Building positive workplaces with the PS+ ADKAR Model


Implementing Psychological Safety and Well-being Initiatives with the PS +ADKAR Model

In our previous article, we explored the importance of integrating psychological safety and well-being initiatives into the strategic foundations, values and cultures of organisations. To ensure the successful rollout of these initiatives, it’s crucial to have a structured approach. In this follow-up article, we will delve into the practical application of the ADKAR model (with slight modifications) to implement psychological safety and well-being initiatives effectively with sustainable and long lasting impacts.

The ADKAR Model: A Brief Overview

With slight modifications based on our understanding of neuroscience and psychological safety,  the ADKAR model is a change management framework that focuses on individual change. Developed by Prosci, it stands for:

  • A: Awareness of the need for change
  • D: Desire to support the change
  • K: Knowledge of how to change
  • A: Ability to demonstrate the change
  • R: Reinforcement to sustain the change

By following our implementation of ADKAR model, you can address the psychological safety and well-being of your employees with a tailored and systematic approach. In addition with the People Plus Science learnings from neuroscience and our understanding of organisational design and structures, it will ensure that your change management does not put your organisation and teams at high risk of change management fatigue – an identified psychosocial hazard.


The People Plus Science Modification to current "Change Management Models"

The People Plus Science approach to change management includes the assessment and evaluation of the “readiness” of the organisation and team to rollout change management or transformation within the organisation. Applying a People Plus Science approach founded in neuroscience we assess the psychological safety, trust and organisational resilience prior to any initiation of change management practices.  

This approach allows us to apply mitigation strategies to individuals and team to build “change readiness” and design and build organisational support tools to support teams during the change management process allowing for improved change management practices, improved communications and overall a more positive workplace environment during change.  We have found that only by using this framework do organisational leaders mitigate their WHS risks with psychosocial hazards.


Applying the PS + ADKAR Model to Psychological Safety Initiatives

  • Traditional change management frameworks often fall short in applying a human-centric and team centric approach, inadvertently exposing organisations to the risks associated with change management fatigue. With the People Plus Science understanding of neuroscience, psychological safety and organisational resilience, we have added the People Plus Science frameworks to the standard change management frameworks to ensure that “people risk” is mitigated and change is managed well and with longer lasting impacts.

The predominant issue lies in the implementation of “push” strategies onto employees with a strong project management and task orientated approaches, rather than evaluating the organisation’s (customers and stakeholders) readiness for change.

While models like Kotter’s 8-Step Model and Lewin’s Change Model have provide valuable insights into change management, they often overlook the critical aspect of assessing organisational and team readiness. Neglecting to identify if the organisation is “change-ready,” including key teams such as IT and process teams, customer facing teams, complaints and communications teams –  in terms of their psychological safety,  resilience, support, and trust levels, can result in a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to acknowledge the unique dynamics within different teams and the most effective well-being initiatives. This approach can lead to fatigue, frustration, and a suboptimal change management rollout, as individuals and teams have varying motivations and responses to change.

Current change management models also tend to overlook the individual and team nuances that significantly impact the success or failure of change initiatives. The absence of a thorough understanding of these differences results in a scattergun approach to change implementation, further contributing to fatigue, frustration, and resistance. Moreover, organisations often disregard the psychosocial hazards associated with change management, such as poor role definition, longer work hours, lack of certainty and poor organisational support causing significant frustration, distrust, and burnout, which can lead to adverse consequences for key personnel and customers alike and put organisational leaders at significant risk of WHS breaches.

To address these shortcomings, it is imperative that organisations adopt a neuroscience-informed approach to change management. This approach emphasises assessing the “readiness” of individuals and teams and the organisational structures and supports,  allowing for tailored strategies that align with the team’s unique needs. By identifying and addressing key psychosocial hazards and considering the varying motivations and responses of individuals and teams, organisations can enhance their change management efforts, reduce fatigue, and ultimately achieve more successful and sustainable outcomes.

Action Steps:

  • Invest in evaluating the “readiness” of the organisation and the team
  •  Design and build the supports needed for individuals and teams based on the assessment
  • Identify the motivations and communication needs within teams to inform the “awareness” stage by improving communication messages that are meeting the needs of individuals not the organisations “schedule and agenda”. 

1. Awareness

Raise awareness among your employees about the importance of psychological safety and well-being. Use communication channels, workshops, and awareness campaigns to highlight the significance of creating a safe and supportive work environment. Organisations need to clearly communicate the difference between staff engagement and culture surveys and assessments and those that are psychological safety and psychosocial hazard assessments.  Organisations with low levels of trust will need to spend more time building trust with additional communications and support mechanisms that those who have high levels of trust. 

Action Steps:

  • Communicate the benefits of psychological safety, such as increased trust, improved teamwork, and reduced stress.
  • Share real-life stories and examples to illustrate the positive impact of psychological safety.
  • Ensure you have high levels of trust in the organisation if you decide to do these steps internally.
  • Identify who your workplace advocates are and your team influencers – engage them early.

2. Desire

Create a desire among your employees to actively support psychological safety initiatives. Help them understand how these initiatives can benefit not only the organisation but also their personal well-being. Again, link this to the identified motivations of each person. What really matters to them and how do these initiatives help them reach that goal. 

Action Steps:

  • Involve employees in the planning process to increase their sense of ownership.
  • Highlight the link between psychological safety and job satisfaction, engagement, and overall well-being.
  • Link outcomes to their personal drivers and motivations – this might be career progression, professional development, better home life skills, better balance, or feeling better.

3. Knowledge

Provide employees with the knowledge they need to contribute to and benefit from psychological safety and well-being initiatives. Offer training, workshops, and resources to help them understand the concepts and practices involved. identify any barriers to improving behaviour that might need to be addressed with additional communications or creating new habits by anchoring them to current positive habits.

Action Steps:

  • Develop training programs that teach employees how to recognise signs of psychological distress and how to respond empathetically.
  • Offer resources such as guides, videos, and articles to deepen their understanding of psychological safety.
  • Have teams work on their social contract agreements on how to behave (in and out behaviours).
  • Spend time working with teams and individuals to identify, and assess current workplaces stressors and brainstorm ideas to mitigate those hazards.

4. Ability

Ensure that your employees have the skills and capabilities required to foster psychological safe and positive work environments. Encourage them to apply what they’ve learned in practical situations and create an environment that supports their efforts.

Action Steps:

  • Foster a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns, and emotions.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to practice active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution.
  • Upskill leaders and team members in conversational intelligence and social intelligence. 

5. Reinforcement

Sustain the change by reinforcing psychological safety initiatives. Continuously monitor and support employees in their efforts to maintain a psychologically safe and positive work environment.

Action Steps:

  • Recognise and reward behaviors that promote psychological safety, such as constructive feedback and supporting colleagues in times of stress.
  • Conduct regular check-ins or surveys to gauge the organisation’s progress and identify areas for improvement.
  • Identify the employee journey where there are key interactions that cause concern or anxiety.


Implementing psychological safety and well-being initiatives within your  organisation using the PS+ADKAR model can yield remarkable results. This structured approach ensures that each employee is adequately prepared and motivated to embrace these initiatives, ultimately leading to a more supportive, healthy, and productive work environment.

Remember that change takes time, and it requires consistent effort and support. By following the PS +ADKAR model and adapting it to your organisation’s specific needs, you can effectively roll out psychological safe and positive workplace initiatives and nurture a workplace where employees feel valued, supported, and psychologically safe. In doing so, you not only enhance the well-being of your staff but also strengthen your organisation’s ability to provide the highest level of care to the communities you serve.

“Go beyond compliance if you really wish to see a difference in workplace culture, customer care and advocacy, and employee engagement. If you have a people first strategy rather than a compliance one, your need for oversight wil reduce significantly”.  Carolyn Grant

Interested in Learning More?

Book a briefing on psychological safety today. Mitigate your greatest risk and drive high performing, thriving teams.