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Dr. Christian Schmeichel, Senior VP and COO of Global HR at SAP, talks to Ben Davies and Frieder Rummel of ChapmanCG about driving innovation as part of SAP HR’s digital transformation.

It’s a hyper-competitive global economy and as businesses change—and they are always changing—HR must to adapt right alongside to meet evolving needs. Increasingly this includes using technology to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of processes. The impact of digitisation has been felt across all functions, and HR is no different.

Technology can help HR delivery to the business tremendously. Dr. Christian Schmeichel, Senior VP and COO of Global HR at SAP says that his organisation has shown how structural change, a holistic approach to HR and the business, and technological advancement —notably the development of an HR Cloud—can help HR meet the needs of a rapidly transforming company. These cloud-based advancements have allowed HR to measure its performance like any other part of the business. This is vital because, at the end of the day, HR has to support the business, like a business.

As most HR teams can appreciate, effective transformation takes time. The 10-year evolution and transformation of the SAP HR team is a great case-study for any organisation looking at how to bet adapt as part of the business. Dr Schmeichel says, “Moving 80% of our HR processes to the cloud has made processes like applying for jobs, learning and development, and analytics far a more accessible to employees and management.”

This increase in process accessibility has also changed the way employee performance metrics are collected, feedback is provided, and how rewards are assessed. The replacement of an 'annual' performance ratings process with an on-going system of manager-employee discussion and feedback has been both driven and supported by new technological tools.

“With our organisational transformation, the old way of collecting data and associated numbers did not reflect our culture change,” says Dr Schmeichel. “Traditional performance management was no longer appropriate for us and we had to move to a culture of on-going dialogue.” Goals were still being set, but continual dialogue on the development and growth of employees superseded the traditional end-of-year review. Importantly this led to better compensation decisions, management feedback, and a focus on growing talent and leadership capabilities.

Technological advancements have, however, demanded a new and diverse set of skills and capabilities from HR. Dr Schmeichel says: “An understanding of process, business acumen, consulting [conceptual assessment], data analytics, and skills on how to apply and link data to the business have all been key to successful development and implementation.”

The role and background of HR teams and leaders is changing as rapidly as the demands placed on the function. Technology isn't replacing the role of HR, but it is fundamentally changing the skills needed to meet business needs.