SAPPHIRE NOW Human Resources Day Focuses on Employee Experience

SAPPHIRE NOW Human Resources Day Focuses on Employee Experience

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Meet the Experts

By Craig Powers, Research Analyst, SAPinsider

If you’ve ever been to Orlando for an in-person SAPPHIRE NOW event, you’ve experienced an intense week of meetings, sessions, major announcements, networking, and for many, a reunion. This experience has been greatly changed by the virtual nature of this year’s event, and while the usual way of engaging with attendees may be considered lost, so too is the pressure to pack content into a three-day window.

The 2021 SAPPHIRE NOW virtual event was spread out over three weeks, which enabled SAP to highlight industries and lines of business on individual days. That means human resources (HR) had its day in the sun, complete with its own keynote and a packed agenda of HR-focused sessions.

The SAP SuccessFactors team, led by SAP SuccessFactors President Jill Popelka, took time to share its latest offerings and innovations, including the new RISE with SAP package for Human Experience Management (HXM), as well as a strong focus on employee experience through customer HR transformation stories.

RISE with SAP for HXM

SAP announced the expansion of its RISE with SAP offering to specific industries and lines of business at SAPPHIRE NOW, including RISE with SAP for HXM. (Read about what this means for SAPinsiders in this post written by SAPinsider’s VP and Research Director Robert Holland.) RISE with SAP is designed to package cloud licenses and help make it easier for customers to transition their systems to the cloud. Given that SAP’s development in the HXM area is primarily focused on the cloud with SAP SuccessFactors and Qualtrics, it makes sense that RISE with SAP would be extended to the HR line of business.

There are three packages available in RISE with SAP for HXM. The base offering, called Structure for Success, includes SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central as a core HR system of record, Qualtrics for IT and employee experience management, and SAP Work Zone for HR as a unifying interface. Another package — Reskill to Innovate — adds to those three licenses the SAP SuccessFactors Learning module and pre-built content from Skillsoft. The third package, deemed Operationally Transform, focuses on operations, bringing in SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Payroll and SAP SuccessFactors Time Tracking.


RISE with SAP for HXM is aimed at customers that have not yet adopted cloud solutions and offers the ability to package licenses. In an interview with SAPinsider, Popelka explained that SAP included HXM in the RISE with SAP offering because of HR’s important role in every process and technology change.

“RISE with SAP is all about helping our customers and their journey from on-premise to the cloud,” Popelka said. “We recognized as we were developing the RISE with SAP offering that every business transformation is a people transformation, and you have to really focus on the people element for your business to be successful.”

To know if RISE with SAP for HXM is right for your organization and which package may work best, it’s important to identify your HR needs. Is employee experience central to your potential transformation? Is employee learning a need? Is access to the necessary applications a pain point for employees? What about operational processes such as payroll and time and attendance?

Crocs and SAP Adapt to Work Disruption

Even more critical for many companies than a program meant to make their transition to the cloud easier is proven success in transformation with cloud technology. Several SAP SuccessFactors customers took the virtual stage during the SAPPHIRE NOW HR keynote to demonstrate how they have changed processes and technology to improve their HR functions.

Footwear provider Crocs spoke more about process than technology, discussing how it has adapted to the new remote-heavy work environment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Crocs’ Chief People Officer Shannon Sisler described the “progressive people practices” her company has taken, including defining personas for each role with clear expectations around office attendance and travel requirements, implementing quarterly performance discussions led by employees, eliminating ratings, and doing more listening to employees with listening tools. To address burnout, Crocs has also introduced “employee comfort days,” which are extra vacation days that encourage employees to take a break and unplug from work.

SAP highlighted its internal flexible work initiative, which gives employees choice about where they’d prefer to work — be it at the office, at home, or from the road.

These examples from Crocs and SAP demonstrate that adapting to flexible work is more than just providing the right technology — policy and process must also be considered. The companies have changed the way they define roles, assess performance, and even requirements around in-person attendance to meet employee expectations on the other side of the pandemic. This will likely be vital for employee retention as remote work provides new and global opportunities for job searchers.

Technology Helps Too

HR process transformation is important, but the right technology can enable changes to be effective. Microsoft shared how it has implemented SAP SuccessFactors hosted on — you guessed it — Microsoft Azure. Microsoft’s Senior Director Prerna Ajmera shared a key learning from her organization’s HR journey on how to achieve buy-in and investment, suggesting that companies focus less on the cost of HR transformation and instead focus on the value of improving employee experience.

Pablo Maison, Grupo Perez Companc’s Chief Human Resources Officer, shared how his company is overhauling its HR technology with SAP SuccessFactors, Qualtrics, and by building a single HR interface for employees. This was a nod to the key elements of RISE with SAP for HXM. Maison says the move to the cloud was driven by “simplifying processes, improving employee experience, and freeing up time in HR to focus on transformation and not transactions.”

Finally, Adam Walden, IT Portfolio Director at the UK’s Royal Mail Group described how his company is using SAP Work Zone for HR to “bring people in one place for all HR requirements and for the apps and services they need.”

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders

  • SAP is focused on employee experience. With the announcement about RISE with SAP for HXM and throughout the customer testimonials, it was clear that employee experience is SAP’s current driver in its HCM (or HXM) suite. It is building its HR technology strategy on employee experience, and that will be a focus in development going forward.
  • Employee experience transformation requires more than technology. While some customers focused on the SAP software they are deploying, others discussed the policies and processes they are implementing to transform their employee experience. If you are looking to improve the work environment for your employees, you don’t necessarily have to wait for a new system. Take lessons from Crocs and SAP and improve what you can through policy.
  • If you are looking to transform employee experience with technology, licensing bundles might save some headaches. RISE with SAP is offering the opportunity to purchase multiple cloud subscriptions with a single service-level agreement. That would save some administrative work on your end, but it’s important to make sure you identify your employee experience needs before diving in with a software package.

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