Transitioning ERP Project Staff Members back into their ‘Real’ Jobs

The ERP project is finally drawing to a close … but, whilst there is probably relief all round that the work is finishing, the issue about how best to reintegrate staff back into their ‘real’ jobs is now upon you. Though there may have been some discussion with HR and line managers regarding this challenge, the question of how best to handle this process remains. It needs to be done in a manner that respects the returning project team member while taking into account the possible tensions that might exist within the member’s department as he/she returns after a long period on the project. What needs to be considered and what represents good practice in bringing the project member home?

Let’s remember that employees may have given up a lot to become part of the project team – a stable position, career progress, the loss of regular contact with colleagues, etc., and this needs to be factored in as a project member returns. We also need to take into account that some projects are not successful for a variety of reasons – and it might be easy not to give a project member their due recognition in such circumstances. On the other side, a department will have moved on in the absence of a project member – and somebody else will have ‘backfilled’ his/her role – and it is possible that the return of the project member will bring stresses and strains as space is made for the returnee.

The challenge for the returning ERP project member is called Re-entry Syndrome – this is the shock associated with adjusting to one's departmental culture following immersion in an ERP project team culture. It can induce negative stress reactions even when a project has been very successful. The period of transition back to the home department can include feelings of isolation and depression. These difficulties are compounded in the case of a sudden project termination or significant other stresses on the project which were not dealt with in an effective manner. Feelings of loss, guilt, and frustration may also stem from a perceived lack of understanding and respect of employees’ projects experiences by their departmental co-workers.

So what can be done to ease the process of transition? Effective policies and practices at the organizational level can play a critical role in preventing or reducing the impacts of stress as the project draws to a close and in assisting the worker to reintegrate at the end of the assignment. Some of the procedures include the following:

  • Regular dialogue at appropriate times on the ERP Project between the managers of the project, Line Managers and the HR Department on reintegration of project staff and how best to deal with employees who have back-filled roles;
  • A reasonable notice period to project team members for the planned return to the business department;
  • An exit operational debriefing at the end of their project assignment including a performance evaluation;
  • A thorough handover process prior to return;
  • A complete debriefing with ‘business as usual’ management post return including clarification of role that person will play going forward in the department;
  • A communication process for all stakeholders clarifying the role the returnee will take up.

The golden rule with all transitions is that they involve losses of some sort or another and this is also true on ERP projects – and the management of the often difficult and complex feelings associated with the change are best recognised and tackled rather than sweeping them under the carpet. The best medicine is to ensure that there is an agreed framework for the transition identified as part of the set-up of the ERP project and implemented via effective co-operation between managers of the project (including the Change Manager), Line Managers and HR.

This blog post was written by Sean Jackson, MD at Lumenia. If you would like further information on Transitioning ERP project staff members back into their ‘real’ jobs or on any aspect of ERP Change Management please send an e-mail to Sean Jackson.