The third track of sessions at ASUGFORWARD, “Bettering Your Business” helped attendees make sense of how they can improve their organizations and turn them into more agile and forward-thinking operations. With COVID-19 winding down in parts of the world—most notably in North America—a huge area of focus in this track was on people. This isn’t surprising, as the virus has spurred heightened attention on the well-being of employees and the workforce at large.

Throughout these track of sessions, attendees heard from SAP experts, partners, and customers about the tools and operations available that can not only help organizations enhance their business and processes, but also keep an eye on the future so they can respond to forthcoming shifts and changes in the business world.

Looking to the Future

In one of the last sessions of ASUGFORWARD, Sheryl Connelly, manager of Global Consumer Trends and Futuring at Ford Motor Company gave a presentation on some of the key themes she’s seeing in her capacity as a corporate futurist. Connelly also gave attendees advice on how their organizations can keep an eye on the future and stay agile. Connelly noted that by nature, humans are afraid of the future because there are unknowns and things that we can’t control. Despite this, she encouraged organizations to prepare for the future.

“Organizations must learn to expect the unexpected,” Connelly said. “There is no better proof than the last year.”

One of the main things Connelly encouraged attendees to do was adopt a new way of evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. She noted that many organizations often rely on SWOT analyses as a way to get a baseline on their strengths and weaknesses. Connelly referred to this exercise as “navel-gazing,” saying that “nobody determines their strengths; they are determined by the marketplace.”

“We want to lean into our strengths,” she said. “But to prep for the future, you might have to rethink what you do well.”

Connelly said that organizations should put more time into exploring things they cannot control, particularly factors that could upend a business. She also emphasized the importance of adopting a “global view,” taking stock of one’s industry, marketplace, and sector. Finally, Connelly also encouraged attendees to challenge engrained “orthodoxies”—or unwritten rules of business—which can help organizations find new opportunities.

Fostering a Great Workplace

Tony Bond, executive vice president and chief diversity and innovation officer at Great Place to Work, gave a keynote address on the impact employee experience has on customer experience. Throughout his presentation, Bond argued that these two types of experience are closely linked. Emphasizing employee experience and “maximizing the human potential in an organization” is better for people, businesses, and the world.

“It’s hard to have a conversation around the employee experience without having a conversation about the customer experience, and vice-versa,” Bond said.

Bond went through a few key factors that make somewhere a great place to work. Top of the list was trust. He noted that businesses are the only institutions in which people’s trust is deteriorating.

People are leaning into their companies,” Bond said. “Companies have an unbelievable opportunity to step up and provide for employees.”

From a leadership perspective, Bond highlighted three key traits that leaders can emulate to create a positive work environment: credibility, respect, and fairness. He also noted that the role of leaders is changing—due in part to COVID-19—with effective leaders now being masters of coordination and delegating.

Bond also went over some data on this topic that he and his team have collected. According to him, when employees are in a good place to work, they are 66 percent more likely to adapt quickly to changes and 58 percent more likely to work together at a high level.

Customer Story – MOD Pizza

Employee experience was also the focus of a conversation between Kelly Dowling, director of content strategy at ASUG, and Tara Gambill, senior director of enterprise systems at MOD Pizza. Gambill went through how MOD Pizza approached this particular part of its business during COVID-19.

Gambill said that right at the beginning of COVID-19—during March and April of 2020—MOD Pizza was focused on employee wellness and customer wellness. The organization had to manage the updates coming from 28 different states along with figuring out how to maintain customer wellness (a tricky feat for a restaurant company in the midst of a pandemic). According to Gambill, listening and learning were vital parts of the organization’s response to COVID-19.

“This was a unique situation,” she said. “Nobody had a baseline.”

MOD Pizza was gathering feedback from its employees during those first few months of the pandemic to make fast decisions. The organization leverages SAP SuccessFactors and Qualtrics to manage its workforce, including gauging its employees' attitudes and feelings on COVID-19 and maintaining the hiring and HR practices. Gambill said that SAP SuccessFactors was particularly helpful. Before MOD Pizza implemented the solution a few years prior, it relied on a mixture of paper and software processes to keep track of that important data. But now with SAP SuccessFactors, Gambill said that the organization can access and leverage data more easily.

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