In Today’s World, How Can Organizations Keep Their Talent Exceptional and Motivated?

Key Takeaways from the SuccessConnect 2020 Opening Address

by Lauren Bonneau, Managing Editor, SAPinsider

Work today doesn’t look like it did a year ago. While the essence of work is still the same — talent drives the business — in today’s world, how can companies keep their talent exceptional? The key to achieving this is the main takeaway from today’s opening keynote of SuccessConnect 2020 — organizations need to consider employees’ feeling, enable them to connect with one another, and provide the opportunities, learning, and development so they can be the best they can be.

Several announcements were made during this morning’s keynote — such as that today, SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central customers surpassed the 4,000 mark and that SAP’s plans to take Qualtrics public will not change the commitment to delivering SAP SuccessFactors solutions to customers. Throughout the keynote, it was clear that the employee experience matters today more than ever, human connections make the difference, experience wins every time, and the key to success is helping employees work to their best ability — that way everyone wins.

Experience Wins

The keynote kicked off with a portion titled Experience Wins: Reinventing How We Work, presented by Jill Popelka, President of SAP SuccessFactors. Popelka discussed the progress of SAP SuccessFactors from last year’s shift to Human Experience Management (HXM) that put people at the center of business. She described how SAP SuccessFactors HXM software delivers an experience that impacts business growth, empowers business leaders, and puts people in a “work to live” mindset (rather than a “live to work” one) so they can experience more and feel a strong sense of purpose.

She shared how using the SAP SuccessFactors HXM suite can help organizations adjust to employees feeling overwhelmed and stressed due to the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19. For example, National Australia Bank was able to train call center agents overnight to work from home and then organized daily calls to help the workforce stay informed. SAP SuccessFactors itself used the suite to run a series of pulse surveys to find out how best to inspire employees during these times. “We found that being more transparent brought employees closer,” said Popelka. “Listening and monitoring employee engagement has become a business imperative. We need to make technology work for humans, not the other way around.”

Joining Popelka virtually on stage was Kathleen Hogan, Chief People Officer & EVP of Human Resources at Microsoft. “The success of a company or firm depends on its ability to keep talent,” Hogan said. “This past year, due to social issues and COVID-19, a focus on culture has been more important than ever. CHROs, in partnership with leadership teams, need to step up and use a platform to make a difference for employees. Everyone has a responsibility to drive the people agenda, and each of us needs to be on a journey to change fixed mindsets.”

Hogan admitted there is no silver bullet, but with a focus on vision, determination, and execution — including actions such as making learning assets more available to employees and relative to individuals — organizations can unlock that necessary growth mindset. She also talked about the huge stress the pandemic has put on Microsoft employees, at work and at home — whether that’s navigating kids, isolation, or friends/family that have COVID-19. “The more managers care for employees and help them with flexibility or understanding their situation can be huge,” she said. “Microsoft managers focus on a Model, Coach, Care approach, and we have heavily relied on that Care element for our employees.”

Even more important during this time, according to Hogan, is for employees to take care of themselves. She shared Microsoft’s internal mantra of Growth, Gratitude, and Grace — and recommends for everyone to start each day with gratitude and be kind to each other.

Experience Vision

The second portion of the keynote, Experience Vision: Seeing the Future Now, was delivered by Amy Wilson, SVP Products & Design at SAP SuccessFactors, who provided a peek into the vision and product strategy for SAP SuccessFactors. To begin, she shared common questions she hears, such as if the SAP SuccessFactors product strategy changed or if HXM is still relevant. Her answer is that HXM is more relevant than ever before, albeit differently relevant.

The focus today, according to Wilson, is on taking mission-critical action, honoring employee needs and emotions every day, checking to see where they are struggling, and bringing them individualized experiences. “We have uncovered new ways to bring value to customers where they can access everything as a one-stop shop,” she said. “Customers can extend beyond SAP SuccessFactors solutions to include multiple products in an immersive and seamless portal.”

Wilson’s team provided a demo of the reimagined homepage for all SAP SuccessFactors users, which delivers a flexible and personalized experience and presents tasks that matter most to each individual. The team also shared a demo of SAP Work Zone for HR, the newest solution to be added to the HXM suite. This digital workplace solution puts the employee at the center, with a unified entry point to daily activities all brought together, including tasks that go beyond SAP SuccessFactors solutions. Both capabilities will be available in the upcoming November 2020 release.

“What matters this year might not be what matters next year, as things are constantly changing,” said Wilson. “It’s important to have organizational agility, to have reskilling/upskilling autonomously enabled from the bottom up, and to give people the freedom to think about what’s happening right now, rather than long-term planning.”

She stressed the importance of ongoing learning experiences and providing organizations real-time insights into what works. She also provided a glimpse into next year’s vision with a product that recommends mentors via real-time feedback loops based on users’ answers to questions — such as “what’s motivating you today?” — and offers instant ROI for participation.

Experience Connection

The third portion of the keynote, Experience Connection: Creating Unity to Drive Momentum, provided a customer case study of The Mariposa Corporation, a food and beverage company with 25 production plants and more than 16,000 employees in 17 countries. Theo Pappas, SVP and Head of SAP SuccessFactors at SAP Latin America & Caribbean, interviewed Maria Jose Villanueva, Chief Human Resources Officer at The Mariposa Corporation, about the journey the company has been on since 2016 when it began using SAP SuccessFactors solutions.

“We are a company where 85% of employees are in the front line, and we have almost 200 trainings in SAP SuccessFactors Learning that go all the way to that front line,” said Villanueva. “We put in leadership and functional trainings so all employees could advance their careers through learning, and we became aware that 90% of our people were using this platform.” She shared that focus groups have shown that people who never had an opportunity for learning before are now spending time in the evenings taking training courses — some on their phones together with their families — to learn how to become better leaders.

The learning platform also was extremely helpful to The Mariposa Corporation during the pandemic, according to Villanueva. “We were an industry that never stopped during COVID-19, and we had to change with speed of light, such as quickly putting together a list of people who were at risk,” she said. “Through the learning system, we were able to guarantee that everyone knew the new processes due to government specifications, and we were able to put together succession plans for the at-risk people who were suspended.”

Experience Transformation

To close the keynote — during the Experience Transformation: Inspiring Greatness in Every Employee portion — Meg Bear, SVP Product, Engineering and Operations at SAP SuccessFactors, discussed with Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author and business visionary, recommendations for motivating employees and helping them structure their time to ensure their best performance. Pink described the if-then reward that organizations commonly employ to motivate people. “Humans love rewards, and if-then rewards effectively improve performance for simple tasks with short time horizons that follow a set rules or steps,” he said. “But for tasks that are more complex and conceptual, we need to move to a different motivational regime.”

For long-term motivation, Pink recommended for organizations to first, pay well; second, offer autonomy, mastery, and purpose; and third, treat timing like a science rather than an art. “Our brain power doesn’t remain constant over the day. It changes,” he said. “There are three design principles — Peak Trough Recovery — that allow us to find how to do the right work at the right time.” He described that, according to research, what works best for 80% of people is to perform analytical work during the peak time (morning), administrative tasks during the trough (afternoon), and the iterative work during the recovery (evening). He also stressed, based on the research, that it’s about outcomes, not about working nine to five. To enhance performance, his advice for employees is to be more purposeful by:

  • Doing less — tackling the most important task on the to-do list
  • Having fewer meetings — removing the mental burden of being “on”
  • Taking more breaks — ideally, going outside, moving around, socializing, and fully detaching by leaving the phone behind

Bear reaffirmed that the future holds a need for upskilling employees. “Skills to help us adapt are different than the skills in the past,” she said. “To build a more empowered workforce and maximize their abilities, organizations need to give employees a voice and ask questions about what works for them. When they can take their own performance more seriously, they bring the best of themselves.”

For more on the keynote or other content shared at SuccessConnect 2020 and to learn about the EMEA event on October 20, visit here. Keep an eye out for an exclusive interview with Jill Popelka, Amy Wilson, and Meg Bear in the upcoming Q4 2020 edition of SAPinsider magazine.