How to find and champion employees who are changemakers

October 14, 2022, 12:55 PM UTC
Executives from Qualcomm, H&R Block, Workday, and PagerDuty discuss workplace culture and changemakers at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Oct. 12, 2022.
Kristy Walker for Fortune

Adopting change requires clear communication, strong leadership, and unique perspectives. And leaders who can solicit employee buy-in while backing those same employees as they suggest ideas and take risks is key. 

“The biggest change was during COVID,” said Anastasia Soare, chief executive officer of Anastasia Beverly Hills, while speaking on a panel during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif., on Wednesday.

Soare’s beauty company, which has developed a cult following especially for its eyebrow products, saw a huge uptick after clients spent months scrutinizing their own faces on their computer screens. Soare started offering virtual tutorials as a result. That kind of abrupt change was something she was willing to do because as an immigrant, she said she built her life and her brand by taking risks. 

“I consider myself resourceful,” she said. 

These days, Soare has a lot to lose with a $3 billion company. So rather than take huge risks, she ensures her team has a plan A and a plan B in place first. 

“Before, I didn’t have to explain to anyone; just pay my taxes, do my thing,” she joked. “Now the deal is changing; the team is changing.”

Getting all employees on board is crucial that way, though Tiffany Scalzitti Monroe, chief people and culture officer at H&R Block, said it’s not necessary that everyone agrees with your choices. 

“So for me, it’s really about communicating and ensuring that your team understands at least why—even if they don’t like it or don’t agree with it, they understand ‘the why,’ and they understand what they do adds to you being able to achieve that,” she said. 

The same goes for employees who might consider themselves disrupters. 

“At some point, people can decide for themselves, and maybe they don’t want to be part of the change that you’re driving. And that could be okay, but they would need to make a different choice,” Scalzitti Monroe added. 

Difference of thought is a good thing, though. And remote communication platforms such as Zoom have leveled the playing field for many companies amid remote work. That means if an employee has an idea, it’s not totally taboo to go directly to management with it, said Manjula Talreja, senior vice president and chief customer officer at PagerDuty. 

“It’s okay to come up with an idea and Slack your top management or even your CEO…So we may be doing skip levels, but if somebody has an idea…for new tools and technologies that are outside of being in a room or in the hallway or, you know, in a conference room, you have an opportunity to do it,” Talreja said. “Whether you’re sitting in Michigan or you’re sitting in Belgium or you’re sitting in Australia.”

Similarly everyone on your computer screen now has equal space in your line of view. 

“And so everybody has equal footing,” said Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm. “Everybody has a little square on the screen.”

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