Photo Credit: SAP

First impressions count, they say. And perhaps no more so than in human resources (HR) with its focus on recruiting the best people, managing their performance, helping them develop, and making sure they’re compensated appropriately.

Walking and Talking in Las Vegas

Why do we mention this well-worn truism? Because attendees at SuccessConnect 2018 Las Vegas, the annual gathering for HR professionals and SAP SuccessFactors customers, were told they needed to walk to a different hotel for the opening morning keynote. (And that’s often a very long walk in Las Vegas.)

Was SAP skimping on hotel costs? Had SAP secured a cheap deal on morning keynote times? (British rock band Queen had booked a slot at the MGM Park Theater later that night.) Or was this some elaborate HR-centric scheme to get attendees walking and talking to each other before the main event?

It turns out the answer was no, no, and no.

4,000 Strong in HR (and Counting)

In fact, SAP had used all of the Las Vegas Aria Casino’s exhibition hall space for SAP SuccessFactors and partner booths. It needed the additional booking because there was no space left at the Aria to host the 4,000 SuccessConnect attendees.

Who knew HR software was so big? Clearly SAP did. The company has brought together an increasing number of partners and affiliate organizations this year, some of whom are now becoming part of SAP’s new open community tasked with creating purpose-built and easy-to-consume HR applications.

A Growing, Collaborative Community

This new community is in many ways like the SAP App Center and its collection of enterprise applications and microapps. With people issues at its core, the new HR and human capital management (HCM) community is organized around software applications classified in six distinct groups:

  • Well-being
  • Pay equity
  • Real-time feedback
  • Unbiased recruiting
  • Predictive performance
  • Internal mobility 

Much like the industry innovation kits in SAP Leonardo, SAP promises to collaborate with partners and internal working groups to develop more classifications to add to this list.

The Digital Path to the Human Revolution

So, it seems it’s possible to make a very human profession digital. Where we can provide applications specifically designed for core HR services, then we can do exactly that. As in other professions, it’s about addressing mundane work with automation, expanding the reach of employee support, and clearing time for the highest-value activities.

“We believe this wave of innovation will result in a ‘human revolution’ that will allow businesses to focus time, talent, and energy on the thing that really matters: the people that lead to business outcomes. With this community, we can help assemble a complementary set of solutions for our customers’ diverse needs. And, if they don’t exist yet, we can co-create them together,” said SAP SuccessFactors president Greg Tomb.

Meet the New Digital HR Assistant

SAP is introducing a new digital assistant to the HR world. It uses the SAP CoPilot chatbot framework and employs SAP Leonardo machine learning to create a conversational experience. It is also integrated with the most frequently used collaboration platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.

“Users can chat with SAP CoPilot, ask questions, and give commands just as they would a regular person. Their informal and unstructured speech would then be contextualised, analysed, and used to execute actions and present the user with business objects, options, and other relevant data in a simple and conversational way,” notes Andrea Waisgluss, user experience content strategist for SAP SE.

Today It’s About Human Capital

So how is the new digital notion of human capital management so much more strategic than the plain-old HR that we used to know?

SAP SuccessFactors global head of marketing Kirsten Allegri Williams told ASUG that for a long time in the past, HR technology was designed simply to facilitate transactions. More specifically, it was designed to efficiently process back-office transactions related to the people who were considered the workforce for an organization.

“Today, everything has changed. The workforce is no longer a narrowly defined group of people. For most organizations they are a diverse, globally dispersed, mobile collection of individuals who are often disengaged from the organizations they work for,” said Allegri Williams.

A Diverse and Connected Workforce

Allegri Williams says that, in response to this new diversity, the role of HR has transformed. The department is no longer a back-office function. HR is now on the front lines and in the front office—working to align, motivate, and engage the workforce to deliver on the organization’s mission and purpose.

“Are back-office processes still important? Yes. But they can now be intelligently automated, so the routine items are easily done directly by the workforce with ease. SAP SuccessFactors solutions are designed and built to be holistic and connected, with multiple channels of access, embedded analytics, and emerging technologies like machine learning, and a comprehensive ecosystem of business solutions and extensions, ensuring alignment with and visibility to the business,” said Allegri Williams, speaking to ASUG.

The Employee Engagement Factor

Taking stock then, Allegri Williams talked about making sure the workforce is aligned, motivated, and engaged. And it’s that engagement factor that is critical here.

In this faster-moving world, employee engagement has become a real concern for many businesses and workforce analysts. Poor employee engagement means less-productive workers, increased individual worker stress, and ultimately a higher rate of staff attrition.

With much of its SuccessFactors technology, SAP is focusing on making everyone’s work experience better through automation, digital assistants, microapps, and a new community to co-create engagement technology.

First impressions still count, and they do mean a lot. But HR is moving beyond the first impression it’s left behind as a back-office function. Long-term digital intelligence and cultivating all of us who make up a company's human capital is the way of HR’s forward-thinking future.

Interested in human capital management? Read our article about whether to move human capital management systems to the cloud. Or join us October in Toronto for the ASUG Experience in Human Resources & Payroll to learn from other practitioners and innovators.