 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 focused 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 organization — 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, mobilize 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 behavior that gets recognized, gets repeated.

3. Changemakers humanize and embrace technology

As more and more organizations 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: 

2020_FAB_Tablet Mockup

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.

continuous 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 recognize 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 organizations, 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 focusing on humanizing 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, focusing 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

As Reward Gateway's Managing Director, APAC, Kylie Green is responsible for the Australia and New Zealand markets, working closely with Sales, Marketing and Client Success teams. She is passionate about working with organisations to better connect and engage with their people. With 20 years experience in partnering with companies on their engagement strategies, she helps strengthen the connection between Reward Gateway’s teams and how they solve local market challenges.

Managing Director, APAC

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