Driving Successful Change: Applying Transparency, Unity, and Empathy for Business Transformations

In the dynamic landscape of business, change is no longer an occasional occurrence – it is an integral part of staying competitive. And bringing your people along the journey with you through any transformation is critical.

As a successful leader committed to business transformation, it is essential that you navigate the effects of change ahead of any transformation effort, making sure to consider the well-being and support of your team in addition to the long-term goals of your organization.

Why is it important to think about this now? Because if your organization is not facing change now, change is likely right around the corner, coming sooner rather than later. According to Gartner, the typical organization today has undertaken five major firm-wide changes in the past three years — and nearly 75% expect to multiply the types of major change initiatives they will undertake in the next three years.

This may not be surprising. Staying ahead of the competition and riding the crest of technological advancements requires constant motion and new ways of thinking for your organization and for many others. But engaging your team along the way to ensure they are aware of and understand any changes ahead pays dividends.

Long-term research by both Gallup and McKinsey shows that highly engaged teams outperform the rest in business outcomes critical to the success of your organization. Specifically, the data shows that engaged teams experience 81% lower absenteeism than their less-engaged peers, 41% fewer quality defects in their work, and 43% lower rates of turnover.

Transparency. A key element to employee engagement today is the desire to understand what is going on, what is being asked of each person, and why the organization is making a change. In short: Your employees crave transparency. During times of change, transparency fosters trust, reduces resistance, and enhances employee focus and support for what’s ahead.

That said: Being transparent doesn’t mean that you must reveal every single detail of what’s going on, or be the expert on each and every milestone. Change is dynamic. You don’t have to be perfect, know all the answers, or be an open book to be open and honest with your people about what’s going on or what’s about to happen.

The goal with transparency is to give employees the right information at the right time so that they can make informed decisions for themselves and grow to accept or advocate for the change.

“This approach may represent a change for leaders who feel they should always know the answer to every question or aren’t used to explaining their decisions to their teams,” writes Deb Hughes, Senior Vice President of Transformation Communications and Change Management at ADP.

“Alternatively, by offering the specific pros and cons of the choices that went into the final call (to make the change), we are enabling our leaders to represent the decision with clarity, which reduces stress and anxiety for everyone.”

Consider these key strategies for embracing transparency during times of change:

Be Upfront with Information:

  • Provide timely and accurate information about the upcoming change to employees.
  • Communicate the reasons behind the change and its expected impact on individuals and the organization.
  • Share the timeline and key milestones to help employees prepare and adapt.

Remove Barriers to Change:

  • Address any fears or concerns employees may have and provide reassurance.
  • Create an environment where employees feel safe to voice their questions and opinions.
  • Encourage open dialogue and discussions throughout the change process.

To Foster Greater Trust and Engagement:

  • Actively listen to employee feedback and incorporate their input whenever possible.
  • Involve employees in decision-making processes related to the change.
  • Recognize and celebrate the efforts and achievements of employees during the change journey.

The key takeaways here are that transparency creates an environment of trust, encourages collaboration, and empowers employees to embrace change in ways that can lead to long-term success. It also places you in a position of being a respected voice or champion for change and of understanding how difficult it can be to accept.

Unity. It is important to remember, you’re not in this alone. It’s meaningful to have direct managers and supervisors amplify the message too. Arm them with key messaging and some of the anticipated questions with answers or replies at the ready. Research suggests that employees’ direct supervisors and senior leaders are the preferred sources of implementation-related and job-relevant information during change.

Empathy. Tone is important as well. How you deliver the message matters to them – it is not always “what” you say, but “how” you say it. Research by Cen April Yue finds that a leader’s use of empathetic language – words that focus on care, compassion, and perspective-taking – plays an important role in providing comfort and assurance. This change will be easier on some than on others. Consider your audience and what they need to hear.

“Communicating with empathy and care also means leaders verbally recognize what followers have gone through by listening and checking in on their thoughts,” Dr. Yue writes. “In turn, line supervisors can translate employees’ concerns to decision-makers, serving as internal boundary-spanners across different lines and functions.”

The argument can be made that, if a leader does not put focus on the people directly affected by any extensive change, the results are unlikely to meet anyone’s goals. Through the lens of empathy, leaders can and must assess what internal barriers there are to change, address any real fear factors that their people face, and make a case for benefits to the change early and often – laying the groundwork for smooth transitions and greater success.

Engaging. Engaged leaders are the most successful leaders. We have seen that first hand. Whether communicating a new initiative or developing the ‘soft skills’ of an entire division set in its ways, members of the Thought Logic Consulting team can attest that it is the leaders who reach out early, explain as much as they can, and offer a compelling story of the “why” behind the change who make the strongest connection with their workforce.

Connect with us and let us put our experience to work for you. With Thought Logic Consulting’s top-tier capabilities in change strategy, development, execution, and post-go-live monitoring, you can ensure a smooth transition, minimize disruptions, and achieve sustainable business results.


Maria Connor

Capability Leader, People & Change

Sean Selman

Managing Consultant, Org Solutions & Change Management

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Thought Logic’s Strategy + Transformation smartSolution helps businesses navigate organizational transformation through periods of growth and change.

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