Apply the ADKAR Model to Guide Your Organization Through Change
Change is hard. Whether it’s a small team’s adoption of a new technology or a company-wide reorganization, leading people through change of any size is a challenge. Employees — fearful of the unknown — might push back against the proposed change. Or, once a company implements a change, teams can easily slip back into old habits after the initial period of vigilance subsides.
It’s important for leaders to recognize that enacting change comes with a major ask of employees — stepping outside of their comfort zone. Gaining support from employees protective of their roles is a tall task unless you help them understand why the change is important.
Luckily, a tried and true model for navigating change management exists — the ADKAR model.
Say “hello” to the ADKAR change management model
Author and founder of the change management firm Prosci, Jeff Hiatt, created the goal-oriented ADKAR model to guide individual understanding of wider organizational change. It’s a tool for planning change management activities, equipping the leaders facilitating change, and supporting your employees throughout the change.
The ADKAR acronym represents the five tangible outcomes needed to achieve lasting change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement. Change only happens once employees can confidently say that they have “the awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement to make this change happen.”
The 5 building blocks of the ADKAR model
To effectively implement ADKAR in your organization, get to know the five building blocks of the ADKAR change management model.
Share with employees that change is coming. If the change is shrouded in mystery and poorly communicated, leaders are likely to encounter resistance from employees. Even though change is inevitable, to a degree, employees never want to feel blindsided by it.
Build a solid foundation to the change management process by ensuring anyone who will be affected by the change is aware of it far ahead of its launch date. To instill trust, go a step further and explain what triggered the change and what steps come next.
If leadership doesn’t help employees understand the problems with the old ways of working, employees aren’t going to see the need for the new ways of working. Encourage your team to ask questions and make suggestions. Encourage a team player mindset by showing that employees are part of the team.
Understanding there’s a need for change and wanting change to happen are two different mindsets. When members on your team understand the necessity of the change and view it as helpful, they’ll lean in and work towards the common goal.
When employees don’t support the change, leaders won’t see a desire to participate. Take note of their reactions and recognize the different levels of desire displayed when a change plan is announced. It’s not a negative if some oppose the change, but it is a leader’s responsibility to explain the rationale behind the decision. Work with your team, and encourage open discussion.
Remember that change is scary for many of us, especially so when it comes to our jobs. It’s up to leaders of a change process to reassure the affected teams and help them understand how it fits within the business’s future success.
With business change comes new processes and procedures. It’s challenging enough for your change management team to build new processes for a company. But within that building and planning, you also need to account for thorough employee training to ensure a smooth rollout.
Unless employees know what to do and how to get it done, they can’t help the company move forward. Even if they have the desire. Document these processes. When employees have a guide to reference they’re empowered to follow best practices. Visual documentation, in addition to written words, is especially helpful.
The more training and rationale offered by the company, the more employees can appreciate and carry out the work needed to implement the change. And, the next step in the ADKAR model will be easier to tackle.
To help your employees move from the knowledge stage to the ability stage, they’ll need plenty of opportunities to practice. In this phase, observe employees as they roll out the new processes and take note of what does or doesn’t work.
Offer constructive feedback if needed and encourage them to keep practicing. Look for ways to improve and streamline new processes or tools. Though your team might understand the necessities of the change, leaders can’t assume they’ll have the competency to fully perform their new tasks immediately.
It takes about two months for most people to form a new habit. That’s why reinforcement is the final crucial step of the ADKAR change management model. If reinforcement of new processes isn’t made a priority, leaders can expect to see many employees turn to the comfortable, old ways of doing things.
Reinforcement doesn’t require leaders to hover over employees while they accomplish their new work. Rather, it can be demonstrated through rewards, ongoing performance discussions, and notes of positive feedback. Overall, leaders want to — either implicitly or explicitly — show that the change is a lasting part of the company.
In the spirit of continuous learning, the reinforcement stage should also serve as an opportunity to examine if any new processes are in need of retooling. Prevent small issues from snowballing into major difficulties by practicing workplace agility. Listen to employee feedback and work with them to find solutions to implement the change without adding to previous concerns.
The ADKAR model prepares employees for anything
Apprehension is expected when introducing a major change in the workplace. By using the ADKAR model to center the employee experience amidst the change, leaders place everyone involved on a path to success.
Learn more strategies for helping your company successfully navigate change in The 5 Principles of Change Agility: How to Prepare for Anything.