'It's never been more important to listen to employees'

HRD talks to the new President of SAP SuccessFactors about effective leadership during the COVID-19 crisis

'It's never been more important to listen to employees'

COVID-19 has been the catalyst for rising levels of expectations of workplace technology, according to Jill Popelka, the new President of SAP SuccessFactors. 

Popelka told HRD that it’s becoming increasingly important for technology to be “simple, intuitive, and integrated into how employees perform every day” because, after all, they are using it all day long. 

“It’s also important to address reskilling and upskilling with the widespread changes that are occurring across the world,” she added. 

“People constantly need new skills and we need to know the direction those skills will take. 

“This involves focusing on taking care of the team and ensuring they are aligned to the purpose, goals and objectives of the company. Then everyone is more inspired and can do a better job.” 

So what does Popelka think are the foundations of effective leadership? 

Good leaders build trust – they build human connections, she told HRD. 

“They provide the means for teams to work together cohesively and know what they are working toward. In this virtual world, it’s imperative to have that clear understanding,” she added. 

This includes addressing questions such as: What are the goals and objectives we have? What skills do we need to bring to the workforce? What is the purpose of this team? 

Popelka said that as the impacts of COVID-19 are becoming more apparent, HR is increasingly becoming the “epicenter of business”. 

She added that in this crisis, it’s never been more important to listen carefully and understand how our employees doing. 

“During this time, it is really important that our employees know that we care,” she said. 

“It’s essential that HR is aware of what employees are dealing with and that they understand the challenges of working from home with kids and what happens when the internet breaks down. 

“Just dealing without that face-to-face human interaction is a major challenge. So listening effectively and understanding what our employees need is the first and most important thing.” 

Moreover, she added that it’s important to provide employees with the resources that they need to do their job effectively every day. 

“That could be HR, someone to help guide their learning or a life coach for wellbeing,” she said. 

“These things can be very important to keeping people productive and well in this new environment. 

“There’s lots of things keeping our HR professionals up at night. I have talked to a lot of CHROs who are incredibly challenged in making sure they are doing everything they possibly can to support their employees.” 

Popelka added that SAP recently worked with Qualtrics to understand what employees need to be more safe and productive. 

“We have a listening tool from Qualtrics that companies can roll out to all of their employees very quickly,” Popelka said. 

“It’s a very simple survey that checks in on how employees are doing, what can be done to make them more successful, and how the organisation can help. 

 “Human experience management is truly at the forefront of where we are today in the workplace because employees expect more, and we need to deliver an incredible experience.” 

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