ELI5: What is a change agent?



With new technology, new practices and new people, change is inevitable for businesses. From implementing a new policy, to deploying automation, it’s impossible to avoid making big changes to your business now and then.

No matter the change in question, sometimes you need help managing the transition. This is where the role of a change agent comes into play.

But what is a change agent?


What is a change agent?

A change agent is someone that works with a group or organisation to promote, enable and support change.

This might be a new way of doing small things like using a process during a given workflow. It might be a much wider change, such as an adapting business model or the introduction of new tools and systems.

To be a change agent, you need skills like positivity, problem-solving, and empathy. You also need to understand both the business and the intricacies of the change in question.

Other titles for change agents include ‘agent of change’ and ‘change advocate’.


Types of change agent

Answering the ‘what is a change agent’ question means looking at the different types of change agent, too.

Some act as a separate role, some take the responsibilities on as part of their other duties.

For example, supervisors and managers might take on the task of change advocacy. Or, the change advocate might be someone in a lower-tier role, but that has the right skills to fulfil the requirements of being a change agent. These are your internal change agents.

Change agents can also come from an external source. External change agents are explicitly brought into a business to assist a planned change.


The responsibilities

Another way to think about the ‘what is a change agent’ question is by looking at what they do to support and advocate for change.

·       Promote and highlight the value of the change

A change agent should highlight the benefits of a planned change. They need to draw attention to the value of the change and make every effort to encourage teams to view it positively.

For instance, in the case of automation deployment, the change agent would highlight how it will reduce their tedious tasks.

·       Act as a liaison between teams and decision-makers

Change brings uncertainty and concerns. The change agent should field these worries. Then, they offer assurance and communicate stresses to leadership or decision-makers.

For example, automation can induce concerns about job loss. A change agent can calm these concerns and talk with leadership to create a strategy for reducing employee anxiety.

·       Plan and prepare for the change

The change agent is also the person in charge of working out how to introduce the change to the office or organisation. If any preparation work needs doing, they need to highlight that and make sure it’s completed.

For example, they might need to highlight the processes that need automating and ensure that they’re optimised for automation.

·       Support teams through the change

During the transition phase, the change agent’s role is to support teams and minimise disruption as much as possible. This means answering any questions, ironing out any issues, and helping teams get to grips with the change.

With automation, the change agent may help teams notice where it’s able to help them.

·       Ensure the change, once implemented, delivers the promised value

Once the change has taken place, the final challenge facing the change advocate is making sure that the change delivers its promised value.

For automation, this might mean making sure all the processes are working as desired.


Change agent

So, what is a change agent? A change agent is someone that helps businesses make changes. They not only help to implement the needed changes, but they’re positive about it, and they help others feel the same way.


Useful links

15 skills that will never be automatable

Why we should embrace automation disruption

The awkward interplay of man vs machine


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