Bhuvaneshwar Naik, CHRO, SAP India has a fundamental belief that human factor can affect and alter transactions in business and play a significant role in the outcome. He has been in the professional world for the past 22 years and a major part of this experience consists of undertaking leadership roles. More than half of his career span has been with SAP and he is now the global head for career and talent management for SAP and will be moving to the headquarters in Germany.
He has grown up with seven enterprising and career oriented sisters who have inculcated the values of sensitivity and understanding of importance of a woman’s career. These qualities have given him the unique and significant opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives every day. Bhuvaneshwar comes from an engineering background and has an MBA degree from Tata Institute, Mumbai. He had no set plans to be a part of Human Resources, however he gained immense interest eventually and decided to switch to this arena.
Talent force in India today
There is a huge transformation of talent globally and even more in India especially with the lower average age in the country and a great deal of opportunities in service industry. At the first level, the world is changing with a lot of resource crunch. Population is increasing, there is distribution of growth, resource constraints etc. At the second level, customer needs are changing as well, whether it is B2B or B2C or B2B2C. They seek instant use and value, real time connection, personalized and on demand solutions and for simplicity and design. At the third level, the industry is changing as well. We see quite a bit of consolidation and segregation happening for instance the maturity of cloud data. We can observe this huge e-commerce and startup wave in the country and at the same time we observe the significant legal compliance and corporate governance as a topic that is growing in itself. Accordingly, the society and the talent are also evolving and hence they are looking for a larger purpose.
Talent workforce seeks the following
- Brands they represent
- Access to knowledge
- Involvement in designing their own work
- Leadership expectations
So the changes are four-dimensional denoted by how the world is changing, how customer needs are changing, how the industry is changing and how the talent is changing. He thinks what is fundamental is that everything deserves a lot of trust and gaining that trust is becoming tougher. Hence our aim is to get the talent to participate in an organization’s journey and we can help them align emotionally and objectively to the larger mission of the company. Initially they used to look at lifelong employment and a time period of 5 to 8 years was considered a good time, now the average time period has been reduced to 2 years. Thus HR seeks to answer questions like – Is retention a strategy we need to have? There are a lot of questions HR is asking these days and there is quite a bit of transformation that the renewal HR organizations are going through to ensure that the talent that is there in the market is really relevant for them and exciting as well. Fundamentally there is good and diverse talent available in the country and they are able to exercise choices as far as professions are concerned and they take risk largely facilitated by the e-commerce and startup ecosystem. Finally, talent today is looking at how it can impact the world.
Organizational Culture is different from the culture a decade ago. A company’s culture needs to facilitate a far more agile work environment, quick reaction to market and the ability to deal with transformations every 3 to 6 months. Fundamentally, the culture we see today is the expectation of a faster reaction, far more relevant and quick and real time because the consumption patterns are also changing for employees. Company’s culture is moving away from being prescriptive to employees to that of giving choices. At the same time, older companies like SAP which are 40 years old are dealing with multiple generations of employees today and the stark difference between what a 50 year old in our company would expect and want and deal with compared to a 22-year-old who is coming up. It pecks the strategy in communication whether desktop or mobile, so it is unbelievable, what SAP is today and how vastly it is different from SAP ten years ago!
Leadership’s greatest challenge in Business today
Complex versions of Organizations- Startups are dealing with hyper growth and in the process of dealing with hyper growth, whether one likes it or not, complexities come in and even established companies like SAP or any other company can deny that because of the speed that they have to keep changing at is immense. Simplification is the key to unlock this because if anything a company does today by employees can happen only if consumption is easier and consumption becomes easier if things are simple and easy, which is why we have to move away from being prescriptive to giving choices.
Deltas for Workforce in our country
- Lack of data scientists in this country even though, in this hyper growth situation where analytics have a key role in driving strategy.
- Design – The user experience of products built in India. Easier consumption leads to increased adoption of products and services.Therefore, even though user experience as a skill has picked up in the last couple of years but not maintained a steady pace of growth.
- Mobility- Products have to sit idle due to lack of mobility.
Bhuvaneshwar considers diversity from the organization standpoint as a means to welcome diverse thoughts and ideas. Even though as a company SAP produces business software, at the end of the day the people using this software belong to diverse groups. Therefore you can in turn build a diverse customer base and a product that appeals to them.
Strategic plan to address inclusion
- Corporate objective- It has to come from the top as a KPI. If it becomes a part of the KPI it will not be confined to a few people and not fade away eventually.
- Diversity, as a topic needs to be owned by business not by HR. It has to be owned by business and it has to be run by business, the HR will only facilitate in the design.
- Knock down till a culture is built in the company- Companies should have a strategy to move away from couple of activities to think that diversity is happening however, they should aim at connecting the dots to reflect a larger picture, a larger purpose and how those activities are also relevant in comparison to making just women employees feel good.
SAP monitor’s the progress on Diversity issues and dynamics through not just the measurement of KPI’s, but also by looking at the top percentage of women who have moved to leadership roles from year to year. Secondly, if there are more women who are “fast track employees” and who are ready to do the next job compared to last year and finally the measurement of the strength of leadership and its evolvement.
SAP’s model for Inclusion
- Target of 25% women in management by 2017
- Institutionalizing our programs for women to ensure that we build a strong leadership bench so that we provide those opportunities. This is to ensure that all women have a fair opportunity, an equal opportunity to grow in the company, whether it is pay or promotion.
- We are working on building a culture with our managers to achieve a shared purpose which includes not operating or not making decisions based on assumptions with regards to women.
- Marketing and Branding – Tools to spread awareness that this company will encourage and appreciate women for their contribution.
- External validation – To build a sense of confidence in men and women in the organization. SAP is this year’s number one Employer for women as per Great Place to Work survey.
- Training program- At different grade levels in the company there is a structure called Strive to Lead and it is a six month program. The program aims at equipping the women colleagues who are in line for a promotion and require skills and competencies that are gender-specific and accordingly getting them ready for the next role.
Unconscious bias is prevalent in almost every organization, therefore SAP came up with a method to understand where and how these biases can be checked and monitored. Bhuvaneshwar engaged two data scientists from his organization to come up with a scientific and formulated technique to calculate these biases in several incidents in the company. SAP also outsources its “Exit Interviews” for employees as 60 to 70% of the workforce quits because of personal reasons that are not known to the employers.
Employee retention can be reduced through periodical training of the workforce however, imparting a lot of training does not guarantee high engagement. The absence of training on the other hand is a chief contributor to demotivation among employees. Transformations every company goes through are In order to be prepared to deploy people, employers have to be agile and give the employees a constant set of opportunities. Moving away from the conventional 3- day workshops at 5 –star hotels, training is more effective through the concept of power learning. It is all about bits and bytes and learning vehicles are dramatically changing, so that consumption becomes easier and faster.
The results of the Strive to Lead program led to a good ROI for the company as 10 out of 30 women were promoted. There are also programs for university graduate women who are coming to ensure that that they have leadership interventions early on and not when they are ready to become managers so that more women are inspired to build careers in the company.
Diversity workshops at SAP
- “Autism at Work” Program – In partnership with “Enable India” – there is a 3-month onboarding program to help people who are hired with autism to be able to adjust to the work environment of the company.
- “My Sparkle” -A workshop with a few young women employees.
- The idea behind the workshop was to express gratitude to the person who inspired the respective woman colleague to pursue her dream and work towards a successful career. It is not enough to praise a valuable colleague herself for her contribution but also make her realize that her job is as important as a male counterpart’s. We asked them to give a picture of who according to them, in the family helped them a lot to utilize their potential towards a great performance in the company and they gave a picture of their mother, father, husband, son etc. We made a fridge magnet with that picture along with that a note of gratitude to thank them on behalf of SAP for inspiring our colleague at home to do a good job at work.
- Women in Technology conference.
- India Inclusion Summit. NASSCOM is heavily investing in this topic in terms of educating companies.
Bhuvaneshwar has worked with approximately 3 generations at SAP in India with an average age of 29. He describes the millennials as hungry and disruptive in a nice way because they challenge everything. He believes that apart from managing the different work styles of this generation, one should be adapting to them as well. For example, if an employee is delivering his work and meeting his deadlines but has a different style of working cannot be deemed as incompetent. This conflict is a clear indication of generation gap among employees. It is not about performance, it is not about productivity but it is just a certain behavior that is unique to this generation. If we take the example of a classic first level manger, with an age group of 38-40 years, they have children who are between 10-18 years. Even as parents they unlearn and learn at home how this generation is evolving and over a period of time the acceptance at workplace of different working styles becomes easier. So what was difficult two years ago for a manager would just become easier two years later and 10 years from now this generation will have the same challenge with what they will see with what is coming out at that time. Hence this issue is cyclic and it takes time. Most people go through this baggage problem.
One of the biggest struggles today is for the middle management or the middle layer. They are struggling to deal with new workforce, new expectations and new paradigms. Bhuvaneshwar believes that this scenario will change by 2020 and that means organizations will realize far more value from workforce that comes out. The workforce is going to look like there is a lot more work that needs to happen to make things real time, just in time, instant consumption and instant value and hence those fundamentals will not change. Fundamentally, now or 5 years from now people would look for a larger purpose compared to just getting a job and surviving.
As far as the leaders are concerned, they will face challenges in managing the pace of change, whether it is in business side or from people side or Human Resources and secondly in managing consumption patterns.
Hence, an advice from Bhuvaneshwar for the leaders of tomorrow is to “Leave your Baggage”. There is no point searching for yourself in the new generation as you will never be able get positive results. One should be relevant to the workforce you are dealing with to ensure that you have a diverse workforce on board.
The Future worker:
The future employment will be more contractual in nature. With the rising population and traffic, companies will realize soon enough that a high degree of flexibility is important and eventually building of trust will be more crucial than ever.
SAP has a digital strategy in place at the company and they are right now working on what that digital strategy means for its employees. This idea will evolve and help everyone to learn, iterate and build solutions for the future.
Bhuvaneshwar encourages evolvement of Human Resources with the generations to come as it is difficult to predict in today’s world for instance how our future generation will be more productive and enthusiastic. As far as the future of Diversity and Inclusion is concerned, he sees a significant momentum developing especially with an increase in the D&I conferences today and the fact that companies are conducting them on their own. Thus, companies that really see value in it and establish a top down KPI approach will move forward.