It is well known that a significant barrier to ERP implementation is failure to gain employee support of the system. What is less well known is how to overcome this extremely serious problem.
Start by asking yourself a seemingly simple question: Why do employees resist ERP?
An ERP system is more than just a shiny piece of new software. It represents a colossal change for your organization. It is a total overhaul of how your company does business—affecting every process and nearly all tasks your employees perform.
With any major change, comes resistance. Consider ERP implementation from your employees’ viewpoint. At a fundamental level they may understand the overall benefits a new ERP system brings to the table, but those benefits are likely ambiguous to most employees. More often than not, employees will hone in on the more applicable realities of a new ERP system. They acknowledge they will have to learn a new system from scratch, master new processes and procedures and take on new responsibilities. Ultimately, they will be forced to step out of their comfort zone and enter unfamiliar territory.
When you look at it from your employees’ standpoint, it becomes easier to understand what drives ERP resistance. It largely boils down to two forces: perceived risk and habit. Perceived risk conveys subjective judgments that people make about the characteristics and severity of a risk. It relates to how employees perceive the change will affect their role within the company. For example, employees may fear they will not be able to master the new system or learn the new processes. Or possibly they’re worried they’ll be critiqued by management if they don’t learn fast enough. And what if lack of performance causes them to lose their jobs? There are countless concerns employees may have related to the perceived risk.
Habit conveys the patterns of behavior people have grown accustomed to. It relates to the employees comfort level with how they perform their jobs. Right now they are likely very familiar with their current responsibilities and know exactly what to expect. ERP implementation stresses their comfort level, disrupting their habits and ultimately creating opposition.
So how can you overcome employee resistance to ERP? After recognizing the key forces driving resistance, focus on the single most effective method for overcoming resistance—good, old-fashioned communication. Talk to your employees. Find out what their needs are, what their concerns are, and together discuss the benefits of ERP. Communicate the advantages of a new ERP system in terms employees can relate to, such as the opportunity to learn new skills and the potential to make their jobs easier and more efficient. Don’t just focus on higher profits for the company.
When communicating with your employees, it is also important to read between the lines. Employees may not always openly express their concerns—especially if their concerns revolve around their own insecurities about learning a new ERP system. Consider gaining input by having your employees take a confidential survey or offering focus groups where employees can interact and discuss concerns with their peers rather than just management.
Your communication efforts should be delivered in an organized, consistent and repetitive manor. Like an effective marketing campaign, eventually your employees will buy into it.