He can be from within the company or can be hired from an outside firm to offer help in getting the company back on track by making changes for adapting to changing the environment.
Meaning of change agent
Technological advances, high-level competition and changing needs of the people demand a re-evaluation of company strategies from time to time. There is a huge necessity to meet the challenges head-on, and this is possible via a change initiative. It is the change agent that is entrusted with such an important role and responsibility in the organization.
A change agent puts his onus on the people within the firm and the interactions that take place amongst themselves. He also focuses his efforts on the effects of structures and changing technologies on the group and interpersonal relationships within the organization.
A change agent supports and promotes new ways of doing things and is often considered a valuable bridge between the leadership and the other employees. He provides answers and reasons for the change and persuades others to join the initiative for the welfare of the company.
Types of change agent
The types of change agent are as follows
1. Internal change agent
When a person is hired within the organization as a change agent to look after the process of changes, then he is known as an internal change agent.
He can be any one of the employees like a leader, senior executive or a manager who has the necessary knowledge in intervention technology and behavioral sciences for organizational growth and development.
2. External change agent
When a person is hired from outside the organization as a change agent to look after the change process, then he is known as an external change agent.
He is not subjected to every rule and regulation of the firm and has the liberty to bring forth a separate and different viewpoint in the equation and challenge the existing structure.
Ways to be an effective change agent
Some essential things that should be done to be an effective change agent are
1. Identify your allies
It is not easy to accept change, especially in a workplace where people become habituated to work in a certain kind of atmosphere. If a change agent suddenly starts implementing new ideas, no one is going to appreciate him or his strategies.
Identify your allies in an organization if you are looking for ways to become an effective change agent. The source of any dispute will always be people and if there are ninety against you then at least six to seven will be appreciative of your efforts. Find those allies and try to make them understand about the change initiative and its impact on the employees as well as the organization’s growth and development.
Find those employees who have a substantial standing in the company and the power to influence people. If they start batting in your favor, then half of your battle is won.
Moreover, employees have more confidence in their colleagues than a person who is entrusted with a change initiative. When such a person speaks, no one is going to ignore him instead will listen and try to understand why he is in favor of the idea. It is a slow and steady process that will take time hence be patient and comfortable with the resistance.
2. Co-create the vision
The change agent should have a vision so that he can make it his mission. It is essential to create a strategy that highlights your vision and make sure that the leadership and the people who have a say in the organization are appreciative of your efforts.
The vision is to find strong support from such people, and other employees in the organization must be aware of the fact that they are supporting your change initiative. If necessary, co-create your vision with everyone so that they feel that their contribution is essential to the person entrusted with change management; if you are looking for ways to be an effective change agent.
When everyone has a share in the input they will try to give their 100% so that the output is in your corner. Make sure that every employee can understand your vision and mission so that they can move together with you and make the change initiative a success.
Be consistent, clear and precise in your communication of vision so that you can remove any resistance that comes in your way.
3. Get everyone on the same page
A change agent finds his allies as well as the people in the top order who can offer him support at the right time. Now is the time to get everyone else on the same page because a change movement is only possible when everyone is on board.
Remember if top leaders are not involved in your initiative, the chances of failure increases and it is significant that other employees know that they are supportive of this strategy. Ask other employees to offer feedback so that you can realize your shortcomings and make necessary changes in accordance
4. Create a track record
Now is the time to create an execution plan because you have your support system in place and also the required confidence in your vision. Remember, there are deliverables in your action plan and it should be timely.
Everyone is not going to wait for numerous months to see the effect the change initiative has on others. This is a process that needs successful execution to build momentum amongst the employees to mitigate the resistance.
5. Make the change a normal process
If you are looking for ways to be an effective change agent, then you must make the change initiative a normal process. The best way for it is to make it an integral part of your daily life in the workplace. Identify the levers and tools that can aid you in your endeavors and nudge other employees towards taking part in the process.
Remember, change is not an easy process nor is being an effective change agent. He is the person who has the least number of allies and friends at the onset, but the most successful ones are those who overcome difficulties and find ways and means to implement change initiatives and make it worthwhile.
Core competencies of change agent
The core competencies of a change agent are as follows-
- Broad knowledge – A change agent must have broad knowledge about the industry as well as various related domains. He should be adept in evaluative, diagnostic and conceptual knowledge along with ethical knowledge to become a right change agent
- Operational knowledge and relationship orientation – The change agent must be someone flexible and inclined to listen, identify, trust, observe and report his findings to the organization.
- Sensitivity and maturity – The change agent must be sensitive and mature to be aware of his role and implement the strategies as per the need of the hour
- Authenticity – A change agent must practice the same principles he preaches and inspires others to become active participants for change
Roles of change agent
A change agent plays multiple roles and works as a counselor, consultant, trainer, researcher and sometimes line manager. They are expert in shifting their roles per their responsibilities to suit the needs and demands of the organization. Some of the roles and responsibilities of a change agent are as follows-
- Act as a catalyst and assume the role of managing and initiating activities related to change in the organization
- Explains the reason for the initiative, why is it taking place and who is going to be affected by it and in what manner
- The change agent focuses on innovation and advancement in the organization through the change initiative
- Manages and tracks objectives that have been established for the change agent
- Speaks and advocates in favor of a change initiative
- Formulates the method that will transform happen
- Promotes the value of transformation undertaken by a firm
- Highlights advantages of proposed actions
- Supports and guides other people through the process of change
- Anticipates the areas of potential disruption, dispute, and concern
- Develops strategies to mitigate potential disruption, conflict, and concern
- Ensures effective implementation of structures, procedures, and processes to achieve the desired value from the expected change
- Obtains related feedback
- Acts as a point-of-contact who answers questions and concerns of others
- He mediates between the contention points and issues
Skills of change agent
The skills of a change agent are as follows-
- Good people skills and the ability to build valuable and long-lasting relationships
- Cognitive skills for self-understanding and evaluation
- Strong communication and excellent pervasive skills that can spread change information amongst the workforce easily to realize and implement the initiative
- The skill to prioritize the work so that he is clear which task should be handled first and which one later
- Action skills that will help him to don the mantle of various related roles like researcher, consultant. trainer etc
Characteristics of a change agent
The characteristics of a change agent are as follows-
- Diversified knowledge to develop effective strategies
- Strong network
- Clear vision
- Able to prioritize
- Patient but also persistent
- Courage to do what needs to be done
- Strong personality
- Must be self-motivated
- Readiness to understand the potential of new opportunities
- A deeper understanding of the business and business culture
- Willingness to be tough and ask hard-hitting questions
- Flexibility and openness to facilitate creativity and change
- Calm nature is tough and adverse conditions
- Must have ownership and responsibility
- Effective listening skills
- An intent that shows his eagerness to implement the change initiative
- Have the drive to do the needful even if he faces opposition in the beginning
Advantages of internal change agent
The various advantages of the internal change agent are as follows-
- The internal change agent has a more in-depth and better understanding of the organization and its members. Their knowledge makes the change initiative process more credibility
- He has more control and authority and can handle any resistance with comparable ease
- The company does not have to shed a considerable amount of money on the internal change agent compared to an external change agent as he was already an employee of the company
Disadvantages of internal change agent
The various disadvantages of internal change agent are as follows-
- As the internal change agent is too close to the organization and other employees, he becomes too close to the problem and can be biased in his views and viewpoints
- If he is not someone who is liked in the organization, then employees can create additional issues and start resisting his change initiative attempts
- One of the disadvantages of an internal change agent is that he has to resign from his present job to take up the mantle of a change initiative. If he does not resign, then two jobs might hamper his efficiency. Hence he must reassign himself so that he is unavailable for other jobs.
Advantages of external change agent
The various advantages of the external change agent are as follows-
- External change agents are specialists in their fields with a resume of credible experiences.
- He possesses more competence, skills, and know-how than an internal change agent who had previously been working with a different job profile
- His specialization in this specific field makes him the most suitable candidate or the job
- He has specialized experience in dealing with diverse and related problems
- As he has no previous experience of the organization, he is neither biased nor inclined towards something specific. He has an objective view of the organization and the problems related to it
Disadvantages of external change agent
The various disadvantages of external change agent are as follows-
- Has a very limited or no knowledge of the firm and requires a longer time to become acquainted with every facet
- The external change agent generally requires out-of-pocket costs