Podcast: SuccessFactors’ Meg Bear on HR Driving Post-Pandemic Change

Post-Pandemic Workers

Mark Feffer: Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report, I’m Mark Feffer. Today, I’m talking with Meg Bear, Senior Vice President of Product, Engineering and Operations at SAP Success Factors. We spoke about what HR and HR technology may begin to look like as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Meg, thanks for being here.

The first question that I’ve got for you is given the pandemic, what do you think the world of work will look like in say 2021, but certainly after the pandemic?

Meg Bear: Sure. So I think there’s a couple things. I think there’s the first part, which is how do we get people back to the office? Back to a situation where we’re out and about again and outside of shelter and place? And I think the early adjustment is going to be all about logistics. How do we get people to the right place? How do we set up the new guardrails? How do we understand what’s expected and how work should happen? But then I think the real piece happens, which is, how do we take the learnings from this big adjustment that we’ve all been through and look at what the future of work looks like? What our processes need to be as well as kind of how we interact with each other in a more dynamic way? I think we’ve learned a lot of things from sitting at home and being in our own offices and in our own space.

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Meg Bear: We’ve learned how to connect with each other asynchronously, we’ve learned how to leverage technology to help us still keep the business running and keep work going and we’ve also learned how to think about each other as whole people. We’ve all been having to adjust in a way that’s really human. How do we keep our kids in school? How do we manage our home life that is encroaching in our work life? How do we manage the space to have a work conversation when you might not have a normal work environment at home?

Meg Bear: And so all of that kind of rethinking and restructuring how you work has caused every one of us to think about, “Do we really need to do things the way we used to do it?” So I think one of the things that we’re going to bring back with us after we are in our new normal back in the office or back at work, we’re going to bring with us the curiosity and the problem-solving that we had to engage as part of our shelter and place.

Meg Bear: And I think we’ve built some new tools. We’ve built some flexibility, some agility in how we think about our work and we also challenged a few norms. Whether those norms were, could people be productive from home or could a team stay engaged or how would we do daily stand ups if we weren’t all in the same room? All of those changes caused us to rethink some of the things that we were sure that we knew. And now we need to take that creativity and use that as a path to starting a new normal for ourselves and for our teams so that when we engage with each other, we’re doing it from a moment of real empowerment, real engagement for each of us as individuals to have a voice in how we work and to use that voice to help our companies thrive and to help our teams thrive together.

Mark Feffer: Can you paint a picture for me?

Meg Bear: One of the things that I’ve really observed is how much we are each checking in with each other and thinking about wellness and mental health and emotional health as part of what we provide both as a leadership team to our workers, but also what we provide to each other as a part of richness in how we think of what it means to be a coworker that’s really grown. And you can’t take that kind of relationship back once you’ve established it.

Meg Bear: The other bit is a little bit more strategic. We’ve had to problem-solve together. How do you onboard somebody when you’re not going to see them for a long time? How does IT support a remote workforce that has grown dramatically over what their initial expectations were? And so what we’ve done is we’ve built some muscle. We’ve built some capability that then we can use to apply to how our day to day work happens. And then more structurally, I think, what we’ve seen as organizations is that your workforce is your biggest asset. It is the power that brings your business to life. And what we found is, is that the workforce is very adaptable, it’s very agile and it’s willing to cocreate your next chapter of business with you.

Meg Bear: And so the real tools that we’re bringing forward is the one of using the brainpower of the entire workforce to problem-solve for the business. Today, we’re doing it to make sure that we keep business continuity going, but tomorrow, my goal or aspiration is that we keep that voice as the workforce and we use that voice for helping to craft new business ideas. We bring that innovative mindset to problem-solve the biggest problems going on, both in our business and in our economy, in our communities and in our work lives.

Meg Bear: So I think that that voice, that the ability for a company or a team to listen to the workers and the ability for the workers to provide feedback to both how the process should work, but also to how the business should run, I think that piece is the part that is going to create the biggest lever for us going forward.

Mark Feffer: So how does that translate into demand? What new features do you think vendors like SAP need to be ready to address?

Meg Bear: The first one is really speaking to that employee voice piece, the ability to listen to the macro and the micro from the workforce. For that, we lean on our Qualtrics capabilities, where we have the ability to do all manner of listening capabilities, understanding sentiment, providing surveys, pulses, embedded feedback loops into business processes. So this richness of data that we can collect and solicit from the workforce.

Meg Bear: The other bit is about making processes more adaptable. What we know is that when we go back to the office, we’re still going to have to be able to cope with the changing processes, whether they’re regulatory processes that have changed for us, whether they’re pragmatic processes that we have to be further apart from each other, that our team meetings need to happen differently or remotely even if we’re in the same office space. So these rules are going to be adapting and changing over time, quite rapidly for us.

Meg Bear: And so when you think about service delivery in an HR function, you need to think about that adaptability and that flexibility that on the fly, you can make process changes to how your business is working and you can implement them easily and you can also implement them with that feedback loop built in so that you can innovate them in real time with the entire workforce supporting you.

Mark Feffer: What new demands do you think you’re going to hear from your customers given the changes of work?

Meg Bear: So from my customers, I believe I’m going to be asked for more flexibility in digital experiences, more adaptability for things like mobile experiences, so that these things can be tailored to the types of business and to the types of business process. And then more interactivity and dynamic service delivery capabilities, workflows that can be changed and then integrated with feedback loops from our Qualtrics surveys.

Meg Bear: So I believe that a lot of the capabilities that we have in our products today will still be needed and necessary, but the way they’ll be used and the kind of add-on flexibility that we’re going to need is going to increase demand in those particular areas.

Mark Feffer: And finally, what do you think will be the single biggest change that’s going to come to HR technology after the pandemic?

Meg Bear: So I think the biggest change that is coming to HR technology and if this was true before the pandemic then this is even more true today, is the pace of change. We are seeing and we have continued to see that changes is the new normal between globalization, between skills gaps, between digital transformation. We know that the workforce needs to be more adaptable and that the business processes to serve the global demand also needs to be more adaptable.

Meg Bear: And so what we’re seeing is that this global pandemic has accelerated that need. So we think that there’s going to be a more structural approach, thinking about agility and adaptability at every level of the business both from the tactical to the bigger scale things. Any place along that continuum, we know that the demand for skills is going to grow very quickly, the need for adaptability and change is going to accelerate and the need for HR to be a force for both creating the conditions that the change can happen, but also facilitating that change is going to become a really critical piece of making business work in the future.

Mark Feffer: Anything else you’d like to add?

Meg Bear: I think that the thing that I find most interesting right now is just how the role of HR is shifting dramatically. When we think about what’s happening with this global pandemic, HR has gotten the opportunity we’ve been waiting for a very long time, which is to be having that seat at the table and to be part of the change, not just facilitating it, but leading it within the organization. And I think that this is a seat that HR is been gearing up for decades and I think that this is an opportunity for the function to really grow as that strategic arm that it’s always aspired to be. So I think this is going to be the thing that we’ve been looking for as an industry, to bring the human back to business.

Mark Feffer: Thank you.

Meg Bear: Thank you.

Mark Feffer: Meg Bear, Senior Vice President of Product Engineering and Operations at SAP Success Factors. And this has been PeopleTech from the HCM Technology Report. To keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day, we’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m Mark Feffer.

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