What is the ADKAR model and how does it work?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The ADKAR model of change is a useful framework that can help organisations looking to implement change management. It is a useful tool to analyse change within a company and understand what is happening. To do this, it uses five elements as building blocks to create change from a human perspective. In this article, we discuss what the ADKAR model is and outline how it brings about organisational change.

Related: 10 change management models to use in the workplace

What is the ADKAR model?

The ADKAR model is a framework used in change management and is an outcome-oriented approach that limits resistance to change from within an organisation. It was originally created by the founder of Prosci, Jeffrey Hyatt, and is a Prosci change management methodology. The ADKAR model uses the acronym to outline the five elements of change management. These five elements include:

  • Awareness: The company is aware that there is a need for some changes to operations.

  • Desire: The company has a desire to implement these changes and support them.

  • Knowledge: The company has the required knowledge to bring about these changes.

  • Ability: The company has the ability to create change within the organisation.

  • Reinforcement: The company can reinforce the changes to make them stick.

The ADKAR change management model suggests that awareness and desire should focus on moving a company out of its existing state. Knowledge and ability are important during the transition period, with reinforcement focusing on the future of the business.

Related: Managing workplace change (with helpful tips and examples)

How to use the ADKAR model for organisational change

The ADKAR model looks at the outcomes of a business, which is why it's a useful tool to implement change in a company by creating milestones throughout the process. It's important that everyone involved in this organisational change can reach every milestone, but it doesn't have to be at the same time. Here's a breakdown of how you can use the ADKAR model to improve staff outcomes during a change:

1. Create awareness around the need for change

Clearly communicate the need for change across the company. This should be more than a mere announcement, as it's essential that employees understand the justification and reasoning behind the changes. Creating awareness starts with a clear outline of why the changes are necessary. When creating awareness around the need for change, it's important to focus on the inherent benefits that the changes may bring. Help individuals understand how these changes might impact their own work. This is also a chance for staff to ask about the changes so that they are best informed about what is happening within the company.

Related: How to overcome resistance to change at work in 6 steps

2. Create a desire to make the change

Once staff understands why changes are happening, the next hurdle is convincing them that change is beneficial to them. The idea is to encourage staff to adopt the changes more readily. Assigning change leaders to nurture this desire for change is a useful approach to encourage staff. Change leaders can help by showing other staff how their daily duties might change as a result of the changes and providing support to staff that have concerns about what might happen.

It is crucial that change leaders encourage others by pointing to specific advantages that the changes should bring. This should be more about individuals rather than the company as a whole. Instead of discussing monetary savings brought about by the changes, change leaders can focus on how it makes daily operations easier or faster in some capacity. In essence, you want employees to feel assured that their work is only going to change for the better as a result of the changes.

3. Cultivate knowledge surrounding how to change

Once reaching the knowledge milestone of the ADKAR model, it's important to consider how training, education and coaching might help. To do this, staff should learn about how these changes might impact their day-to-day duties. Knowledge-building can be specific to departments, staff and their responsibilities. So, if new software is being implemented, it's important that the IT department knows how to set the new systems up. For other departments, the focus should be on how to use the new software.

It's important that companies take the time to determine what core skills or duties might change as a result of the restructure. This lets organisations better plan ahead for the change and subsequent skill development for staff. You can use varying training methods, such as classroom training, blogs and self-guided learning to help do this.

4. Make sure staff have the ability to make the changes

Staff require confidence in their own abilities to roll out those changes. This gap between knowledge and skill can lessen when using change leaders to coach and guide staff towards success. An effective change leader can use feedback from individuals to overcome potential challenges and highlight issues in the outlined changes.

Another aspect of providing staff with the tools to succeed is through practical training sessions. This gives staff an opportunity to learn on the job and test out the changes before bringing them into their work schedule. This, in turn, boosts an individual's confidence in their abilities and gives change leaders an opportunity to track progress and offer feedback. When it comes to large-scale changes within a company, it is a good idea to roll out the changes in stages to better assess and identify issues.

5. Reinforce the changes

It is important to reinforce the changes made so that employees don't revert back to their old ways of working. Once the new changes are in place or new applications have been set up, it's important to continually reinforce the changes. This can occur in a number of ways, but the most positive method is to celebrate the success of the changes. This encourages enthusiasm within the company and reinforces the changes.

There should be careful consideration about how you address staff when discussing the changes and their ability to adhere to them. For example, avoid confronting staff in front of others when they make a mistake. Speak with them privately to make them feel comfortable about the feedback. In contrast, when staff implement the changes successfully try to praise them publicly so that they feel a greater sense of accomplishment. This also brings teams together to celebrate the successes as a unit.

Related: What are the different structures of a business? (With tips)

The benefits of using the ADKAR model

The ADKAR model is a powerful framework for organisations to perform change management successfully. There are a number of benefits associated with using this model, as it:

Creates a practical approach to change management

Many types of change frameworks focus on the theoretical aspects of change, such as outlining group psychology or organisational change. Although these approaches do have their uses, they are difficult to apply directly to an organisation. The ADKAR model allows for a practical framework that can work in many types of business and their departments or staff.

Related: Matrix organisation structure: advantages and disadvantages

Offers a ready-to-go solution for businesses

As a framework for change management, the ADKAR model provides all of the resources and planning required to make decisive changes within a company. That makes it an excellent option for smaller companies that don't have the resources to devise their own plans for change. In essence, the ADKAR model creates a ready-to-go solution for companies to implement change management.

Related: A guide to functional structure: benefits and disadvantages

Provides a tried and tested approach

The ADKAR model was first conceived in 2003 and since then it has shown its usefulness across a multitude of industries. What this shows is that it works for all types of organisations. Due to its popularity as a model for change, it has been thoroughly tested and implemented countless times to great success.

Aligns with training and support

There is a considerable amount of training and support available for companies looking to implement the ADKAR model to ensure it happens effectively. The company that developed the ADKAR model, Prosci, offers their own range of training and support programmes for companies to use. There are also independent trainers to help companies implement the ADKAR model to great success.

Explore more articles