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Exclusive Q&A with Renata Janini Dohmen: How Does SAP Measure Performance, Conduct Appraisals and Reviews?

June 26, 2017

The topic of performance appraisals, reviews, and measuring it accurately right such as to maintain consistent employee engagement and ensure talent retention has been an issue debated by senior managers and HR experts for long. Should it be annual, periodical, or pay for performance model, HR professionals are in a state of constant dilemma.

While HR managers have been devising strategies and techniques harnessing technology and finding new processes to eliminate unconscious bias, there is still a lot to be done on this front to ensure fairness and transparency.

Uncovering some of SAP’s innovative strategies to employee engagement and fairness in performance reviews, we at HR in Asia caught up on a candid conversation with Renata Janini Dohmen, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, SAP Asia Pacific Japan to seek insights. Read on…

  • How can HR managers hold unbiased performance reviews?

Unconscious bias holds organizations back from harnessing all available resources for innovation and growth. In 2016, SAP launched an initiative to take business beyond bias, using its core strengths to ensure more inclusive workforces and better business results.

Proactively working to eliminate bias from decision making applies to the performance review process as well. Bias in performance reviews can result from many factors, such as the subconscious evaluation of the person as an individual rather than his or her accomplishments.

Renata Janini Dohmen, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, SAP Asia Pacific Japan

Renata Janini Dohmen, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, SAP Asia Pacific Japan

Before starting on the performance review cycle, managers need to understand the common bias in performance reviews and steps they can take to eliminate these for a fair appraisal. These include – clear evaluation metrics for a standardized benchmark, gathering feedback on an employee from multiple managers, and ensuring that the process remains an interactive one with the employee.

  • What are the challenges faced by managers when it comes to evaluating performance of employees?

One area that managers struggle with is conducting a holistic evaluation of the employee. There is a tendency to evaluate an employee’s performance based on the most recent achievements or blunders, which does not give the full picture of an employee’s performance throughout the whole evaluation period.

Another challenge is maintaining the same standard for evaluation. Because of the varied roles within an organisation, managers sometimes find it challenging to have a set criterion to evaluate an employee against. Besides obtaining the right appraisal metrics from the HR department, managers should source for documents, sales records or other resources that quantify an employee’s performance and provide a measurable form for evaluation.

Many managers also find it difficult to provide feedback that they may deem as demoralising or detrimental to an employee’s track record. Managers should see the performance review as a collaborative, two-way process that celebrates an employee’s achievements and how they can work together to achieve greater outcome in the next period.

Feedback on areas for improvement should be given from a constructive viewpoint and geared towards moulding the employee for success. When managers adopt this viewpoint, it becomes much easier to give the required feedback to develop the employee.

  • How important is mentoring and consistent feedback for employees to boost performance and improve engagement levels at APJ?

At SAP, we inculcate a learning culture where learning takes place anytime and anywhere. Mentoring and consistent feedback underpin our company’s learning culture and we see this as a fundamental way to enhance our employees’ capabilities at all levels and roles.

Mentoring and feedback serve as a guiding star for employees and enable employees to reach their full potential. Mentoring is not necessarily a top down approach where managers mentor junior employees.

We believe that everyone is a talent and we have put in place a reverse mentoring program, where employees with less than two years of work experience have the opportunity to mentor SAP managers on various topics such as the effective use of digital and social media.

In 2016, more than 8,000 employees participated in SAP Talk as early adopters. Their feedback allowed us to refine the way forward for our global launch this year.  With trust at the cornerstone of these mentoring and feedback sessions, we found that managers who were SAP Talk early adopters had higher trust ratings by their direct reports in the People Survey than non-early adopting managers in 2016.

  • What are some of the effective ongoing techniques and methods employed by SAP to ensure employee engagement and build a positive workplace culture?

At SAP, we believe that diversity and inclusion drive strong employee engagement and ensure business success. We believe in creating a positive workplace culture free from bias, one whose strength lies at its very core – its people. 

In 2016 we launched a broadly integrated, company-wide initiative called ‘Business Beyond Borders’ to enable customers to build more inclusive workforce and achieve better business results. We are proud to be the first technology company to achieve global EDGE gender equality certification and close to reaching our goal to have 25% of women in managerial positions by the end of this year.

We strongly believe that diversity and inclusion are no longer optional, but are business and economic imperatives. With over 84,000 employees representing over 150 nationalities contributing to the success of SAP, it is the unique perspective of each individual that makes us a more innovative and dynamic organisation.

SAP is committed to building a more inclusive culture focusing on gender intelligence, cross-generational intelligence, culture/identity and differently-abled people.

See: Appraisal Time! Conducting Fair Performance Assessment and Reviews

  • What will be the future of measuring performance, has the annual review approaches gone extinct with the changing times?

At SAP, we value continuous conversation to ensure employees are continually engaged. Real conversations in real time set up our employees for success.

The best way to ensure accelerated company performance is through continuous growth and development of our employees. Each conversation around performance goals is an opportunity for development and growth, leading to an engaged environment where performance, innovation and collaboration are prized.

As our world and workplace becomes increasingly digitized, we also see a shift in the methods and platforms used to measure performance. With cloud-based human capital management (HCM) software such as SAP’s SuccessFactors, organisations will be able to leverage technology for better tracking, measurement, and growth of its human capital.

Performance measurement will increasingly become a centralised and less time-consuming process by using data analytics and artificial intelligence, allowing managers to focus on more value-adding roles.

Getting and sharing constructive feedback and learning from experiences are the basis for future growth. Just like in any sport, it is the ongoing, real-time feedback that drives performance during the game that is critical to succeed. 

  • How does peer feedback help HR managers get into the details of reviewing an employee, based on different parameters and get the appraisal right?

Another method to decrease unconscious bias is to incorporate other sources of information, such as peer evaluation data in the performance assessment process. There is the risk however, peer evaluations may display some of the same unconscious biases as those found in manager evaluation, but if done well can provide valuable insights into the employee’s performance.

Peer feedback goes beyond individual performance and helps HR managers understand how well an employee works within a team. Peers also provide an alternative viewpoint from which an employee’s non-work attributes such as empathy (or the lack of) can be seen.

Additionally, peer feedback can also unearth hidden talent. Peers often share unique insights and talents of an employee that may not necessarily be visible through formal appraisals or discussions with managers. This provides a more wholesome view of an individual – not just as an employee, but also as a team mate, mentor, and friend.

HR managers also use peer feedback to evaluate possible employee-manager conflicts. An employee that is rated highly by peers but less favourably by managers could indicate a conflict between the employee and manager. Conversely, an employee that is rated highly by managers but less favorably by peers could indicate conflict within the team that would need to be addressed.

  • Ditching the traditional annual performance reviews and switching over to an on-going new technique of measuring performance, explain to us the workings at SAP APJ.

Traditional annual performance reviews are fast becoming an outdated approach and do not reflect the reality of today’s workforce and changes throughout the year. SAP has introduced SAP Talk as an evolution of traditional performance management to foster continuous dialogue, development, and an engaged environment that is simpler and more agile.

This initiative is built on continuous, future-focused dialogue between employees and leaders where performance, innovation and collaboration are prized. We see this as key to foster better communication and collaboration in the organization, and one that goes beyond business-focused conversations but more geared towards an employee’s development, tasks, goals, and working environment.

  • Has new approaches to measuring performance and providing feedback on a consistent basis to employees, abandoned the age-old technique of doing away with the pay-for-performance model?

The speed of change in the digital economy continuously increases and to stay competitive, we need to be flexible, agile, and adapt to these changes. Current performance management processes don’t reflect the current business landscape. SAP’s strategy is to be the most innovative cloud company, powered by SAP HANA. We need to react fast and listen to our customers with empathy. To be authentic, we need to live these values inside SAP.

With SAP Talk, the goal is to foster a culture of continuous dialogue and development leading to an engaged environment where innovation, collaboration and performance drive SAP’s success. Continuous dialogue ensures alignment, clarity, and expectations, and therefore an enhanced experience for managers and employees.

We need to focus on employee growth and development rather than ratings and appraisal, on forward-looking continuous dialogue rather than a backward-looking annual event, and on being agile and simple rather than rigid and complex. We’re shifting towards a culture of continuous dialogue, paving the way for our success with SAP Talk, enabling real conversations in real-time to move employees forward.

For employees, this means more frequent, meaningful conversations on their development, tasks, projects, goals, and working conditions. For leaders, this means giving and receiving continuous coaching and development. For everyone, this means more meaningful conversations to support success.

With SAP Talk, there’s no need to lean on a rating or go through the drill of an interim or annual review – employees will always know how they are doing, when and where opportunities lie for development and growth, and how goals need to be adjusted. It’s ongoing and there are no surprises – that’s the beauty of continuous dialogue. In 2016, more than 8,000 employees participated in SAP Talk as early adopters. Their feedback allowed us to refine the way forward for our global launch.

  • Drawing upon the interlinks between performance, pay and productivity at SAP. How does the HR department work towards bridging gaps between these three and ensure seamless work flow?

When talking about eliminating Performance Ratings as part of SAP Talk, a valid question arises: What impact does this have on SAP‘s Pay for Performance Philosophy?

We have continuously evolved our pay for performance approach over the past years. Now, we bid goodbye to performance ratings by moving from a once a year performance discussion to frequent performance and development conversations between the manager and employee. Thus, ratings will no longer be required to get a profound understanding of an employee’s performance.

In view of this, the pay for performance philosophy stands. For employees, the focus is on their professional development and growth. Managers will have an in-depth knowledge of employee’s performance and current compensation, thus supporting meaningful decisions.

Also read: Enhance Performance Reviews with HR Technology

Content rights: This exclusive interview content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content.

Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

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