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Real-time conversations replace age-old ratings at SAP
Lipi Agrawal | HRKatha | New Delhi | Wednesday, 10 May 2017

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The new performance management programme— ‘SAP Talk: Real Conversations, Real Time’—works on continuous dialogue as the base for performance reviews.

The winds of change at SAP just swept away the age-old traditional annual reviews and ratings, replacing it with a culture of continuous dialogue. The software company has successfully rolled out a new performance management programme called ‘SAP Talk: Real Conversations, Real Time’, which works on continuous dialogue as the base for performance reviews.

In September, 2016, the company began re-imagining its performance management system and on March 14 this year, SAP Talk was launched in a phased approach. By May 3, the programme went live in all countries and units of SAP, globally, touching 85,000+ employees.

Bhuvaneswar Naik, head of global talent management, SAP SE, told HRKatha that SAP Talk is about frequent conversations between managers and employees. “Regular conversations between managers and employees via SAP Talk will have three pillars —goals review and feedback; career and development discussions; and discussion on working conditions,” he says.

Before rolling out the initiative on a larger level, SAP checked if meaningful conversations were happening among the early adopters, and the results were ‘beyond expectation

Talking of the three pillars and their benefits, he adds, “The last one helps in removing barriers, which will help enhance productivity. And a deeper understanding of each other with frequent dialogue will help increase employee-engagement levels. And we have seen that with our early adopter approach in 2016.”

Naik shared that the programme entails quarterly conversations focussing on goals, feedback, development and working conditions replacing the ratings and Talent Roundtables concentrating on employee development that replaces traditional calibrations. In addition, the initiative eliminates all possibilities of shadow ratings, while retaining pay for performance culture.

“While the primary premise of #SAPTalk is to provide frequent feedback and have development conversations with employees, it is also changing the way we work, develop and learn,” says Naik.

He also explains how the initiative enhances learning experience, as regular growth-oriented conversations between managers and employees play an important role in ensuring continuous learning at work.

SAP Talk is also instrumental in eliminating biases at the workplace. In fact, it supports its Diversity and Inclusion agenda. The initiative will also play a key communication platform role, as having five generations of employees at work, brings a huge difference in information consumption. “However, one common pattern will be the regular conversation between managers and employees, and I reckon that soon all important employee communications around our strategy, execution and results will be delivered via SAP Talk,” Naik predicts.

SAP Talk personalises the performance management process for each employee, bridging gaps and bringing in mutual trust and engagement.
Most importantly, SAP Talk has brought about a notable difference in the relationship managers and subordinates share in the workplace. Since the last five years, SAP has been measuring the Leadership Trust Net Promoter Score for all its managers via its annual people survey. Now, with SAP Talk, the scores are even better.

Naik tells HRkatha, “We measured the Leadership Trust Net Promoter Score of our managers and we found that early adopter managers of SAP Talk had a better NPS than non-early adopter managers. This clearly validates that the relationship and trust between a manager and a subordinate is positively impacted.”

Before rolling out the initiative on a larger level, SAP checked if meaningful conversations were happening among the early adopters, and the results were ‘beyond expectation’, Naik mentions.

SAP Talk will have three pillars —goals review and feedback; career and development discussions; and discussion on working conditions.

Approximately 90 per cent of the employees said they are having continuous dialogue and reported a rating of 4.1 on the quality of conversations. “This was possible because of strong communication and enablement programmes we put in place,” Naik shared.

SAP is cognizant of the fact that a change at such a large level cannot be implemented in a hurry, and hence, they focussed more on the process of change rather than jumping straight into introducing the tool. The primary focus was on understanding the philosophy, internalising the new approach, reasoning it out and living it. SAP Talk application was introduced to employees only a couple of weeks after going live, ensuring smooth change management during the process.

SAP Talk personalises the performance management process for each employee, bridging gaps and bringing in mutual trust and engagement. In Naik’s words, “One size does not fit all,” and SAP Talk acknowledges the differences and uniqueness in each individual, and the talent they bring into the workplace.

© 2016 HR Katha

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