In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda gave some advice to Luke Skywalker. He told him “you must unlearn what you have learned.” This is how a lot of people feel when their organization is going through an ERP initiative. They are afraid of what they do not know is coming. They wonder if their job is going to change into something they are unfamiliar with or, even worse, they worry that they will be unneeded or replaced. This is why communication is key throughout organizations going through such massive changes. You need to know what your job is and how to perform the most efficiently and effectively. No matter the size or complexity of your business, ERP implementations entail quite a bit of employee change. Reengineered business processes, redefined roles and responsibilities along with new technologies tend to overwhelm employees going through the changes.
There are plenty of ways to overcome this challenge to ensure that your employees not only understand the changes at hand, but are able to help bring your organization to a higher level of performance and maximize the ROI on your enterprise software.
Below are six steps to communicating change to your employees as part of your ERP systems initiative:
- Get a baseline measure of your communication needs. An important first step in an effective communication plan is to get a baseline feel for your culture and communication needs via an organizational readiness assessment. This provides an objective, quantitative and qualitative view of your organization through a series of online surveys and focus groups. The results will tell you where you currently stand from a communications perspective, as well as where the opportunities for improvement are.
- Define key stakeholders. A good second step is to define who your key stakeholders are. Rather than lumping your employees into one group, it is important to segment into different stakeholder groups. For example, mid-level managers who are critical to the success of the project, the finance group that may be resisting the project, and the executive who is trying to sabotage the project are all examples of stakeholder segmentation – each with its own unique communication needs. You must understand which stakeholders are on board with the initiative and which ones aren’t, so that communications can be tailored accordingly.
- Define the impact of business process changes. Business process reengineering changes resulting from your ERP implementation should provide the foundation for an effective communications plan. Each workgroup and stakeholder in the company will need to understand what the changes are, what they mean to them and how they benefit the organization overall. Each stakeholder group should receive targeted messages that are most relevant to them. This will help ensure that the messaging sticks.
- Identify change agents for your communications efforts. Communications should come from a number of sources. Some messages will come from your executive team, others from project team members, and even more from middle-level management. Regardless of the specific messaging, your team should identify change agents to convey some of this messaging and to solicit input and feedback from the rest of the organization. Change agents are a critical part of an overarching organizational change management
- Define multiple vehicles of communication. It’s a fact that people must hear a message an average of 7 times before it sticks. Add to the fact that some people don’t stay on top of emails, others have trouble absorbing information verbally and you can see why communications needs to be not only repeated, but repeated throughout different channels. Look for opportunities to leverage email, manager meetings, team meetings, company meetings, intranet sites, bulletin boards and any other mechanisms you can think of to disseminate appropriate messaging. And remember: if you find yourself getting sick of repeating the same message, it means that it may just be starting to stick with some of your employees.
- Measure your communication results. Keep a pulse on how people are absorbing, retaining and responding to your messaging. Make sure to repeat organizational readiness assessments throughout the project to track how the needle is moving and to identify areas needing additional focus or attention. These ongoing assessments should also be important inputs into your overall go-live readiness assessment when the time comes.
As Yoda would say, “Do or do not. There is no trying.” Even though you may feel repetitive, you need everyone to know their role in this initiative. Even if they are getting annoyed about how often this information is repeated, they would be even more stressed if they didn’t know where they fit into the new equation. Change management is vital to success. It’s worth working toward.