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By Andy Lawton-Thesing | May 14, 2021

I recently concluded a six-part blog series in which I explored a research project I undertook that examined the effects that ERP implementations have on company employees.  The effects explored were not simply from a logistical standpoint (i.e. your daily tasks will look differently in the new system versus the old system), but more importantly, it was aimed to understand the implications of the change and its impact on people.

Following a set of five interviews with people who had recently gone through an ERP implementation project, their experiences were collected and themes emerged from areas that had both positive and negative impacts on their job satisfaction.  Six recommendations were then developed from these themes for company leadership to consider during these projects in order to ensure employee well-being and satisfaction, while reducing turnover.

For reference, the recommendations made were:

An important piece of the puzzle, however, is really how to execute these recommendations.  Coming up with a comprehensive list of action items, for this reason, is a pipe dream due to the vast amount of available data and research in individual fields such as project management, employee engagement, communication styles, and so on.  However, I felt it was important to provide readers with something “tangible” to take away from these recommendations rather than just concepts.

As a result, I’ve created an Employee Satisfaction Checklist for company leadership that covers each of the recommendations and offers some actionable steps that can be taken. This list is far from exhaustive and further research may be needed for some areas more than others, but it can serve as a starting point for discussions on what to consider while working on these types of projects.

Employee Satisfaction Checklist

This checklist encompasses six categories of recommendations for company leadership and consultants to help avoid negative effects on employee motivation and job satisfaction during an ERP implementation.

Job enrichment and job design

Changes in employee job autonomy and task variety are likely to occur in some manner during an ERP implementation project; whether you’re upgrading a legacy system or implementing your company’s first ERP system, the potential impact on the lives of the workforce is substantial.

It is important to be mindful of the implicit job redesign that takes place during ERP implementations and actively and intentionally redesign jobs during this time so as to maximize the chance that the way people work will excite their intrinsic motivation.

1.      Advise managers to establish regular check-ins with employees during the project while providing input, assistance, and guidance where needed:
a.      How has the project changed or will change their job?
b.      How has their daily work been affected?
c.       How has their job satisfaction been affected?
d.      Receive, acknowledge, and validate any emotions employees have with the project such as frustration, concern, or uneasiness.
e.      Create a role impact guide so employees will clearly understand how their roles and responsibilities will change in the new system; reinforce the benefits the new system will bring.
2.      Determine whether vertical loading techniques can be utilized to enrich employees’ experiences with what they do:
a.      Eliminate controls while retaining accountability (reducing barriers).
b.      Create opportunities to increase employee accountability for their own work.
c.       Provide a complete unit of work for an employee to handle (end-to-end process, module, division, etc.).
d.      Grant employees more authority and discretion in their work (job autonomy).
e.      Provide new and more challenging tasks to employees that they did not previously handle.
f.        Assign employees specific or specialized tasks, allowing them to become experts.


Project management skills and methodology

The success of an ERP system implementation is heavily dependent on strong and consistent project management principles, and nothing undermines employee confidence and buy-in more than unplanned, uncontrolled, or poorly-managed change.

1.      Establish a project plan with clear, realistic objectives and frequent milestones to create motivation and a sense of progress.
a.      Review and discuss the timelines, benchmarks, project inter-dependencies, mitigation strategies, etc. during this time.  This will help employees in fully comprehending the scope of the project and the time commitments needed.
b.      Consider utilizing project management software such as Microsoft Project, Trello, ProofHub, or Google Sheets to aid in project tracking and collaboration.
2.      Provide clear avenues for which employees can elevate questions or concerns about the project, timelines, and milestones.
3.      Evaluate how and when employees are to be involved in project-related activities.
a.      Ensure there is consistency with project communication, timelines, and processes.
b.      Provide ample notice and context for when employees are to be utilized for discussions and process mapping.
c.       Identify disruption to the employee’s daily tasks from project-related activities and backfill or delegate that work as needed.
4.      Monitor and communicate the progress of the project and timelines closely and frequently. Provide access to the real-time status or progress of the project against delivery dates.
5.      Create a dashboard that visually highlights resources, budgets, and timelines for each part of the project.
6.      Check-in on the overall health of the project on a regular basis, both operationally and psychologically.  Solicit feedback from employees and project team members to identify and address any underlying or unseen issues or concerns.


Employee feedback and participation

Employees have a higher level of satisfaction with their job and greater levels of organizational commitment if they believe they are able to participate in decisions and plans that will ultimately affect them.  It is important to provide opportunities for people to engage with and provide input on, the project and related decisions in meaningful ways to better satisfy the feeling of having been involved.

1.      Identify the company’s functional areas that will be directly or indirectly involved with, or impacted by, the ERP system or implementation project.  These may include Sales, Supply chain/logistics, Accounting/Finance, Warehouse, Shopfloor, Engineering, Human Resources, and Senior Management to name a few.
2.      Identify heavy end-users by functional area and organize them into collaborative teams with which core team members can engage to gain input and feedback on decisions and processes.  These representatives will:
a.      Collaborate closely with core team members and schedule regular meetings to address the needs, questions, and processes for their particular representative group and provide appropriate direction.
b.      Communicate and engage regularly with other employees in their representative groups to share updates, process changes, new ideas, etc.
c.       Inquire and solicit input from other employees in their representative groups on decisions or processes that will impact their work in the new system.
d.      Act as subject matter expert or go-to resource for other employees in their particular groups or department.
e.      Assure the participation of users by acknowledging and elevating their feedback, concerns, and questions to core team members to form changes within the application or process.


Access to resources and time commitments

Leadership should be aware that ERP implementation projects will inherently increase the workloads and responsibilities of project team members and employees alike.  The availability of an employee’s resources, in the form of personal, material, and social resources, has a direct and significant effect on employee morale and work commitment.

1.      Impact analysis – evaluate and document the consequences of disruption the implementation project will have on employees’ workloads.
a.      Directly impacted – employees that will be directly involved with project-related activities and pulled away from their daily tasks.  This involvement may be in the form of process-mapping discussions, attending meetings with implementation vendors, evaluating system functionality, etc.
b.      Indirectly impacted – employees who take on additional roles/responsibilities/tasks from those otherwise occupied with project-related activities and unable to perform their regular job functions.
2.      It is important to recognize your company’s limitations and staffing capacity.  If the project requirements on employees outweigh their ability to manage their daily activities, two courses of action can be taken:
a.      Additional or temporary staff should be hired and trained to backfill departmental processes to aid in reduced efficiency that will likely occur pre- and post-go-live.
b.      Rely on your implementation partner and consultants in an increased capacity to handle project tasks and responsibilities – reducing project-related demands on employees.
3.      Advise managers to closely monitoring indicators of employee burn-out and disengagement through regular check-ins.  Provide avenues for employees to reduce project-related stress through encouraging time off, reducing travel expectations, limiting overtime, etc.

Information and decision transparency

Implementation projects are a difficult, stressful, and important undertaking, and there is a clear need to ensure timely, transparent, and targeted communication with employees in order to create a level of shared understanding.  Keeping employees informed and engaged reduces the natural questioning of why a particular decision or event occurred and what those implications would be for them personally.

1.      Establish a project communication plan.  This plan will be used throughout the implementation project through post-go-live.
a.      Identify your company’s various employee audience(s) and what specific communication needs or requirements they have.  Because different groups of people in different sites or departments may not have the same level of information at their disposal, it is important to tailor the message to the specific needs of the employee audience.
b.      Define and designate a specific person or group to be in charge of employee communication.  This will help to reduce confusion when communication comes from a specific person or centralized source.
c.       Define the method by which employees will be communicated with, and communicate in a consistent and repeatable manner.  This can take many forms: email communication, town-hall meetings, Q&A forums, video-recorded updates, etc.
d.      Create “change agents,” or representatives that can act as liaisons between project leaders and individual managers.  Because managers and supervisors will naturally be fielding many of their employees’ questions and concerns, it is important that an informed and consistent message be communicated back.
2.      Continue to market the project to employees throughout the implementation:
a.      Instill enthusiasm for the new system’s benefits among employees and define the need for change by creating a clear picture of how the initiative will benefit them and the company.
b.      Establish a sense of urgency that communicates, justifies, and acclimates employees to the initiative.  Explain why the change is necessary and what will happen if you don’t change.
c.       Promote and celebrate project milestones and wins; provide good and honest explanations when objectives or milestones are revised.

Learning and development

Training and change management practices affect an employee’s goal attainment, motivation, and self-confidence.  User training is critical in encouraging employees to use the new ERP system effectively and efficiently instead of relying on legacy systems or developing workarounds. In the absence of dedicated resources for training employees to use the new system, the system will not be utilized to its full potential.

1.      Assess current employee computer skillsets to determine whether you are providing the foundation for the training they’ll need.
2.      Identify the most appropriate training strategy based on the current needs of the employee groups while taking into account any previous organizational training approaches.
3.      Determine what type of learning style will be best suited for each area of the company and tailor the program to the learning and development needs of the employee.  This may include classroom learning, web-based learning modules, or a combination of different approaches.
4.      Create a training schedule and incorporate it into the project plan.  Employees should be well-equipped with:
a.      Software/technical knowledge and terminology.
b.      Navigating the system.
c.       Training on business workflows and how these changes affect job roles and those performing the work.
d.      “Day in the life” knowledge including end-to-end procedures, interactions with other departments and processes, approvals, etc.
5.      Identify and develop any potential “super user” or “train-the-trainer” candidates to assist with troubleshooting and training other employees.
6.      Provide opportunities for trainees to offer feedback to the implementation team from the training sessions.  Provide action and follow-up where needed.
7.      Establish clear communication channels with the implementation partner support teams for additional clarification or training when appropriate.
8.      Wherever possible, train with data that is familiar to the employee.  Generic or “demo” data is less impactful in retaining new knowledge and procedures.


A downloadable version of this checklist can be found here: ERP-Implementation-Employee-Satisfaction-Checklist (84 downloads)

Further reading:

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