By Ralph Hess • September 25, 2018

ERP Only Works If Employees Use It

Migrating from spreadsheets and manual processes to a full-fledged ERP system is a game-changer for most businesses. But for some firms, they first must get past a substantial barrier that can stop their brand new ERP implementation in its tracks: Carol.

Carol, who also goes by Rita, Pam, John, Greg and many other names, is the employee who doesn’t want the new ERP system no matter how many features it sports or how much time and money has been poured into the system.

No matter how good the new system may be, Carol doesn’t want it. She likes her old system. So she doesn’t learn the new ERP solution, she sticks to her spreadsheets and compromises the effectiveness of the new ERP rollout.

An ERP system that isn’t embraced by employees is one that will fail fast, even if the system is good and implementation has been handled carefully. So here are five ways you can make sure that your new ERP solution gets adopted.

  1. Get Buy-In Before Implementation

The first and most important key for employee adoption is seeking buy-in during the implementation planning phase, far before an ERP system is ready. You need this buy-in from stakeholders in each department both so the new system meets the needs of those using it, and so employees feel a sense of ownership and input early in the project’s development.

This sense of ownership is important because it counteracts the human tendency to reject what is new. If employees have helped create the new ERP system and it reflects their needs and business processes, they are much less likely to reject the new system in favor of what came before.

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  1. Train to Your Business Processes

Employees don’t care about software, they care about the business processes that they perform each day as part of their position within a company.

So if you want employees using and appreciating your new ERP system, position it in terms of the businesses processes they need and how the system will make those processes easier. If you’ve properly collected input during the planning phase (see our ERP Evaluation Worksheet for Executives for more on this topic), you should already know the key business processes for each department and have them addressed in the system.

When you train employees on the new system, focus on these business processes instead of the features in the ERP solution. Make sure that training material is specific to each department, too, stressing the actual processes that are relevant to each employee.

  1. Tie Perks and Advancement to Adoption

Make clear that responsibility, advancement and job security is tied to learning and mastering the new ERP system. This isn’t just new software, this is both the future and an opportunity for employees to stand out in the company.

Reward employees who drive efficiency or cost savings with the new system. This can come in the form of perks or rewards, social recognition, or even formal promotion. Communicate early in the rollout that learning and using the system isn’t just good for the company, it also is good for the user.

  1. Include Analytics on Adoption and Training Performance

You can’t improve what you don’t measure, so build in training analytics as part of your ERP rollout.

You should track not just system usage and training completion, but also how long employees take to train on the new system, feedback on system relevance, level of engagement with the new software, and both improvements in job performance and issue reduction since system rollout.

By tracking employee adoption and training performance, you can discover where more training or change management is needed, as well as get an early indication of how the new system is performing compared with what came before.

  1. Have Support Ready from the Start

Encouraging ERP adoption also requires offering system support on Day 1 of rollout. Especially on Day 1 of rollout.

Many businesses are so focused on implementation, integration performance and getting the system live, support becomes an afterthought. But this is a mistake.

There is a narrow window when a new ERP system is rolled out when employees will embrace the system or reject it. Embracing the new system hinges on early success with it and overcoming initial challenges, which is why having trained support staff ready from the start to assist users with questions and problems is an essential component of a good ERP implementation project.

Don’t let Carol derail your ERP rollout. Include her in the implementation process, train her, and make her an ERP champion instead of a drag on the project. If you don’t, you might find that those spreadsheets the ERP system was meant to replace are still in use at your company.