How to Create Women-Friendly Workplace Culture: Brigette McInnis-Day from SAP Shares her Views on Executive Talent Management from a Global Perspective

March 29, 20168:36 am1590 views

In a hyper-connected world with tech-savvy professionals and millennials joining the workforce, retaining key talent, managing multigenerational workforce and empowering them to scale further up in their careers within the organization is one among the major challenges faced by most HR managers today.

Also promoting more women across APAC to assume leadership roles, early on in their careers, while helping them manage and maintain work-life balance is another key issue that needs deliberation on the HR fronts.

Through an exclusive tête-à-tête with Brigette McInnis-Day, Executive Vice President, Human Resources at SAP, we at HR in ASIA explore insights on the latest HR trends governing the industry from a technology standpoint, workplace culture at SAP as well worded by Brigette saying, “Intensity with a Heart” and tips to develop healthy “talent paranoia” for leadership development. Read on…

  1. What are the HR trends you foresee when it comes to talent management, and retention of key talent with the global talent shortage? How do you keep star performers at SAP from quitting?

Today’s workforce is global, highly connected, technology-savvy, and demanding. Job hopping is on the rise and shorter stints in a company are becoming the norm. Hence, talent management and retention becomes increasingly tricky and leveraging HR technologies is an important part of the overall strategy.

When employers and HR teams adopt a more data-driven approach to how they attract, engage and retain qualified workers, they reduce the risk of new employees not performing as expected.

HR technologies can also provide insight into the compensation packages that are more likely to attract top candidates, and analytics can help identify where talent can be tapped.

Furthermore, the tech industry is notorious for its high-turnover rates, and to combat that, we need to look at company’s culture. At SAP, we see a significant connection between the creation of a healthy workplace culture and ability to innovate.

SAP supports people to achieve work-life balance, feeling empowered to be creative, better manage stress, and perform at their best. We want to optimize innovation and performance, and we know that people and culture make all the difference – they are the essence of our success.

  1. How can technology businesses create more women-friendly workplace cultures?

At SAP, we believe that a strong support network and openness to diversity creates an inclusive and women-friendly workplace culture. One of the programmes SAP runs is the Business Women’s Network which was launched in 2012 to provide opportunities for women to share their professional insight, support other women, and influence SAP on diversity topics.

The networks across APJ locations are driven by passionate employees and senior executive sponsors – in some countries, we see strong male representation at these networks as well.

While it is essential to create a women-friendly workplace, it is equally important to look beyond “mommy-policies”.

Focusing purely on maternity leave and mom-specific perks alone promotes the idea that women are exclusively responsible for childcare. Instead, start thinking in terms of policies and incentives for all your employees—not just women.

For example, flexible hours, a family-friendly working environment, and the evaluation of employees’ performance based on the quality of work rather than attendance are few elements that will create an employee-friendly workplace for both genders.

We also predominantly focus on women leadership development initiatives to make sure we groom talent for the future to take up key leadership positions and grow within the company. So this is something really important for us to make sure that we move and promote women throughout the organisation.

There is a “run mummier” app developed out of India. This app allows women who go on maternity leave even before and after to guide them through the entire maternity process and it’s a “keep in touch” program. So women can keep in touch throughout the entire maternity leave process, such that they feel connected and if they want to come back, we help them to get back.

SAP allows people the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime such as to incorporate the needs of the people. Every group isn’t the same depending on the job. So we help leaders to articulately assess, whether or not they are able to work from home, abroad or virtually – to make sure this works.

This is the same in terms of technology. We have learning series that runs on learning network system. Learning can be done on your Smartphone, when you are at the gym or driving, so you can listen to the sessions, learn and be a part of the overall DNA, at any place you are. We also conduct special webinars on key topics such as women leadership work series and some of these global programs reach every pocket of the world.

  1. How are hiring decisions made at SAP to get the brightest talent on board and furthermore, make sure that such talent is actively engaged in the organisational growth plan?

Our hiring policy is simple: we want the best talent who demonstrate long-term potential – not solely a candidate who has the right set of skills and competencies, but also someone who brings with them the right attitude, values and aspirations.

We have stringent interview selection and candidate screening processes for different levels within the organization. Beyond job competencies, skillsets, and technical knowledge, we place emphasis on recruiting talents whose values and aspirations align with that of SAP.

We believe cultural fit is a crucial ingredient for success in an employee’s career over the long run. Candidates who demonstrate the right potential are carefully handpicked by hiring managers and assessed for cultural fit.

In addition, it is also important to communicate the organization’s strategy with the workforce. Having a shared vision of the company’s future with employees makes them partners in the journey ahead. We find that employees are more engaged when they feel that they have a stake in the future of the business.

  1. How does the performance management system at SAP work? What is your performance bar for selecting candidates for leadership roles?

Cloud has quickly become the mainstream of business technology, and an increasing number of companies are moving their core functions to the cloud.

Companies are now leveraging cloud as a platform for continuous business innovation – as a way to engage employees, customers, and partners in new ways, unleash new operating models, gain new insights that drive growth and profitability, and accelerate competitive advantage in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace.

SAP SuccessFactors is the go-to system for us. Our award-winning human capital management software integrates onboarding, collaboration tool, learning management system, performance management, recruitment, and talent management among others.

A well-designed performance management system helps ensure managers effectively tackle performance issues head-on and give employees the right guidance and motivation to improve.

In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, companies need to continuously cultivate the next generation of leaders. We leverage on SAP SuccessFactors Succession and Development to help identify and develop the talent needed to improve organizational strength and achieve business goals, while providing visibility and planning capabilities to support future growth.

  1. Take us through the workplace culture at SAP and efforts made to make sure new talent on board feels a part of it?

We strive to provide consistent and seamless integration of new employees into the organization. We provide new employees with a unique experience that will make them and their families proud of joining SAP.

Our goal is to help employees settle down as quickly and smoothly as possible by providing all the required resources, right information and learning environment to positively engage them with the organization. The onboarding process starts even before the new joiner enters SAP.

Two weeks prior to new employee’s joining date, they receive a welcome email with a link to the SAP pre start portal, where they find all the information they need to get to know SAP a little better.

The first day of work in a new environment can be a daunting experience and we aim to provide warm and cheerful welcome to all new employees and engage them from the moment they walk in.

The company has a dedicated onboarding team, who will host a session for new employees to cover information on IT, Facilities, Compliance, Benefits, Location Details and Support.

New employees are also assigned a buddy as well as a mentor, since we believe that the helping hand of a buddy and the guidance of a mentor are crucial to integrate the new employees and help them navigate the organization.  The way I describe workplace culture at SAP is “Intensity with a Heart.”

See: Roadblocks to Women Leadership in Asia: “This is not a ‘women’s issue’, but a business issue and men are critical to making progress,” Nick Marsh Opines

  1. What are the steps and practices followed at SAP to nurture and groom future leaders?

At SAP, we have a robust talent and succession management process, where we identify potential successors to key positions early on in their career and provide them with support, coaching and opportunities to take on additional responsibility beyond their typical scope of work.

SAP is also keen on developing its future leaders by providing a range of structured development programs to allow potential leaders to experience leadership positions.

For example, our Leadership Framework analyses the lifecycle of a leader at SAP with the aim of increasing the quality and standards of leadership practices for the individual.

This serves as a useful resource for leaders across all levels to seek information on the topics around onboarding, leadership development, goal setting, talent acquisition, succession and promotion as well as performance management.

  1. What are the initiatives to support women leadership development and recognise top performers for leadership roles?

In the technology industry, you only win half the battle when you get women to enter the board. The other half is to retain them. SAP is working towards the goal of having at least 25 percent of management positions filled with female talent by 2017.

To achieve this goal, we have created the Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program (LEAP), a year-long targeted development journey for women with the potential and desire to move into new or more senior people management roles.

LEAP provides women with the opportunity to build capabilities and a leadership mindset within a supportive community of their peers. Participants meet monthly via a virtual classroom, where they delve into the monthly topic, discuss assignments, and have an opportunity to ask questions and get direct feedback.

LEAP’s mission is to advance SAP towards the 25 percent target while providing a meaningful, impactful experience to this important high potential audience. Till date, we have around 90 women who are a part of this group in APJ region.

  1. Tell us about the issues and challenges faced by HR when it comes to efficient management of Global Customer Operations (GCO)?

We typically look at the business challenges every year and we also build HR and people strategy to address those needs. This is done alongside business leaders and people directly. The number one concern obviously is, “I am paranoid about talent”.

Whether or not people are going to leave, where would we find the next new talent for the future, and also how does it look like in terms of new structures of talent, the temporary workers, and leveraging new types of work models is the number one area to develop the “talent win plan.”

At SAP, we target different markets across the globe, where we have bigger issues of attack and where we need additional talent. We address attraction, retention as well as building talent pools in communities externally.

Asia Pacific, Japan and China region are among our target markets. We are also looking at Singapore, Australia and India in terms of attracting talent and place specific targets around KPIs, agendas and getting our senior leadership involved in bringing up these talent communities. We have an external talent pipeline that we always need to fill in positions.

Brigette McInnis-Day, Executive Vice President, Human Resources at SAP

Brigette McInnis-Day, Executive Vice President, Human Resources at SAP

  1. Which are the areas wherein lots of companies go wrong when it comes to human resources?

“I feel that as a HR we put up our limits, before we even start things. We don’t have the funding and resources, we look at traditional ways to motivate, reward and build organisations that almost slows down the progress, before we get started. I would say that the mindset needs to change completely.”

The workforce in the future is a digital future. Consumers in perspective can get information they need at their fingertips in just seconds. HR has to do that as well, otherwise we will be out of jobs. There will be no relevance from the HR perspective, unless we embrace the differences of digital economy and provide information for employees at their fingertips.

HRs need to embrace technology, get reader’s analytics, need to have all the information about people and the employees should know how to navigate their career and develop themselves digitally.  Our theme for this year at SAP is “No Limits”.

  1. How can HR be a strategic business partner to today’s CEOs who believe in driving organisational outcomes?

Most of the CEOs agree that they need a strategic HR resource. So my advice to all the HR professionals is to feel a part of the business. This stems from knowing the ins and outs of the way business works.

One of the things businesses need is to help CEOs drive what’s needed and also from a strategic HR perspective, driving transformation, consulting with business leaders and driving simple clean designs to allow people to engage naturally is focus of the future.

Helping young professionals thrive at SAP

Helping young professionals thrive at SAP

Today, it is not just about full time employees anymore; the people will deselect the workforce if the environment doesn’t support growth and is not conducive. It is never going to work the old way.

So HR managers need to think differently about job sharing for women and men so that they have flexibility, need to think differently about leveraging temporary workers etc. For example, a lot of the companies manage by headcount and budget. This really breaks down and hurts development.

People do not allow talented workforce to leave their organisation at times, because they are afraid they cannot backfill, and it just creates really bad leaders sometimes.

“Challenge for companies here is to think about talent as currency, and how do you think this investment will drive efficiencies and how leaders can manage budgets. So if your leaders can manage budgets, then you have not much to worry on the headcount front.”

  1. Kindly share with us some interesting tips to develop healthy “talent paranoia” for leadership development.

Turning internally, that’s a big one on “talent win plan.” Basically, we track employee turnover in every country and every line of business, we get those KPIs and technology perspectives. You need technology to help ease your paranoia regards talent, at least to know where you are focusing, else you are shooting in the dark.

Use SuccessFactors technologies to track turnover and we look at, where and how we can’t lose people. So we focus internally on ways to retain. We have revamped all of our rewards to retain and attract talent. We have the right mechanisms from the equity and cash perspective to hire the right talent for the future and retain them.

That’s just one area, but it goes beyond just compensation, there is something called “stay interviews”. What we sometimes call “struggle-love” campaign. It’s a better way to say it in terms of just constant one-on-ones with people to find out how they are doing, if they are on the fence of staying, leaving and understanding what their needs are.

There are tons of solutions to develop people and drive leadership programs. So we need that personal conversation to happen, from a leader to an employee as well as HR. We are constantly in high touch and connecting with people to leverage technology and also personal contacts.

Another big global problem is – we can’t grow our people fast enough, so we create new jobs all the time and we are “high tech – high growth” company.

The technology keeps continuously changing and our people need to be highly flexible, very agile emotionally, professionally and intellectually, because we constantly move in change, we need to breed innovation. From an HR perspective to grow these people faster, we also need people to be ready enough for next levels of leadership and growth.

  1. What are the people management strategies and practices implemented at SAP to drive workforce efficiencies?

When it comes to people strategy there are three things we look at – growing our talent, how do we allow people to develop and flow throughout their careers within an organisation in a more agile way and how to drive leadership development throughout the entire company.

To drive people management strategies, we took 100 million Euros at the global level and drove leadership curriculum around the world. We did this for free to help support people who are never able to get to development, because the leader doesn’t fund it etc.

We create lots of opportunities and level playing field for everyone to thrive. Nearly 70 percent of people in our workforce have been through leadership development programmes in just a little bit over a year. It is one of the cultures that we at SAP follow.

If it’s a great programme, people are attracted to it and they use it.  Driving simplicity and ensuring customer success is one of the governing principles on how we work and lead.

  1. How does HR analytics influence people decisions at SAP?

At SAP, the analytics allows us to look at – what roles we need to hire, what are the skillsets from the cost planning perspective, how quickly do we ramp up our recruiting team, how many recruiters do we need and how do we run a flexible organisation with temporary workers – all the differences we need in terms of spikes and peaks in the organisation.

It also helps with root cause analysis of problems. For example in case of diversity, it helps identify issues that women are challenged with, where do we have pockets of greatness and scope for improvements. The analytics allows us to explore these findings.

SAP has real strong competency in the area of compensation and rewards and we take this very seriously. We make sure that we have pay equity across the organisation, and in case of problems we try to resolve them at the earliest.

  1. What are the drivers for piloting initiatives such as Build your Brand, LEAP (Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program), Talent Roundtables and People Communities?

When we found that women weren’t progressing as fast in their careers, we developed a LEAP programme to understand and used analytics to figure out the root causes for lack of progression. We spoke to focus groups to add a personal touch and data element.

Putting these two things together, we looked for savvyness and building employee brand, influence and getting the visibility in the company. No funding was called for. All we did is, we just took a high-performing employee from SuccessFactors and made her run the program with 60 women in US for sales, consulting and marketing.

These women travel a lot and we took these groups of women and ran the programme free of charge by bringing in leaders to build the curriculum.

Within 18 months, we had roughly over 30% of promotions. In APJ, we have 60 women undergoing the leadership programme and we are seeing results around the world with 25% promotions in a span of 12 months. This is phenomenal!

  1. How have these initiatives helped towards creating happy workplaces?

To create happy workplaces, employee engagement at SAP is extremely high and we measure employee engagement every year. Couple of other things like fun place to work and happiness related to feeling valued, and also awareness that you work for a company with corporate social responsibility is important. Most employees experience pride when they work for something, with a broader cause, objective and initiatives.

One of the recent announcements called “1 Billion Lives” was kicked off at Singapore. We are going to fund 200,000 Euros for the project and use crowd-sourcing to hear from employees on the types of projects they want to fund, to touch upon 1 billion lives in the Asia Pacific and Japan region.

SAP will hence be focusing on education, development and also leveraging technology in healthcare. More important is people at SAP, love what they do and they want to get back.

Another initiative is Autism @Work programme. Basically we are looking to hire 1% of the population – the people on the autism spectrum. We found that those suffering from autism are very talented and can help SAP with business issues from a technology perspective. This programme has been implemented around the world.

We kicked it off at Australia just recently in the last quarter and we are also taking off in Korea this year. So we have achieved more than 1% already in a very short span of time.

Other one is SAP’s partnership with Hope Worldwide Singapore, which aims to provide digital literacy and entrepreneurship development for new initiatives. What makes employees happy about where they work, is SAP is amongst the top 10 MNCs to work for in Asia, according to Great Place To Work Institute.

Also read: All You Need to Know about HR Management at SAP: Exclusive tête-à-tête with Jairo Fernandez, Senior Vice President-HR, APJ

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