Focus on Tailored Training Improves Employee Experiences with ERP Implementations

By Andy Lawton-Thesing | September 18, 2020

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In the sixth and final blog post installment in the series of my research with employee experiences with ERP implementations, I’ll discuss the sixth recommendation made for company leaders who are undertaking these projects. 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, therefore my objective was to understand employee experiences with ERP implementations and whether there are factors related to retention and satisfaction that companies should be mindful of during that process.

To summarize, the five recommendations made in this series thus far have included:

Continuing with the five sets of employee experiences that were gathered, I continue on to the next recommendation:

Employee Experiences

Recommendation 6 - Provide training to practice and learn the new skills and routines an ERP implementation requires

Ensure learning and development activities are tailored (vs. generic), relevant, and timely

Help employees understand their post-go-live world, pre-go-live

Two common themes that surfaced from the interviews focused on the impact of training and the ability to change, which contributes to the larger theme of resource improvement. Kim described the challenges she encountered during her training with their new system: she felt the training she received was too generic and not specific enough to address the nuances and special circumstances often encountered in her work. She described this experience:

“I really wish training had been more focused on. I [understand] why they segmented the [workshops]... but we were really unprepared for how slow everything would become in the end … and our training really didn't prepare us for everything… The training sessions we had [involved] a lot of "perfect world" scenarios, but that’s not really how the real day-to-day business works.”

In general, she felt that training was far too minimal for the scope of the project, and this negatively affected her confidence in her ability to do her job well once they went live. Chris discussed his initial training as being too minimal and too early into the project, which led him to forget much of what had been taught. Subsequent training had been adequate, yet he felt that his workload prevented him from taking on the additional training responsibilities that had been expected of him.

Jenny was given minimal training in their new system and discussed the alienating effect this had on her, as she had to “take it into her own hands” to seek system training; this had a negative effect on her feelings of confidence in her management team. Miles also described the lack of training he received as contributing to dissatisfaction at work. He observed other departments providing training to their staff in the form of work instructions while he had to teach himself, which led him to feel “forgotten about.” Conversely, Sean’s team had a large number of training sessions and videos at their disposal, which he feels added to their ability to be successful when implementing SAP.

Training Facilitates Goal Achievement

Several models can be used to explain the reactions of the participants. Referring again to personal and material resource theory1, Katzell and Thompson suggest that limitations on an employee’s ability to achieve their work goals are demotivating. Training is one such activity that can facilitate goal attainment, while lack of training or preparation to perform new tasks can lead to apathy or learned helplessness. They argue that by increasing the emphasis on training and employee readiness, there will be clear and recognizable benefits to resource improvement and overall employee self-confidence.

It is interesting, however, that companies still struggle to carry out training programs consistently and effectively. Research has found that training programs are often offered when there is little need for them, or are specifically eliminated in situations where they could have been most used. Chris coincidentally described his company’s training as too minimal and conducted too early in the project timeline, frustrating him because it contributed to him forgetting much of what had been learned. Further research supported this notion in a related study, which found evidence that more rigorous initial training leads to a quicker turn-around time for recovery.3 Since there will likely be a period of increased stress and decreased productivity after go-live, the study found that the initial dip in productivity and sales occurred in companies that had a more rigorous training program for employees.

Such factors may further contribute to the degree of felt organizational culture since training opportunities may drive employees’ perception that their leadership team cares about their well-being and that they are valued.4 Since many models suggest that organizational culture is an important driver of employee engagement5, training may likely be the key to setting the tone for engagement.6

Training and change management practices affect goal attainment, motivation, and self-confidence. Since these variables are important drivers of job satisfaction, the absence of these practices may contribute to the motivation for turnover. Many participants expressed their desire for more rigorous and real-world training sessions, moreover, they placed a high value on training with their own data, and conducting training when it would be most impactful and relevant. The final recommendation, to address the theme of learning and development, is that training should be thorough, timely, and should encourage employees to think more critically, rather than simply memorizing procedural steps or mouse clicks. This recommendation is to help employees understand their post-go-live world, pre-go-live.

Clearly, the sooner leadership can establish development activities such as training to help employees accelerate through the learning curve, the sooner employees, teams, and companies as a whole are likely to recognize the potential benefits of the ERP system.

Employee Experiences with ERP Implementations Final thoughts and takeaways

There are clear correlations, as discussed, between employee satisfaction and turnover. Stress contributes to feelings of dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction contributes to intent to leave and turnover, and turnover is costly. Excessive turnover creates an expensive, dysfunctional event for a company, but improving its management can yield considerable cost savings and potential competitive advantage.

The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of employees undergoing an ERP implementation and to identify areas of improvement that leaders can address in order to support and enhance the job satisfaction of employees during the implementation process. Many of the participants interviewed had particularly negative perceptions, reactions, and criticisms of their ERP implementation project which had negative implications for their job satisfaction. Although ERP systems are one of many technical tools used in business, the most significant risk factors identified from this research were not about the software itself, but the people and job satisfaction issues related to technological change and stress on an organization. The findings from this study should not be interpreted to suggest that companies should avoid implementing an ERP system simply because employees may be dissatisfied. Rather, the findings should encourage companies to implement ERP transformations in a holistic manner through the recommendations that were presented.

Technology plays a vital role in today’s organizations and will most certainly continue to do so going forward. The importance of the human experience with that technology is paramount.

References used in this research:
1Katzell, R. A., & Thompson, D. E. (1990, February). Work Motivation - Theory and Practice. American Psychologist, 45(2), 144-153.
2Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1980). Work Design in the Organizational Context. Research in Organizational Behavior, 2, 247-279.
3Jones, D., Kalmi, P., & Kauhanen, A. (2011). Firm and employee effects of an enterprise information system: Micro-econometric evidence. International Journal of Production Economics, 130(2), 159-168.
4Robinson, D., Perryman, S., & Hayday, S. (2004). The Drivers of Employee Engagement. Brighton: Institute for Employment Studies.

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