Article: SAP's talent agenda for FY 2016-17


SAP's talent agenda for FY 2016-17

Jairo Fernandez, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, SAP Asia Pacific Japan, on SAPs talent strategy for the region and in India, tackling talent crunch in the IT sector and measures to attract the brightest and sharpest talent.
SAP's talent agenda for FY 2016-17

31 percent of companies around the world are having trouble finding and attracting the right resources in India, the number stands at 65 percent


SAP IgNight, a networking session between SAP executives and university students, was created solely by SAPs millennials. The aim of the session is to introduce the company to job seekers and for these students to keep SAP top of mind during their job search


Jairo Fernandez, Senior Vice President HR, at ‎SAP Asia Pacific Japan, is responsible for the overall human resource management across the region.

As the VP of HR for SAP Latin America between 2009 and 2013, Fernandez has led his team in delivering results through innovative programs in talent attraction, leadership and diversity. He has thrice been named in the Excellence in Human Resources Awards of the South Florida Business Journal, in 2008, 2010 and 2011, among other awards. He was also recently named among the top 30 Human Resources Professional in South East Asia. 

Prior to SAP, he worked at Neoris as the Chief Human Capital Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, and as the Global Talent and Business Effectiveness Directorat Unisys.

If you were to identify your key focus areas, your big rocks if you will, what would those be for the Asia Pacific Japan region for the FY 2016-17?

There are multiple focus areas but they are all intertwined. The primary focus though, is on building leadership capabilities in the region. In the APJ region, companies normally give the driver’s license way too soon to their leaders– and that is not by mistake, but by design. The contributing factors are the growing market, the need of qualified people to lead endeavors in such a market, and a lack of ready resources available to hire compared to other regions. As a result, sometimes companies are forced to hire people even before they are ready. Although we realize that we have to go to the market and hire leaders, we are also aware that we also have to develop our own and equip them with the right skills. Henceforth, we focus most of our attention to leadership development.

Clearly there aren’t enough people in the traditional pools of talent who are ready to become leaders in the years to come. So we need to ensure that we tackle all the different potential pools of resources and  are able to progress them into leadership proficiency. This is driving the diversity and inclusion agenda of the company, making it another big rock for the year for SAP.

We understand that having a diverse workforce is an important agenda for SAP this year. What are the areas where you are increasing diversity?

Our first priority is increasing gender diversity in leadership. We realize that for the business to succeed, having a diverse and inclusive leadership bench is a win-win situation. Globally, we have a target of having 25 percent women leaders by 2017. By the end of 2015, the company had reached around 23 percent representation – so we are on our way to achieve the target globally and we need to continue to do that in every region including APJ. 

Besides the diversity dimension in leadership development, we also emphasize on generational diversity. Given that by 2020, about 64 percent of millennials will be coming into the workforce, we need to be prepared as an organization and ensure that we are attractive enough to compete in the marketplace for them and be relevant for the different generations that already are a part of the organization.

SAP, by design, is completely different from other companies, such as startups that cater only to millennials and the younger generation. Given the kind of products we have, the number of clients we have and the scale at which we operate, the pioneer generation also forms the critical mass of the company; and we need to create an environment which is conducive to all the five different generations at SAP.

How do you attune yourself to the needs of different generations? How have you managed to become a destination employer for the new generation, while at the same time being relevant for the older generation?

It is established that the needs of the pioneer generation are different from the expectations of millennials, and we are mindful of that fact. A life insurance benefit might not be of much relevance to a 25-year old employee with no spouse and children, but would actually mean a lot to a 40-year old with a family of her own. Thus it becomes important for me as an HR leader to customize my benefits for different generations.

We need to be flexible in the way we design our benefits, our work schedules and also the way people learn. Those are some of the things that need to be stratified, as opposed to one solution to all.

For example, to bring flexibility in our rewards and benefits, each employee at SAP gets a certain number of benefits points as ‘currency’, and they can choose where they want to spend their points across the gamut of benefits on offer. So people might buy life insurance or subscription to the gym or redeem meals, based on their own preferences.

We realize your workforce engaged in a talent attraction exercise called SAP IgNight last year. What was the purpose of that initiative? What would you say the achievements were?

SAP IgNight is an event we did in Singapore last year as a talent attraction and recruitment exercise for the younger generation. The unique thing about this exercise was that it was solely created by SAP’s millennials for attracting millennials from universities to the organization. Not only did the younger generation experience SAP and got to know about us, we also empowered our own millennial population to design a business-critical event which further helped them connect with the organization’s purpose. We are also planning to do this in other geographies now.

The co-creation of ideas with our people is a major factor which makes us a top employer to work for. We were listed among the 10 companies for millennials in Singapore last year, owing to SAP IgNight. We also involve women and get to know their ideas about how to make SAP a women-inclusive workplace. SAP Labs India was rated as the number 1 company in India by Great Place to Work Institute for supporting women to remain at work.

What would your HR strategy be for India? What areas are you focusing on this year?

The focus areas in India are very similar to what they are globally. We need to continue to foster leadership across the region and also increase the participation of women leaders in India. 

We looked back at some statistics and found out that about 31 percent companies around the world confessed that they are having trouble finding and attracting the right resources – in India, the number stands at 65 percent. So it becomes all the more important to tap into non-conventional resources to bring more talent and resources to the company – we need to attract millennials, women leaders, women who have taken a maternity break in their career and differently-abled individuals to the organization. 

We are working in that direction – for women on a maternity break, we are seeing how we can make the transition easy and equip them with the right skill to re-immerse in the corporate world faster; for the differently-abled, we have an autism program that India has been spearheading which mandates us to have 1 percent of the total headcount to be autistic people.

You came to HR from a marketing background. So what is it that you have learned from the world of marketing that has been significant in your success as an HR Leader? Would you have a word of advice for HR on marketing and position their work?

Two of my passions, professionally speaking, are marketing and HR.HR, traditionally, has not been very good at marketing what they do. This is one of the major reasons that it has taken so long for HR to get elevated to the stage where it is now. HR should learn to actually highlight more actively what they do, the value they bring to the table and the things they do to bring business excellence and operational efficiency in their respective companies.

My word of advice would be to continue to do good, mean to be good, but also show how good we are.

Personally, I use some of the concepts I learnt in my career to market our work. So I share some of the experiences that we have had inside the company with my colleagues in the market. For example, we extensively share the SAP transformation journey into the Cloud and talk about the challenges faced, the lessons learnt, the things that worked and the mistakes we made. These narratives answer the questions of most CHROs out there in the market and they get to learn from our experiences which helps them add more value to their respective businesses.

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Topics: Leadership, C-Suite, #BestPractices

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