Work used to be work. People used to go to an office, workshop, factory, or some other professional facility and carry out the task that they had been hired to do. A lot changed at the millennium.

People still went to offices to work, but they became more interested in the impact their role was having on their company’s wider position in the market, the ethical stance their employer took on ecological and other matters, and whether they actually had a good experience in their job.

A New Awakening

There were a few things that lead to this new era of work style. The biggest being the incoming workforce—millennials and Generation Z—are digital natives. They grew up with the immediacy of information on the Internet at their fingertips and expected those same freedoms and access channels at work.

Many organizations took notice, as did SAP, which is likely why it thought it was so important to bring a Human Resources (HR) and Human Capital Management (HCM) technology layer into its essentially cloud-based business model. SAP bought SuccessFactors in December 2011 and has retained the full brand-name under the SAP SuccessFactors label since that time.

Given the scope of enterprise operations technologies SAP has invested in—and its undeniably very ERP-focused heritage—it needed to make sure it brought the human factor into the resources being deployed in any platform installation. This is especially true now that people are beginning to care about what they are doing in a different way.

Experience Guides Everything

With user experience (UX) now at the core of how organizations must view the welfare of their employees, customers, partners, and even competitors, SAP staged its SuccessConnect London event this year with a focus on leading a human revolution. Much of the event was devoted to examining the role of the newly acquired Qualtrics technologies and how its Experience Management (XM) software will now work with SAP SuccessFactors.

“We’re facing a huge change in our workforce and a battle for talent like never before,” SAP SuccessFactors president Greg Tomb said. “The world is really different today from a business perspective than it was in the past. By 2020, we know that 50% of the workforce will be made up of millennials and Generation Z. These are people that expect functional technology to be in place when they walk through the door.”

From O-data to X-data

Tomb and his team talked about how Qualtrics XM, within the SAP SuccessFactors stack, will enable organizations to move from “basic” HR operational data (O-data) to a more contextual level of experience data (X-data). O-data on its own is HR information relating to (for example) how many job candidates accept offers when a company creates or opens positions, the percentage of employees promoted in the past year, or which employees are leaving. While O-data is good, it is always relatively binary. For example, it doesn’t convey much of the “why” factor behind any of the “what” facts that it presents. Qualtrics XM taps into X-data and actually brings forward knowledge about an individual’s beliefs, emotions, and intentions to explain the why behind what is happening with the workforce.

With artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms designed to extract deeper meaning from X-data and map its relationship to O-data, companies are promised a future where every worker’s role is more accurately tracked, monitored, augmented, enhanced, and improved.

According to SAP, “By analyzing X-data, businesses can better understand employee sentiment about the moments that matter—both inside and outside of work. Whether it’s traditional work events like onboarding, performance reviews, role changes, and work travel; or more personal events, such as work anniversaries, parental leave return, and unexpected life expenses, organizations can rapidly and continuously measure, monitor, and act on employee feedback to anticipate challenges, course correct, and drive meaningful outcomes.

How Qualtrics XM Works

The Qualtrics Text iQ tool allows people to comment on how they feel about experiences at work. They can do this in real time and in their own human language. But analyzing text from employees at scale can be tough, so Qualtrics XM makes use of machine learning algorithms to drive AI that automatically organizes and assigns sentiment scores to incoming open text feedback.

The technology enables organizations to look at the types of comments and sentiments expressed by high-performing people versus people who have a more average level of engagement. It also can be used to look at people who have requested a greater deal of training and team support to see what kind of issues they are experiencing in the workplace at any given time.

“X-data used to just be employee satisfaction or engagement at a fairly basic level dressed up to look fancy. What really matters now is every aspect of a person’s work-life experience, how it plays out, and how it really makes them feel in the workplace,” said Sally Winston, head of EX solutions for Qualtrics EMEA.

Deep Dive into What Matters

Winston also has said that there is a certain level of subtlety that comes into play here. That is, there are ways to ask people how they feel about their role without talking about pay directly; it’s often enough to simply ask people what they feel they need to get in a good package.

She says that the combination of Qualtrics employee experience and SAP SuccessFactors allows customers to act in real time on event data. Text iQ’s is built with cluster-based intelligence (a higher-level notion of AI-based data connectivity), which understands context, so it will deliver patterns and trends in open text.

Trending topics are then automatically brought to the attention of the people (manager, mentors, or co-workers) that need to see them most. This can be applied to employee, partner, or customer concerns or feedback from any party that an organization feels it wants to engage with on this level of sentiment analysis.

Promoting People Practicalities

HR software of the past was built for the needs of the manager, not for the needs of the employee with functionality aspects such as conversational user interfaces and so on. The world of work has changed and is about to continue changing even more with the experience factor really coming to the forefront.

There is a new experiential factor present in the modern IT stack and organizations that fail to grasp this new essential component of business will surely risk losing out in the medium term, if not sooner.

Interested in learning more about the future of HR and SAP’s solutions? Register for ASUG Experience for Human Resources & Payroll happening Oct. 16–18, 2019 in Toronto.