When organizations believe they must change to survive, they often bring in an outsider to drive that transformation. But that can be as disruptive as it is stressful, leading to turnover, reduced productivity and sinking morale. The better solution may be in harnessing the power of existing teams to come up with ideas that trigger change and drive innovation.
“Change agent” is no longer just a term for an outside consultant or someone in the C-suite who is charged with transforming an organization.
More organizations now realize they must have leaders and employees who are change agents, capable of looking at what they do in a different way and bringing about change in order to be competitive.
Allen Barclay, a management professor for Colorado State University, explains in his research that it makes sense that employers should turn to employees to be change agents, since in times of change “it is often up to the employees to make the change work.” In addition, tapping employees as change agents can be critical to truly transforming an organization or process as employees who provide input about making changes are more likely to support it and ensure it’s successful, he says.
“Within change, we are not normally changing the organization; we are changing the people in the organization. This reinforces the need to shift focus from the organization and management and instead target employees,” he says. “Employees should be charged with the ability to foster positive change by management, but more so, by themselves.”
To do that, Barclay suggests employees who are considering whether they would be good change agents should ask themselves:
Employees who are willing to work to make the organization or themselves better not only demonstrate leadership potential, but begin to see change as less daunting and more a part of their everyday routine, he argues.
“If a true team member is continuously asking how they can improve, and they are the ones tied to the actual work, then this should lead to supportive buy-in, performance, and overall more effective and efficient change,” he says.
But sometimes it’s not clear who is just giving lip service to supporting change and who is a team member who has the right attitude, skills and knowledge to make a difference.
That’s why when an organization is trying to identify team members who will be effective change agents, they should look for those who:
Finally, many experts say that a key question to ask when seeking key change agents is: Who would you miss if your company went out of business tomorrow, and why?