Excellent Project Management Skills Provide Better Employee Experience During ERP Implementations
In my last blog post Recommendations for a Better Employee Experience During ERP Implementations, I introduced my research into employee experiences with ERP implementations, and whether there are factors related to retention and satisfaction that companies should be mindful of during that process. The motivation for this research originated from an alarming statistic that companies will traditionally see an increase in employee turnover during and shortly after an ERP system implementation.
For reference, five sets of employee experiences were captured that had recently gone through an ERP implementation, four of whom had a particularly negative experience:
In the second iteration of my six blog post series, I will cover the second recommendation made for company leadership that was generated from this project.
Recommendation 2 - Ensure that excellent project management skills are practiced throughout the implementation process
The second recommendation for company leadership undertaking an ERP implementation project is to ensure that excellent project management skills are being practiced throughout the implementation process. Although the concept seems like common sense, the implications are critical given the sheer amount of moving parts, dependencies, and processes from people and departments throughout the implementation. This recommendation was formed from the themes of project leadership and project planning that were present among interviews: how well the project, resources, and timelines were handled and managed, and how this affected the ability for employees to meet project and team goals.
Participants in this study all described some degree of impact felt by the extent to which the project was coordinated and managed, with four out of five associating negative experiences with the topic. In the interviews, Chris expressed frustration with his leadership team for conducting readiness testing too early into their project, and for the frequent changes in testing, training, and milestone dates without any explanation as to why. Jenny felt her company’s implementation project was often unorganized and lacked process consistency. She often found herself having to attend meetings and discussions without a clear agenda or objective in mind, which negatively affected her attitude and trust in management and their capability to effectively coordinate the project.
Miles discussed the challenges he faced with project leadership in his company’s implementation: people were siloed, working towards different objectives and milestone dates, and he felt that this created a level of tension and frustration among employees that seemed to spread to other employees and departments. He described his experience:
“At times, it felt like we had never [undertaken] a project before. We had meetings without agendas, simply to just get us all into a room together... then you'd have all of these side conversations going on, and no one really knowing what we're even here for, or why we're wasting our time… Management didn't seem like they were actively managing the project, as if it’s just going to happen on its own?... It just seemed like everything scheduled out was either not realistic, or didn't make any sense.”
The effect of insufficient project planning was clearly felt in participants’ interviews. It contributed to feelings of disorganization, inefficiency, lack of trust in the project plan and processes, and lack of clear direction and team goal expectations.
Working as a Team
The implications for employees from these experiences speak to their engagement in terms of their clarity of work, their goals, and career advancement opportunities. Group and norm theory1, a model used in this research, outlines how employees will have higher job motivations when their team enables and facilitates the success of their work goals. This principle often applies interpersonally as well, since employees working in a team or collaborative environment will have higher levels of engagement and commitment when their team priorities are clearly defined through project management processes and goals.
Job clarity2, furthermore, is a large driver of employee engagement: people want to understand the vision and strategy that leadership has for the organization, and more specifically how this aligns with the goals that departmental heads have for their division, unit, or team. This clarity of work fortifies an employee’s understanding of their work, their goals, and career advancement opportunities, creating a higher level of engagement and motivation.
The notion that people are likely to inherit the attitudes and behaviors of other group members is an important secondary implication of group and norm theory, given that group cohesion, accepted behaviors, and accepted workloads are subconsciously defined early in the project. Jenny and Miles in particular discussed the negative attitudes and disengagement that resulted from a lack of consistency with timelines and processes. These reactions illustrate the complex effect that these endogenous factors have on job motivation and satisfaction; being secondary responses they are more difficult to control.
Good Project Management Affects Goal Achievement
Therefore, excellent and consistent project management skills are recommended during an ERP implementation to address the theme of project and group goal attainment. This includes the establishment of clear objectives, paying careful attention to the implications of when and how employees are involved, diligent monitoring of the progress of the project, and consistent commitment to project timelines, communication, and methodology on the part of both leadership and consultants. As conditions that enhance and enable a person’s ability to achieve their goals will add to positive motivation1, the absence of these factors that many of the participants experienced is likely to have led to their demotivation in many respects.
References used in this research:
1Katzell, R. A., & Thompson, D. E. (1990, February). Work Motivation - Theory and Practice. American Psychologist, 45(2), 144-153.
2Seijit, G. H., & Crim, D. (2006, March/April). What Engages the Employees the Most or, the Ten C’s of Employee Engagement. Ivey Business Journal Online, 70(4), 1-5.