Thought Leadership Articles

    Why People Managers are so Important During Change

    Oct 6, 2023 | Posted by Rhys Tompkins

    People Managers are the backbone of the day-to-day operations of an organisation. These sought-after individuals have usually reached their position due to their competence and subject matter expertise and can often be found over-stretched and under-resourced, moving from one urgent situation to the next, putting out fires and keeping everything running smoothly (on the surface).

    With so many critical day-to-day operational responsibilities, it may seem somewhat unfair that when a change is pending, it is in fact these in-high-demand individuals, the People Managers, who we must ask for more from.

    That’s because when it comes to change, People Managers have other crucial work ahead of them to ensure the adoption and usage of a change. This is in addition to what is already expected of them.
    Prosci®’s Best Practices in Change Management Research has identified that, following Sponsors, People Managers are the most integral contributors towards project success. The research identifies the five key roles of people managers:

    • Communicator
    • Liaison
    • Advocate
    • Resistance Manager
    • Coach

    Optimal performance of these roles will have a positive influence on building Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement (ADKAR) for each member of the People Manager’s team. The ADKAR Model is what enables individuals to adopt and use the change.

    So, what does performing each of these roles actually entail? How do these roles influence ADKAR? And what’s the risk if these roles are not performed correctly?

    Arguably the most important of the five roles, the role of the Communicator stands alone yet is needed to fulfil the other four roles. Prosci’s research has shown that most often a lack of Awareness is the primary reason employees resist a change. A lack of communication will lead a team to a lack of Awareness about why changes are being made which in turn, leads to resistance. As a Communicator, the Awareness for the need for change must be built by answering important questions from team members. Such questions include “Why?” “Why now?” “What if?” and “How does it impact me or us?”

    Project Teams and Change Sponsors require up-to-date information regarding implementation progress and whether the change is delivering expected benefits. By Liaising with these personnel, People Managers can provide far-reaching feedback on adoption and proper functionality and moreover, can positively influence Reinforcement, ensuring that team members will continue to apply the change over time.

    People managers are influential. Advocating strongly for a change through words and actions will influence a team members' Desire. This should result in them following suit and be willing to participate in and support the change. If a People Manager doesn’t believe in the change themselves or doesn’t advocate for it, they risk inadvertently sending the message that the change is not important, which will create barrier points at Desire for their team.
    Prosci’s Best Practice Research states that People Managers are the preferred sender of messages regarding the personal impacts of a change (the What’s In It For Me / WIIFM) which directly relates to Desire.
    Desire is, notoriously, the most difficult barrier point to overcome in the ADKAR sequence due to the fact it is an employees’ personal decision whether to support or resist a change. Managers cannot change an employee’s mind yet there are tactics, within the Advocate role, that can be used to influence an employee’s Desire.

    Resistance Manager
    In order to effectively lead change, People Managers must also be Resistance Managers. Resistance is a natural human reaction to change, and the onus is on People Managers to determine the root cause of resistance and to apply tactics that address that root cause in each and every individual for which they are responsible. Addressing resistance succinctly and celebrating progress in adopting and using the change will have an enormous impact on the Desire and Reinforcement elements of ADKAR in an individual.

    In order for a change to be successful people managers must support team members to gain the Knowledge they need about how to change and develop the Ability to adopt and use the change in their daily work. Proper coaching will in turn have a positive impact on the corresponding Knowledge and Ability elements of your team’s ADKAR Model.

    Change Management Practitioners develop specific plans for implementing change, yet it is in fact the people managers of the impacted groups who do much of the execution of the plan. Correct understanding and execution of the five key CLARC roles is imperative in ensuring that employees are less resistant, that they move past barriers to adoption and that they, most importantly, enjoy the successful results from change.

    Change is coming at us at a faster rate than ever before and so the contributions of our People Managers, as successful deliverers of change, have never been so vital.

    Learn more about the roles of people managers during change, along with other change management topics by watching our range of Prosci webinars on demand. 

    We also offer live webinars which run regularly throughout the year. See what we've got coming up!

    Are you a People Manager looking how best to Lead Your Team through Change? Find out more here.

    CMC Global offers private, single-company virtual or face-to-face training and advisory support worldwide. If you're interested in finding out more about how we can work with you- get in touch!

    Topics: people side of change, CMC, Leaders of Change, ADKAR, Managers