At the recent HR Tech Xpo, the Executive Vice President, Human Resources at software giant SAP highlighted the essential role employee engagement plays in a firm’s success.

HR: Employee engagement vital to a company’s success

According to a report by the Harvard Business Review analytic services entitled ‘The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance’, 71% of people surveyed regarded employee engagement as absolutely indispensable to a company’s success. “If employees are not constantly thinking about how they could do their work better and be more efficient, the company has already lost the battle,”, David Swanson, Executive Vice President for Human Resources (HR) at software publishing company SAP, told the audience at the HR Tech Xpo event held in San Francisco in mid-August.

The arrival en masse of Generation Y, who are passionate about immediacy, plus the diversity of workers from increasingly international backgrounds, can sow plenty of banana skins under the feet of HR managers, who are finding it difficult to get the right tools in place to foster employee engagement with the goals of the company.



David Swanson highlighted what he saw as the starting point for any and all thinking on the topic, i.e. the firm’s ability to understand the needs it meets, so that this information can be fed back into Human Resources requirements.

“Today, company heads and financial directors expect the Human Resources Director to be directly wired in to the firm’s strategy,” stressed the SAP HR expert, revealing:

“Four years ago, SAP was facing some market challenges. We were the leading enterprise software supplier for managed hosting solutions, at a time when the market was already moving towards Cloud solutions. We therefore acquired a number of specialist suppliers, including SuccessFactors, which helped us speed up our change process.

At the same time, we were developing HR solutions for in-house use, which were neither much fun to use nor capable of supporting the profound changes our company was going through. Following the acquisition of SuccessFactors, we now have viable, user-friendly HR tools.

The main challenge lay in supporting employees through the changes that were taking place – getting them to move away from a culture where software was developed over a number of years with very little work with the end-user upstream to an approach where the software has to be ready in a few months and the end-user provides valuable insights from the very start.

We therefore needed to develop HR solutions that were fed by contributions from people outside HR if they were to be relevant and capable of fostering change at the firm. We’ve now moved from the stage where employees were saying “I love my manager but I hate those HR people” to “For the first time, I’m using solutions that help me to innovate and improve my productivity,” David Swanson told the HR Tech Xpo audience.

By Pauline Canteneur