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SAP Canada plan offers glimpse into future of work

High-performing talent requires steady diet of trust, flexibility


Throughout the pandemic, many industries transitioned to remote work. What started as a short-term solution is now a new way of life for many Canadian employees, and an expectation for new candidates. (DimaBerlin/Adobe Stock)

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, companies across the globe are revisiting their work policies to address employee feedback for greater flexibility.

The global shift to working from home has led to new employee preferences and better understanding of how productivity and collaboration can successfully continue in a remote environment.

In our own recent employee work-style survey at SAP Canada, the data revealed that continued work flexibility is strongly desired. More than 80 per cent of SAP employees say they want a mix of working from home with some time in the office.

Along with working location, we also know people expect some degree of flexibility in their working time.

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Companies are now in the important position of gathering employee sentiment and aligning that to their evolving business needs, to form a plan that navigates them successfully into the future of work.

Creating a trust-based flex work model

At the same time of the awakening that remote work is entirely possible, most organizations are becoming clearer on their responsibility to support the holistic needs of a person while in their employment.

Why? Because a healthy, happy, engaged employee leads to productive, innovative, and successful performance.

To unleash the potential of a high-performing team, the talent within the team needs to be fed a healthy diet of trust, empowerment, and flexibility.

This serves as the backdrop for the compelling case post-COVID that organizations must provide a working model aligned to those principles. Doing so signals to employees they are heard and valued; this becomes the heartbeat of every successful company.

While the exact flex model may look a little different from company to company, SAP has pledged to provide a setup that fits every​ ​role, style, and location with:

  • a 100 per cent flexible and trust-based workplace as the norm, not the​ ​exception
  • an inclusive environment in which people can work from home, at the office, or remotely, so everyone is​ ​empowered to be at their personal best, driving success for our customers
  • flexible work schedules, so employees can decide​ ​when they work aligned with business needs
  • inspiring office designs tailored for creativity, collaboration, community, ​and focused work, enabling​ ​employees to find the right space for every task
  • office buildings that prioritize ​sustainability and health
  • an approach that meets local regulations across the many regions where our employees work.

Our aim is to provide employees with a framework that allows them to be productive, creative, and inspired, while running the business sustainably.

We believe this inclusive approach is an expression of respect to employees and supports the needs of a diverse workforce while achieving joint success for SAP and our customers.

Strategies for success

Build a growth mindset: Flex is an iterative, ongoing journey. Some elements may be experimental — help everyone understand the journey and the intention to learn along the way.

Define the framework: A platform of flexibility is important, but there likely still needs to be some general boundary conditions within a department or team, related to the business requirements of the function.

When you create a specific working standard, define for employees the purpose and shared beneficial outcomes it serves the organization and customer.

Prepare your leaders: Managers play a critical role in the effective implementation and ongoing practice of flex work. They need to feel enabled to successfully align the personal needs of employees to the business outcomes the team is accountable for.

Provide clear communication: Flex work has surfaced many questions employees will need answers to and support on: everything from the logistical tax implications of various work locations, to changing IT needs, to agreeing upon flex work arrangements — the list goes on. Create a place with a set of resources where they can get those answers.

Review your benefits: Assess if the benefits portfolio still aligns to the ongoing needs of employees — benefits that support mental, financial and physical health, with a low barrier to use, are important.

Look at your office space: Create purpose-driven spaces — for focused work, collaboration, and social engagement. Look at technology to support flexible working spaces, such as desk-booking tools.

Use technology to your advantage: Invest in solid collaboration tools and an HR technology solution that provides end-to-end human experience management (HXM).

Such software would contain and map the employees’ entire journey at the company, from onboarding to ongoing training — improving engagement, growth, and retention wherever, whenever, they work.

Value your HR department: HR has a big role to play in supporting the needs of employees through a lot of transition and uncertainty — invest in strategic HR roles that lead the organization with expertise.

Empower HR so that they can in turn empower the rest of the employee population.

Ultimately, this shift into the future of work is about treating people right; listening and communicating with employees using trust and respect, and leading them gently through the working-world transition post-COVID.

Do that, and you’ll have a recipe for success to attract and retain the best talent in your field.

Megan Smith is the head of HR for SAP Canada in Vancouver.