Every business, no matter how big or small, will go through a process of change and as anyone who has been involved in change knows, it can be a period that is fraught with difficulty, with resistance and with problems.

So that is where ‘change agents’ come in. Change agents are people who are effectively placed in a position that they will drive forward change, they will, in effect act as a vehicle or catalyst for change within a business.

Who Can Be A Change Agent?

There is no fixed definition of who can and cannot be a change agent. Often they are appointed from within an organisation because they will know the business, they will be able to understand the needs of the workforce and they will have a good contact base within the organisation.

However, sometimes a change agent will be brought in as an external consultant, either because there is no suitable individual within the workplace, or because it is felt that a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ has to be brought in to ensure that the change can happen as painlessly as possible.

Skills Needed To Be An Effective Change Agent

More important than whether someone is internal or external to the company, the main criteria for appointing anyone as a change agent needs to be a strong set of skills.

A change agent needs very strong interpersonal skills. They need to be able to take the workforce with them. But they also need to be able to work well with senior management, some of whom may claim to be in favour of change, but in practice they are unwilling to relinquish their ‘old ways’.

In addition a change agent has to be aware of different ways that resistance to change can be presented and they need to be able to challenge this resistance in a way that does not alienate people, but rather ensures that they get on board and embrace change. This may sound easy when written down, but in practice can be quite difficult.

Communication skills as well as analytical and problem solving skills also need to be very good for a change agent to be effective and to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible.

Mental Attitude Required

An effective change agent needs to have the right mental attitude to be able to succeed. Any change process can be frustrating, often involving arguments, people being uncooperative and so on and the change agent needs to be not just persistent but also very patient and of course diplomatic!

They all need to be determined to succeed and bring about change, because if not, they will simply ‘give in’ when the going gets tough and the last thing that any business needs is a change agent who simply throws in the towel when times get difficult.

Knowledge Required

As if the skills set highlighted above were not enough, a change agent also has to have real and concrete knowledge about the business or if they do not have this knowledge then they have to be prepared to learn it, so that they really understand the need for change and the impact that change will have on the business.

The Benefits A Change Agent Can Bring

Change agents can effectively turn around a business by ensuring that change becomes something that is seen as a positive move, rather than something that should be resisted. Change agents can act as the conduit for change and their skills and enthusiasm can win round even the most entrenched views.

They are also a single point of contact who can be consulted on all aspects of change, so that they are able to absorb all the points raised in relation to change, answer all the queries about the change process.

A good change agent will make change seem like a good thing, which in itself is no small feat and makes a good change agent worth their weight in gold!

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