Emergence of bolder approaches to digital innovation: Shraddhanjali Rao, SAP, India

SAP is a European multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations. The company is especially known for its ERP software. Here, Shraddhanjali Rao, VP HR, SAP, India, talks about the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:

SAPDQI Bureau | dqindia

DQ: How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation? What are the plans you have put in place?

Shraddhanjali Rao: Our world around us changed in the most unimaginable and unprecedented way with the widespread of this pandemic. Although we have always had all the infrastructure in place, we had our share of learning and experiences with adjusting to the new normal. Our primary focus has been to ensure the safety and well-being of our families, colleagues, customers and partners.

In the midst of the initial chaos, what I’m truly proud of is, that SAP took all proactive measures even before we received directives from the authorities on the situation. More than a week before the advisory from the state and central governments, we had already advised our colleagues to carry all the necessary office equipment to work from home. We actively monitored movements of our employees and for most cases were successful in finding means to help them get to their home locations well in advance before the lockdown.

Spearheading remote teams and managing productivity virtually can sometimes prove to be a challenge, but this was a challenge SAP took head-on with a positive turnaround. To us, our priority was to provide an environment where our employees feel trusted and empowered to perform at their best, while they work remotely. This is very important, as we believe that we need to be our best selves in order to serve our customers with excellence.

DQ: How are you assessing on learnings from enforced experiments around WFH?

Shraddhanjali Rao: Thriving on an innovative mindset and culture, SAP already had future ready policies for flexible and remote working. However, it was a challenge for all us to get accustomed to working this way in the initial weeks of the lockdown and we had to be patient with ourselves as we learnt to make the best of it. To help our employees stay productive, we have setup various live-virtual sessions enabling colleagues to maintain open and meaningful conversations, share concerns, get practical advice and exchange successful work-from-home strategies.

We have also introduced interactive workshops on mindfulness at work, stress management, physical well-being and various other learning offerings helping our colleagues and their families stay fit physically and mentally in these uncertain times.

SAP Litmos, our online training and development solution has also been made available for free, enabling targeted learning, boosting employee experience and loyalty by engaging learning in the flow of work. it’s the perfect employee training management software to train professionals quickly on-the-go with easy to access from any device or from within an integrated system. SAP Litmos Training learning management system (LMS) is helping make employee training programs simple and constructive virtually, providing them with all the tools required for their skill development.

Also, as a refresher, we planned virtual concerts to lighten up a heave work week. We’ve gone a step further by not just helping ourselves work through this situation but continued with our commitment to our communities and society through our social investments. Through our CSR ventures, SAP in India is working with Government of Karnataka, NASSCOM Foundation, Rise against Hunger, UNDP India and HelpAge India, in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. How did you enable them through this?

Shraddhanjali Rao: There has been a drastic shift in the nature of a manager’s role from providing professional direction to also being there to support their teams navigate this change. We made it a mission to enable our people managers with interventions designed to support them during the current crisis with toolkits to navigate uncertainty and manage stress.

Our response kits were filled with key information, resources and updates related to Covid-19, as well as trainings on remote working with tips to staying physically and mentally fit. Also, separate training programs are being conducted for managers on how to lead virtual teams. Through our Employee Assistance Programs, managers could register for a 45 minutes exclusive 1-1 coaching sessions to get more guidance and insights on this, also with sessions for employees on managing stress and caring for their children and the elderly.

DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules? How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?

Shraddhanjali Rao: In times like these, juggling the demands of work and life is more important than ever, therefore it’s imperative to find the right balance, and take care of one’s mental and physical health. Although we have policies that allow for flexible work schedules, each of us are responsible for setting the right expectations and behaviours that enables that healthy balance between work and life.

The initial phases of the lockdown left a majority of us without the aid of domestic help. However, we have been able to work around the situation, prioritizing business needs, household responsibility as well as spending quality time with our dear ones. Despite the present restrictions on travel, we encourage our employees to take time off to help them recoup and come back to work recharged.

DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine workplace?

Shraddhanjali Rao: We have never been so digital in our ‘working’ than we are at this very moment! Circumstances like these only inspire the emergence of bolder approaches to digital innovation that will drive speed, collaboration and effectiveness to greater heights. Technology has already transformed businesses, workplaces and operations to go digital – right from HR processes to consumer experiences and beyond.

To adapt to the new work from home reality effectively, we are offering Remote Work Pulse. Remote+ On-site Work Pulse is a technology offering from SAP Qualtrics to help organizations assess preparedness for a remote workforce and has been made publicly available for free by SAP.

Organizations making use of the Experience Management (XM) platform can rapidly address entire workforce needs around well-being, safety, resources, and enablement for their employees working from home. They offer organizations with surveys and corresponding reports to quickly identify and prioritize employee needs in order to take quick actions.

With this, we will witness a surge in the usage of technology solutions in this new normal especially by non-digital natives with a growing interest in increasing their knowledge in that front. We would continue to witness tech consumption like collaborative platforms replacing in-person interaction and an increase in demand of productivity tools.

DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?

Shraddhanjali Rao: This new Covid-19 situation has challenged us to re-imagine how we look at work and workplaces. Our fundamental belief around certain job roles has been shaken from perceiving that a specific kind of support job requires someone to be present in the office for all days of the week to debunking the norm that relationship building with customers happens only with in-person meetings.

This has also given us the opportunity to relook at the kind of roles we define for part time workers and those who are returning from career breaks. This truly has been a wake-up call for all organizations across industries to shift mindset to not just adapt to the new normal, but also explore possibilities of new workplace realities & alternate talent pools. In addition to relooking at organisation structures to deliver greater speed, agility and adaptability, we should not lose our focus on equal opportunity and representation with inclusion across physical and virtual barriers.

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