HR in the hot seat: Renata Janini Dohmen, VP for HR, SAP Southeast Asia

HRD chats with the vice president of HR at SAP about the reinvention of HR, speaking the C-suite’s language, and HR’s role in an award-winning firm

What is your job title and what brought you into this role?
I am the vice president for HR at SAP Southeast Asia. I first started my career as a field sales trainer many years ago. From that point, my professional journey has taken several routes – covering vertical and lateral moves, including people manager and individual contributor roles. I was also lucky enough to build up my experience and career in HR by working in my home country and abroad, which allowed me a wonderful opportunity to learn more about different work and social cultures.
I feel extremely grateful for the sponsorship and guidance I received from mentors who provided me with the advice and courage to make bold decisions in my career – from leaving comfortable and well-paid jobs to take on new positions, to the sacrifice of being away from loved ones.
However, just as I have given up much to receive this rich experience, I feel that I also have many things to be proud of along this journey; for example, I was recognised for my work and awarded the Motorola CEO Quality Award, was given the chance to lead innovative learning projects in Brazil on mission critical communications in partnership with important universities, and have so far received two ‘Great Place to Work’ awards.
It has been a phenomenal ride so far; one that I am humble and honoured about, and which I hope can serve as inspiration for other professionals who need the encouragement to take that one decisive step that will catapult them forward.
What motivates or excites you the most in your current position?
The ability to influence and promote change, as well as the chance to work with extremely talented and passionate colleagues whom we term ‘Super Awesome People’ excites me about my current role. Here, I am also given the chance to embrace diversity and inclusion in everything I do, and very importantly to me, to impact people’s lives for the better. I am lucky to be able to teach and learn at the same time and to work for a company whose values align with my own.
What will be HR’s biggest challenges for the coming year?
The future is knocking at our doors. As such, ensuring we are up to speed in our practices to cater the needs of a fast-paced changing workforce and driving a people agenda that embraces the demands of new business models and societal realities are some of the pressing (and welcome) challenges in the coming year. We are called to rethink and reinvent how to attract and retain talent whilst breaking from traditional methods which no longer meet peoples’ expectations at their workplace today.
People expect simplicity and speed as they consume HR services, transparency and accessibility to information, and mobility and ease of use. We are all challenged to embrace and leverage technology early on to respond to such expectations.
HR professionals are also being challenged to be a lot more factual in their decisions, as the immense data collected over the past years can deliver targeted information through predictive analytics, providing updates on workforce and work-related trends.
To be part of this new drive towards the digital economy, HR professionals will need to be equipped with skill sets that can allow them to interpret and understand data, and obtain insights for faster, better people-related decisions whilst impacting the sustainability of the business they belong to.
If you have one piece of HR advice to offer, what would it be?
Focus on the business strategy and desired business outcomes when presenting HR related topics to stakeholders. Often times HR professionals talk about key performance indicators but fail to relate them with desired business outcomes or even with the strategy of the company.
Being able to speak the language of C-suite colleagues is imperative to ensure full alignment to the business, to garner support for your HR programs and to ensure that stakeholders understand and embrace the reasons behind the implementation of select measures – from indicators to investments.
How did your HR team help SAP become one of Asia’s Best Workplaces?
I’m fortunate to work with tremendously talented colleagues in SAP who are focused, and relentlessly drive results.  They are passionate about making make SAP ‘The Employer of Choice’ in Asia. The HR team working to help SAP become one of Asia’s Best Workplaces was 100% aligned with our company’s vision to run the world better and improve people’s lives.  They ran with this purpose in their hearts and minds from Day One.
Our HR practices are designed to enable our main corporate objectives where highly engaged employees is one of them. Thus, the team had a common desired outcome in mind and executed practices and project steps towards this common purpose. It is also important to mention that many colleagues outside HR played an extremely important role in this process and will continue to collaborate and support us in our journey to maintain our position as one of Asia’s Best Workplaces.
Now that you’ve won the award, what are your plans for the future?
The award is a fantastic recognition of our leadership as an employer, but it also comes with a great responsibility. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. On the contrary, we have an even greater responsibility to continue to do our best so that we, as an ecosystem, thrive and live the company’s vision at its best.
The award motivates us to continue to drive programs to improve our status of Employer of Choice further, promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace and foster a learning culture that allows people to run at their best.
SAP is always finding ways to innovate and grow, and to elevate trust levels among employees and managers. The future looks very promising and is happening right now.
What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR?
I’m currently very interested in trekking. In the past 12 months, I have completed amazing tracks in Peru and Oman and I’m preparing to climb Mt Agung in Indonesia next. Trekking challenges me physically, whilst providing me with an amazing opportunity for quiet and quality time for reflection, all the time surrounded by extraordinary and breathtaking scenery.

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