These days, rare is the organization undertaking a major system initiative. On the contrary, many organizations are struggling to survive and carry out basic operations, trying to do more with fewer employees. This article focuses on system considerations for organizations in lean economic times with respect to enterprise systems.
Enterprise Systems, Staff Reductions, and Employee Training
Systems do not exist in a vacuum. A “state of the art” system run by too few or poorly-trained employees poses great risk to organizations. No HRIS or payroll system can possibly catch every type of mistake. The current economic climate exacerbates this risk. With respect to headcount, layoffs increase the vicious cycle of risk to organizations:
• Organizations have an incentive to trim staff and reduce—if not eliminate—formal training and opportunities for end-users to learn.
• This solidifies many end-users’ bad habits and suboptimal processing methods.
• Many end-users’ responsibilities have increased significantly.
• In the event of layoffs, more work among fewer employees means even less time for “cross pollination.”
Management should be careful when cutting “non-essential” employees, as they can quickly become essential. For example, an organization has four HR clerks to process paperwork. While no one clerk is absolutely essential, reducing that number to two now changes that equation. If staff reductions are truly necessary, organizations must ensure that departing employees’ daily responsibilities are both sufficiently documented and well-understood by others in the organization before they leave.
Organizations need to identify essential employees via succession planning. Which individuals can the organization not afford to lose? It is imperative that they are proactive; they should attempt to anticipate any key employee defections.
On the training front, organizations should strongly consider cross-training end-users in multiple functions. Two super users with substantial skills and a global perspective may be able to do the work of three or four limited end-users, especially if they are skilled in different automation methods. For example, consider Mary, an end-user who is very skilled at Microsoft Excel. Her organization has a Crystal Reports license, but no one really uses it. Sending her to a class would allow the organization to finally realize the benefits of Crystal; no longer would reports have to be cobbled together manually.
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