No doubt you will have seen the increase in the demand for internal ‘change agents’. Rarely are position descriptions produced today, without some reference to the need for the candidate to act as an ‘agent for change’ and drive the business transformation efforts internally.

As budgets have tightened, more businesses are reluctant to rely on external consultants for long. It appears to be a catchall term, regardless of your background or experience, you must be adept at driving change within your organisation.

But should we expect employees in non-specialist positions to do this without any support?

This was the dilemma that one of my clients faced.. She was the team leader of a sustainability team within a government owned agency charged with changing the behaviours of the employees with regards to reducing the use of paper, water, energy and waste.

She needed to build internal capability for change, and create a powerful team of change agents to achive their KPIs. So I worked with her to develop an internal change capability building program.  The results were quite exciting.

I developed a change capability audit using a combination of the Change Management Institute’s Competency framework, and a questionnaire addressing change goals, and a personal SWOT analysis.  From this I created individual coaching plans focused on building the skills and knowledge in the areas that were perecived as weakest.

We ran a series of group workshops to provide a base level of knowledge and  followed up with the individual coaching and the topics covered in the group workshops were:

  • Managing people though change,
  • Persuasive Communication,
  • Strategic Change and
  • Change Communication.

At the end of the program, I asked the team members to do the audit again, and reflect on how they had performed with respect to their original change goals.

As a group the change in perceived change capability was noticeable and measurable. And as you can see from some of the comments below, it was a very effective program.

 I think this process has provided me with the knowledge on how to effectively communicate change and influence people in a positive way.

  I believe the team has broadened its communication and influencing tools and has become more proficient in influencing effectively; they are overall more aware of their behaviour and how they communicate. I have seen this program as a great development opportunity for my staff who have greatly benefited from the theory provided as well as the individual one-on-one coaching sessions.

We met all of these goals for the past financial year. We used our change skills to help meet them, as without a fair amount of influencing we may not have got there.

One of the interesting observations from the team, was that even though the coaching was individual, they had developed a common language as a group to discuss change related matters, and were more effective at communicating internally, as a result.

So as with all client engagements, there’s always some great lessons to be shared and I’ve summarised in the attached infographic. Here’s 6 tips on how to create change agents based on some of the learnings of the program.

1) Be clear on what you want to change – is it behaviour, processes or thinking? Describe what it means to be a change agent

2) Be clear on how you can measure the outcomes and the changes. Your team will be more motivated to continue using new skills if they can see change in their efforts. Take check points often.

3)  Ensure that you team members are comfortable with the coaching process. Don’t force people to undergo coaching if they are not comfortable with it. Good coaching respects boundaries.

4) Stay flexible. As your change agents learn new skills they may wish to take on different roles within the business.

5) Provide space for the team members to practise their new skills. Understand that initial attempts may be a bit clumsy. Encourage and support your change agents.

6) Allow time for the program. Individuals have different speeds at which they learn and process new knowledge. Allow for 6 – 12 coaching sessions per person and time for reflection.

 I hope you find them useful. Would love to hear of your experiences of creating change agents within!

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Dr Jen Frahm – Author of Conversations of Change: A guide to implementing workplace change.

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