Training employees plays a significant role in successful businesses in today’s cutthroat marketplace. When a new ERP system is being implemented, training should not just provide employees with the knowledge of how to use the system, but how it works. At the very least, senior employees need to understand how the ERP system is implemented, including the system settings that impact how transactions are processed. This is particularly important in step 6 below – without that understanding, you will forever have to call on the ERP vendor whenever you require a change to your business processes. Even if you purchase the best possible solution, without full and proper training its failure is still probable. Lack of proper implementation training can seriously impact the efficiency of an ERP system.
ERP implementation failure is a prime anxiety for companies. The implementation should be accomplished as perfectly as possible with little chance of errors. Imperfections in the implementation compromise the success of ERP. To be successful, the implementation should be done in association with those of your own staff who are most likely, through a combination of experience and ability, to become your input to the implementation process.
Whether you have chosen to undertake the implementation yourself, using your own internal resources, or whether you have contracted an outside resource such as the ERP vendor or other organization, this is your ERP system, and ultimately responsibility rests with you to make sure it works as planned. All implementations are ‘in-house’, some are conducted with the assistance of outside resources; therefore the steps outlined here apply to both situations.
Your training initiatives need to include the following six key elements in order to maximize the success of the implementation:
1. Emphasize business work-flows – train the implementation team leaders
Enterprise Resource Planning is run within the business and for the business. The very first step in implementing an ERP system is an understanding of your business and its processes. The implementer should have excellent vision into your procedures, but unfortunately cannot do this in isolation. Without this deep insight into your business procedural flow, the implementation cannot be successful and it can just shatter the organization.
You have approached ERP providers, and made a selection, based on specific requirements you have identified. In a perfect world, the implementer would be able to take those requirements and configure your new system to perform exactly as you envisage it will. The world is not perfect, of course, so the first task of the implementer should be to vigilantly scrutinize those requirements to make sure that what is understood by those requirements is understand exactly the same way by everyone involved in the implementation. To do this, the implementer needs the assistance of at least one representative of each department, and the first training task is to teach those representatives how to examine each process in their department through talking to the people who manage them, and be able to describe those processes and requirements in ways that leave no room for misunderstanding.
2. Relate the old and new processes
All ERP systems have a lot in common, however they each have their own particular ways of doing things, and this leads to change. A common motivator for implementing an ERP system is to remove many old manual, time-consuming and error-prone ways of doing things. You would not implement a new ERP system and expect to still perform your tasks on spreadsheets, for examples.
Change for some may be refreshing and motivating, while daunting for others. Relating new processes to the old way of doing things should be established so that the training interests the frightened ones, attracting and encouraging them to accept the new and be more productive.
Learning is typically done by the Left Brain while our daily chores (post learning) are controlled by the Right Brain. It is always easy and comfortable to relate to the process your right brain controls. When a complete new process is instituted, the right brain takes a back seat leaving the left brain to take in the information in bits and pieces. This is a slower process, and leads to frustration and low productivity. Training which draws parallels between the new and the old ways of doing things should be adopted, designing the training in a way which maps the new process with the previous one. This helps the right brain to be involved along with left, allowing your employees to relate better and feel interested as well as confident and productive.
Moreover, involving your key employees from the onset of implementation helps them to understand the new processes, and enables them to better train others in their departments.
3. Make learning an experience
Companies employ many people belonging to different age groups, educational backgrounds and learning as well as the capacity to grasp new techniques. This calls for developing and imparting variable training methodologies and training materials, to suit different ways of learning. The training should serve the varied needs of varied people involved in it; focusing on delivering not only the work flows but also the exceptions in the work-flow, the dos and don’ts, the functional basics and beyond and also the nomenclature. For instance, the training should just not show how to create a Sales Order but also what happens when you place an order and the goods are out-of-stock. If your staff understand why something is done a particular, and what the downstream results are, they are more likely to give their buy-in to the training, and perform their work the way you want them to.
Some staff will benefit from hand-outs, cheat sheets, user-manuals, online-help and ‘hot-key’ charts to give them confidence after the training. If you find an employee still using these aids more than a few weeks after training for regular tasks, however, you should take that as an indication that this employee has less than a full understanding of the training given to them, and you need to revisit the training with a different approach.
4. Gear-up the Mentor
If the trainer has the ability to transfer knowledge and concepts in a productive way while maintaining the interest of the trainees, the result is half achieved. The trainers could be your super-users or the key personnel in each department. Staff will learn quicker from someone they are used to working with, someone who understands them and their limitations and abilities. This is the “Train the Trainer” approach; these key people will be better able to conduct training for the users at each trainee’s different level and way of learning. They should ensure that the knowledge is imparted based on the role and requirement.
5. Commence and Cease the training at right time
Getting to grips with a new ERP system is a challenge for anyone, even for senior management driving the project. Your employees doing the daily processing in their new environment cannot be expected to learn everything in a matter of days.
It is important, however, for the trainer to have a good idea of how the trainee’s learn, and how quickly. Even if you have an outside trainer, it is still critical for the key person in each department to be present to work with trainees individually to endure they are understanding what is expected, and how to perform the tasks. While everyone learns at different rates, some employees will be apprehensive about the transition from learning to doing. The trainer(s) need to be able to gauge how much training is enough, and move trainees to using the new system in their daily work with whatever on-going support hey need.
Be aware too of one important point. Often, it is those who have the most computer experience who take the longest to train on the new system. A production controller may use a workstation only intermittently to record batch progress as it occurs. This person may adapt very quickly to a new way of doing things, especially if they see how much it speeds their work and releases them more often for shop-floor supervision. On the other hand, an Accounts Payable clerk who spends their whole working time at a keyboard may be more resistant to change, sees fewer improvements in their daily work-flow, and may require much more sympathetic support.
6. Say ‘YES’ to changes
Now, last but not least, we return to the need to ensure key personnel are trained in how the system works, so they become independently competent enough to adapt your ERP system to organizational changes. In fact, this should be a key part of training which should on no account be ignored.
Change in business occurs rapidly, and often unexpectedly. Whether you have change forced on you by government regulation, or need to adapt your business to changing market conditions, a proper understanding of how your ERP system works will assist you to implement the required processing changes yourself and quickly. Apart from saving time in responding to the changes, you save the cost of bringing in your vendor’s consultants to effect the changes for you.
All ERP vendors issue upgrades from time to time. While it is always a good idea to stay current with the latest major release of your system, there may be incremental updates which you need to evaluate to see if it applies to your business. Again, a full understanding of your ERP system will make this evaluation an easy task.