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1% Increase In Employee Engagement Increased Operating Profit By €40-50 million: Shraddhanjali Rao, Head HR, ‎SAP India

Shraddhanjali Rao, Head of Human Resources - ‎SAP India tells BW Businessworld in a chat about the strategy behind making the company one of the best places to work in India and more. (Edited Excerpts)

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SAP In India has been ranked one of the best places to work in the country. In an interview with BW Businessworld, Shraddhanjali Rao, Head of Human Resources - ‎SAP India talks about what makes SAP India a great place for employees, and where the company is heading in terms of headcount over the last five years. 

Edited excerpts:

SAP in India has been ranked among top companies to work by Great Place to Work Institute. What has been the strategy?

Trust and engagement at the workplace have been critical factors to our success. We have seen a strong correlation between employee engagement and business outcomes. As a matter of fact, we saw that 1 percent increase in our employee engagement globally resulted in an increase of €40-50 million to our operating profit.

Our people strategy is aimed at building afuture ready innovative organizationwhile providing a great experience to our employees. This strategy is focused on 4 pillars – ‘Grow our Talent’, ‘Simplify our Organization’, ‘Lead our People’, and ‘People Sustainability & Relations’.

Grow Our Talent: We provide support to ourdiverse talents to grow, innovate, and ensurecustomer success while meeting our goals. Therefore, buildingtalent win communities and improving candidate, business, and recruiting experience is our top priority. Having understood the need to make our employees future ready, we have made an investment of 140 million euros in specialized learning programs.

Simplify our Organization: We believe and  encourage real conversations, and to facilitate a continuous dialogue between managers and employeeswe have rolled out SAP Talk - a common platform leveraging SAPCloud Platform (SCP) solutions and SuccessFactors Continuous Performance Management (CPM).

Lead our people:We are building digital leaders to succeed in the digital transformation journey through: -

  • Enablement:We have flagship programs for leader’s talents at SAP creating a consistent learning experience
  • Succession bench strength:Companies need to expand their succession management practices to stay competitive within evolving markets. Globally, SAP‘s Succession Management practice and rollouts have ensuredconsistency and quality of execution
  • Gender Balanced Leadership: Diversity & inclusion is a business imperative is very important to the success of our organisation. Currently we have 24.3% women in leadership in India.

People Sustainability & Relations - Diversity in ideas, gender, culture, generation and different abilities is quite easily a linchpinfor greater innovation and therefore business growth. In an effort to truly drive home our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we launched the first three modules of ourglobal learning curriculum, called “Focus on Insight: Diversity+Inclusion.” Our technology plays a huge role in our diversity and inclusion efforts, helping us to eliminate bias – conscious or unconscious – in our own recruiting process with tools that weed out biased language that could impact the types of applicants we interview.

Tell us a few anecdotes about the work culture at SAP in India. How do you encourage employees to utilise their full potential?

We can break down the overall work culture at SAP into 4 parts:

Innovation and entrepreneurship:

At SAP, innovation is the soul of the organization and we encourage our employees by providing multiple platforms where they can dedicate their time exclusively to work on innovative ideas. Programs like SAP Blue, change makers, Early Talent Stretch assignments, bring together inspired employees to look for newer ideas and processes that help make our organization run better. It creates a culture of innovation which reflects in their work every day.Inculcating a start-up culture is important in organizations as it provides employees the freedom to innovate. Our flagship Intrapreneurship Program advocates just this.


Technology in learning: At SAP, we have 5 generations working together, and the way they consume information is very different. To particularly cater to Gen Y, Z we have 68 native mobile apps with a single sign on.We also haveSuccessFactorsonline and on-demand courses as per the different learning styles and employee segments. Our focus is to make learning available anytime, anywhere, anyhow!

Upskilling: Industry estimates that2 billion jobs that exist today will disappear by 2030. That’s roughly 50 percent of all of jobs worldwide.However, technology is constantly challenging the job market by creating newer roles. We are working towards getting our people future-ready with the skills that they would require to embrace this change.

Renewed Performance management approach: 

We have worked towards creating a workplace where employees see a purpose to come to work everyday. Our managers and leaders drive a continuous dialogue with our teams to ensure that our employees are well connected with the overall company strategy.In line with this, we focus on a culture of performance excellence, in which transparency and fairness are the key pillars. We focus not only on the what of performance but also on the how which is characterized by the how we run behaviours of SAP.

Culture of appreciation:

This is yet another crucial element in our system. Our awards framework “Appreciate” provides an opportunity, not just for managers but for all for all SAP employees to recognize each other and be recognized themselves for demonstrating and living ‘How We Run’ in their daily work. This accentuates a culture of mutual appreciation which is key to delivering best results. We also recognize and reward innovation at SAP through our annual awards, as well as spot awards across different valuesto create a culture of instant feedback & appreciation.

What are the hiring intentions and what has been the change in headcount in the last 5 years?

We have made 2000+ offers with already 1600+ employees joining us this year across India. This is phenomenal growth and reflection of our commitment to the India market where wehave more than 11,000 employees as of today. We have continuously focused on increasing the quality hires while doubling the number of conversions using additional methods such as Assessments. We aim to create a phenomenal hiring experience both for our candidates as well as our hiring managers & recruiters. We are leveraging technology to optimize the operations so that our recruiters can focus on the above more effectively.

How has the role of HR evolved in the recent years?

As companies undergo digital transformation driven by rapid adoption of technology, businesses are being reshaped across every industry. This requires an agile and even more adaptable workforce, which calls for the right hire and a constant focus on skilling. This is an urgent concern amongst business leaders.

To provide talents with new individual capabilities and create a dynamic workplace, we in HR must continuously re-imagine the way we design and provide our HR Services to our people.

This means two things: 

  • Firstly, HR needs to address these changed expectations and come up with solutions that provide a digital employee experience, e.g. look-up your pay slip on your mobile anywhere, anytime. This holds particularly true for us as a techcompany because as such we are expected to lead the way in leveraging newest technologies to advance products, services and people.
  • Secondly, HR needs to continuously address its own future in a way that it moves beyond simple automation of recurring tasks. It must find new, digital ways of delivering its services as well as new ways of deploying and scaling its finite resources

Data Driven: Data can help us find the right pool of talent by analyzing what kind of people are likely to leave the organization, to find which universities are likely to churn out the best talent. HR should be able to work with facts and figures and draw necessary conclusions out of it, thus changing the execution in real time.

What do the leaders need to do to drive the business forward?

A competent leader in the digital age will need to take risks, drive change &be open to new ideas. The leader will also need to embrace diversity & inclusion, and invest in diversity at all levels while handling unique views and generations. To be prepared for leadership in the digital era, leading with a coaching mindset is a must for any leader.  Digital leaders take decisions that can be mapped to company strategies and made in real time.They need to understand how technology currently is, and will continue to transform society/customers, and translate that into business impact.

One needs to understand that collaboration is key to success in this era of technology. A good leader will need to look at a network and collaboration model while thinking of profit and business growth plans.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle-customers. Leaders will need to gain certain set of skills to leverage technology to get a 360 view of the customers and look at the ways they can make use of insights procured from the same.

What are some of the challenges in the HR industry?

We in HR need to be prepared to support a future & agile workforce. To do this, we will need to relook into our traditional philosophy - relook at things differently with the changing work models, and making employee experience personalised yet scalable. Some scenarios include:

Attracting Talent: The average internet user spends 1.72 hours on social media per day. But only 39 percdent of companies leverage social media data to improve recruiting, engagement and employer brand. We have heard that talent shortage is a myth, and therefore companies need to leverage technology and diversify their talent strategy to help find the right pool of talent and customize roles and responsibilities for that specific pool. Actively seek out and engage with a diverse talent pool to ensure fresh perspectives are welcomed.

Upskilling for the future: We have already established the role learning agility will have in ensuring our success in the future. We need to create an environment that fosters learning as a culture but does in a way that is designed for a todays multi-generational workforce by personalizing it – Anytime, Anywhere and Anyhow! Additionally, we need to create platforms for exchange and collaboration where these new learnings can be then taken to the next level. Behaviours of risk taking and constructive dialogue need to be built actively into the DNA of organizations.

Revamping Engagement Model: We have already established the significance of big data across industries to drive growth.The same data can be used to create predictive models that can not only help in anticipating attrition and the associated risks, but will also help in discovering when to anticipate attrition. This will help HR, managers to build a timeline that suggests the best topics and method to engage with employees meaningfully.