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Leaders Need to Be More Transparent With Employees

Businessman sitting in office and thinkingBusinessman sitting in office and thinking

The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Dean Aloise, global HR consulting leader at Xerox, and Steve Coco, global practice leader of management consulting at Xerox HR Services, have answered the question: How do you deal with change at a large corporation?

From new policies and leadership to relocations and rebranding, corporate changes are often necessary to maintain market influence and revitalize a brand. While some changes are more significant than others, any shift in employees’ environment or perceptions can distract them from the work they do for your organization and customers. And while these shifts can create positive “buzz,” they can also generate fear, anxiety, and even anger.

At Xerox (XRX), we know first-hand the excitement—and the stress—associated with business transformations. We’ve been through several recently and are in the midst of one now. What we’ve learned is just how important it is for people managers and business leaders to work together to anticipate and understand employee perspectives, identify and engage change champions at various levels in the organization, and proactively plan to rally the troops.

Here’s what we’ve found works best to deal with change at a large corporation:

Take a two-pronged approach
Change must be managed from two angles: the tactical and the emotional. Deploy a team that’s responsible for the change-management governance structure and processes and works in tandem with another team that’s focused on gathering feedback and driving engagement. Together, they develop both change key performance indicators (KPIs) and change plans; the former keeps things on track while the latter ensures change KPIs are effectively delivered.

See also: How to Deal With Change at a Huge Company

Empower “lower-level” leaders
In addition to an executive leadership team that helps to maintain calm with genuine and consistent messaging, all employees should be empowered to be change leaders. We believe everyone is a change leader, regardless of title, and encourage them to take ownership of changes at all levels by including them in important meetings.

Relatedly, it’s important to give all employees opportunities to ask questions and be heard—whether over lunch with executives (in person or virtual), through posts to online forums, or via private messages. We’ve found that candid answers provide real-time trust in leadership—even if the answer is, “We don’t know yet.” We’ve also found that focus groups work well for leaders to better understand employee viewpoints.

Err on TMI
It’s easy for senior leaders to forget just how much more insight they may have into the “what, why, and how” of changes than the rest of the organization does. Try to err on over-communicating by sharing information early and often through various channels (email, video, or desk drops). We’ve found you often do need to say it, say it, and say it again in order for people to really hear it.

Take a deep breath
When a change is announced, employees tend to go in two directions emotionally: withdrawal and departure or adaptation and commitment. To keep employees focused, it’s important to remind them of all of the positive ways in which their day-to-day will remain the same. To help employees who feel overwhelmed by the change, ask your managers to sit down with them and make a “can-control/can’t-control” list. Together, these approaches provide reassurance that the change is manageable.


Provide info on demand
Some employees will want to learn as much as they can about the change, and others will look for information only when they need it. To meet a variety of consumption preferences, offer written and graphic materials through multiple channels that employees can examine at their own pace. Materials should have a consistent visual brand and address how the change will impact everyone. We use microsites, live chat, interactive PDFs, infographics, 30-second videos, and FAQs.

Even when you can’t control every aspect of a corporate change, the above approaches will help you minimize disruption to employee productivity and ensure that the transition is smooth.