Over the past few years, businesses have begun to think differently about the employee experience. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has required employers worldwide to figure out how to continue operations with huge portions of their workforce in a remote environment, while also making sure all employees are safe and healthy.

“These last few months have completely changed how we think about human resources,” said Stacey Harris, chief research officer and managing partner at Sapient Insights Group, during her discussion focused on the new HR agenda.

HR Is Experiencing New Opportunities

Two days of the 2020 ASUGFORWARD virtual event were devoted to Employee Experience and Human Resources sessions. These covered how employers are using technology and software to improve their hiring, onboarding, and HR capabilities. Presenters also focused on how businesses have successfully kept running during a global pandemic.

“This is a terrific opportunity for human resources because so much attention is being paid to the workforce right now,” said Lisa Rowan, research vice president for human resources, talent, and learning strategies at IDC. “We are at the very beginning of a lot of changes.”

The Impact of COVID-19 on Employees

COVID-19 has upended a lot of norms in the workplace. Companies have made changes to their daily operations in an effort to keep employees safe, though these changes cannot disrupt their ability to serve customers. “It was important for us to take care of our employees so they could take care of our customers,” said Sharon Taylor, director of talent acquisitions and people systems at MOD Pizza, during an Ask the Experts panel.

By far, the most significant change to come out of COVID-19 is the shift to remote working. While some employees work from home regularly, a large portion of employees are unable to do their jobs from home. Jonathan Thompson, director of talent acquisition at Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, discussed how the iconic research and medical institution made that big jump with its talent acquisition team. Immediately, Johns Hopkins began training hiring managers to effectively conduct Zoom interviews, while also helping them develop good work-from-home habits and practices.

“You have to meet people where they are,” Thompson said.

Keeping Employees Safe—and Efficient

Though it was a challenge for many organizations to transition their employees to work from home, it may be an even bigger challenge to determine how to get them back to in-person work without increasing the spread of COVID-19. In a session focused on returning to work, SAP employees Sharon Om, Michael Censurato, and Imran Sajid discussed some of the factors that will contribute to the global workforce returning to offices with confidence.

“These decisions must be grounded and data-based,” Om said, before underlining the need to assess risk by consulting data on location and employee readiness.

Censurato and Sajid highlighted how some SAP software applications, such as SAP Environment Health and Safety Management, can assist leaders in making the best possible decision of when—and how—to get employees back into the workplace.

Ed Hagar, manager of compensation benefits HRIS at Ingalls Shipbuilding, talked about how the company has implemented safety solutions and data tracking to keep its employees safe. Ingalls was designated as an essential service. The company employs about 11,000 people across three states and only 2,000 employees have the option of working from home. The rest are welders, electricians, and other workers who need to be on-site.

To make sure that its employees are healthy, Ingalls began tracking important data including infection numbers, employee badge access, reports from vendors, and employee applications for special pay programs such a liberal leave. The company turned to SAP SuccessFactors to measure the overall safety of its facilities.

Transforming Your HR Technologies and Practices

Many of the Employee Experience and Human Resources sessions focused on how companies are using software solutions to better engage their workforces.

Hernán García González, vice president of talent and experience at Tec De Monterrey, spoke about the university’s use of SAP solutions including SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Concur, and SAP S/4HANA to build a stronger workforce.

“We want to make sure we focus on what’s most important to us: our students,” he said.

Similarly, Rishona Harris, director of talent and acquisition development at Centuri Group, delivered a presentation regarding the utility contractor’s overhaul of HR solutions and practices. Harris helped oversee a complete revamp of the company’s hiring processes and designed a system to update its hiring techniques. She also helped digitalize these processes using SAP SuccessFactors.

The Top Role of Diversity and Inclusion

As improving employee experience becomes more of a priority, building diverse workforces and cultivating a culture of inclusion rises to the surface as a key component of that experience. Judith Michelle Williams, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at SAP, gave a presentation about the importance of these two characteristics in any workforce.

It’s vital to have a diverse team because people of different backgrounds allow companies to approach complex problems in different ways. Inclusive behavior in the workplace gives people the tools and the confidence to do a good job. Williams highlighted why both practices are vital.

“Diversity is the mix, it’s reality,” she said. “Inclusion is about making sure everyone can excel.”

Moving forward, Williams said that being devoted to diversity and inclusion takes practice. It’s important that organizations strive to make these goals as they continue growing and evolving.

A New Era for HR

The Employee Experience and Human Resources sessions at ASUGFORWARD equipped professionals with shared experiences and a better understanding of the tools available to help them enhance the culture and efficiencies at their organizations.

“Everything we’ve seen over the last three months is going have an impact on how we think about human resources,” Harris said.

ASUGFORWARD 2021 is once again right around the corner. ASUG members can join us online for executive programming on June 15‒17. Later, on June 21‒24, be sure to tune in for sessions from SAP customers and experts. Register now for the virtual event.