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The ADKAR Model in an Organization

The ADKAR Model in an Organization

The ADKAR model helps us understand an individual’s needs during a change at work and directs what kind of support we can provide to help them successfully transition. Let’s apply ADKAR to the implementation of a new software tool:

1. Awareness

Is your employee aware of the need for change? If the change is implemented and the employee is not aware that any changes are needed, their reaction might be: “This is a waste of time, it was fine before.” Awareness of the business or organizational need for the change is critical. Awareness may include explaining to the employee that the old software will no longer be supported by the vendor, and that new software is necessary to meet customer needs and improve efficiency. Organizational awareness messages are most effective when delivered from the most senior leaders in the organization. Based on this awareness, the reaction will likely be very different: “How soon will this happen and how will this impact me?”

2. Desire

Does your employee have the desire to participate in the change? If an employee has no desire to change, you may hear: “I’m not interested in changing. What’s in it for me?” In this case, the resistant employee’s direct manager or supervisor is in the best position to help. They are closest to employees and understand their day-to-day work best. Through one-on-one conversations, managers can uncover their employee’s personal reasons for resisting and can remove any barriers to the employee buying in to the change. The manager can also help to create desire by translating the change into meaningful terms and helping to answer “What’s in it for me?” While the manager plays a key role here, ultimately the employee must make a personal decision to participate in this change based on their own unique motivations.

3. Knowledge

Does your employee have the knowledge to make the change? In order to effectively change, you need to know how. Knowledge-building should only be provided after the milestones of awareness and desire have been achieved. If training is provided before this, employees will not connect the training to the change and will not engage in knowledge-building. To make the most of a training investment, also ensure that training is specific to the employee’s role in the change.

4. Ability

Can your employee put their knowledge into practice? Knowing how to perform in the future changed state and having the ability to actually perform in the future changed state are very different. If an employee has knowledge but not ability, you might hear: "I’m not getting these new steps right" or "I get there, but it takes me twice as long." To bridge the knowledge to ability gap, employees benefit from hands-on coaching and practice in an environment where they can make mistakes and ask questions. To realize a change, employees also need time. When ability is achieved, the change takes place, and you will see the new demonstrated behaviors.

5. Reinforcement

Do you have reinforcements in place to prevent your employee from reverting to old habits? When reinforcement is not in place, employees may use work-arounds or rely on their old spreadsheets instead of the new system. You may hear things like: "The new way takes too long; I’m going to keep doing it my way" or "I keep forgetting to include the new department." The human brain is wired for habit, and physiologically we are programed to revert to old habits. We must have reinforcements in place to sustain the change. Monitor whether the change is being sustained or not, and where the change has taken hold, celebrate and recognize it. Positive recognition is a great way to reward employees for making the change and to demonstrate that participation is important. If some employees are reverting to old processes or habits, check to see if they need more training or coaching and reinforce that they are expected to continue working in the new way.

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