HR Tech Interview with Jewell Parkinson of SAP on Workplace Wellbeing

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“Technology is essential to providing employees a vehicle for communicating their experiences. Regular anonymous surveys with analytics help derive insights that can inform workplace culture and help prioritize investment decisions.”

In this HR Tech Interview, Jewell Parkinson the Head of HR, Americas & APJ of SAP throws light on the best practices for improving workplace wellbeing with a keen focus on diversity and inclusion policies. In her role as a trusted advisor, Jewell provides consultation on the design, delivery, and adoption of solutions that ensure SAP’s people strategy and consumer experiences are on point. Her expertise lies in empowering employees, advocating for diverse workforce policies, and building a more inclusive work culture.

With an eye on innovation, SAP’s diverse workforce enables its customers to work more efficiently. This business intelligence has led SAP and its leaders to invest in technology for empowering people. From machine learning to advanced analytics technologies, Jewell explains the benefits of automation and AI in HR to help simplify employees’ wellbeing. She opens the discussion to include digital transformation and the need for technology to enable diversity and inclusion.

In conversation with HR Technologist, Jewell answers questions on: How has human resources evolved over the years? What are the typical challenges HR leaders face to manage a global workforce? What are the best practices for HR leaders to improve workplace equality? Which HR trends to follow? And more.

Key takeaways from this HR Technologist interview on innovation and workplace wellbeing:

  • Understand the drivers of employee wellbeing
  • Learn how to innovate continually
  • Stay updated on the HR Tech trends to follow in 2020

Here’s what Jewell shares on how to lead a healthier and happier workforce:

To set the context, how has human resources evolved over the years?

In the past, HR was regarded as a support function, operating separately from the core business, and focused primarily on administering transactions across the employee lifecycle i.e. hiring, compensation, and benefits, etc. Today, human resources are considered by most organizations to be highly strategic C-suite advisors serving as architects of business transformation and people experience. As evidence of that shift, human resource leaders are now driving discussions and action around some of the most pressing topics across the business landscape – including experience, pay equity, diversity and inclusion, health and wellness, digitization, privacy, worker protections, and the creation of solutions to promote a socially and ethically responsible workplace culture.

How can technology enable HR leaders and teams to understand employee emotions and wellbeing?

HR management tools have come a long way. One of the most important roles of HR is to have a finger on the pulse of employees and how they’re feeling about a range of topics. Technology is essential to providing employees a vehicle for communicating their experiences. Regular anonymous surveys with analytics help derive insights that can inform workplace culture and help prioritize investment decisions.

Further, technology is allowing HR to offer a host of well-being benefits to employees, such as apps that can be used to help employees track their fitness goals, or to help them manage diabetes, even shipping breast milk to help new moms ease back into the workforce. The adoption rates of those solutions and the feedback loop that is part of their use are incredibly useful for understanding mindset, well-being and inform how we can best meet the needs of employees.

Learn More: Vital Secrets of Workplace Wellness: An Interview with Dr. Rajiv Kumar of Virgin Pulse

With the onset of the gig economy, we see a more diverse workforce, be it remote workers or contractual ones. What are the typical challenges faced by HR leaders to manage such a workforce globally?

Maintaining company culture while managing a global workforce should be top of mind for all HR leaders. And that applies to FTEs as well as contingent workers. The key is to be unequivocal in asserting the purpose, mission, and values of the company, and the role of each employee in delivering on that mission. And then empowering every single employee to contribute, be heard, and included. That isn’t easy with a large, geographically and functionally distributed workforce, but with the use of technology and a heavy dose of empathy among all levels of management, it can be done, and the impact can be powerful. 

Most industries are being transformed with new technologies. How can organizations keep up with digital transformation? What are the necessary steps talent managers need to take to innovate continually?

If there’s one thing that’s constant about operating in the digital economy- its change.  Because of this, speed matters in a world of continuous innovation. New technologies should enable increased agility to respond faster to changes in the market place in a non-disruptive way. If businesses aren’t changing and adapting, they’re not growing and will be quickly outpaced by the competition.

For organizations to stay ahead of the curve, with respect to talent, it’s critical that managers communicate clearly, often, and in a transparent manner about both, the role employees play in broader transformation efforts as well as how various aspects of transformation may impact them.

Proactive communication and continuous learning and re-skilling investment should also be a core element of the transformation journey to ensure people are relevant, engaged and retained in the evolving workplace. HR needs to be tightly aligned with IT, Finance, Communications, Operations and all those involved in the various aspects of transformation initiatives to ensure there is no uncertainty about the path ahead for the workforce.

Organizations today need to embrace diversity in their workforce. Which Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives can HR leaders drive at their companies to get measurable results?

A leader-led, organizationally and culturally integrated D+I focus is optimal where the difference is leveraged to create business and customer value. HR, as a key partner in this endeavor, is uniquely positioned to drive impact with a holistic approach that supports the business and puts employees at the center. In so doing, we shape an inclusive culture, design career journeys and engage with a diverse ecosystem powered by innovative technologies to provide insight and measure outcomes.

HR, in partnership with the business, can drive strategic and operational outcomes by focusing on key areas such as employer branding; talent attraction; sourcing & recruitment; employee onboarding; engagement & environment; career development & advancement; and supplier diversity in partnership with procurement.

What are the three HR tech best practices for HR leaders to improve workplace equality?

  • Positively impact people and business outcomes: By combining people operational data insights (O) including demographics, transactions, and processes with a focus on understanding the emotions, beliefs, and needs during those ‘moments that matter’ to shape the best experience (X) for candidates, employees and managers along their talent journey.
  • Embrace radically honest dialogue in a psychologically safe environment: Use technology to your benefit to understand how employees feel in real-time, provide continuous feedback – both recognizing behaviors and results as well as steering development support – to address gaps to help them perform at their best.
  • Use AI and machine learning to operate a business beyond bias: The reality is we all have unconscious bias. It manifests itself in job descriptions, in hiring practices and in how we communicate with our teams. Technology can shine a light on that bias and spark corrective measures that will ultimately contribute to far more inclusive and equitable workplace.

 

One of the biggest benefits of HR tech is to help automate HR processes for HR managers. What does SAP’s HR tech stack look like?

SAP drinks its own champagne in that we are “power users” of SAP SuccessFactors technology, which is cloud-based software spanning everything from payroll to employee engagement.

As an intelligent enterprise powered by our in-memory platform, HANA, we also extend our technology capabilities through fully integrated 3rd partner applications. It brings to life aspects of our HR strategy in areas such as values- based on employee recognition, equity rewards management, and alumni network engagement.

Using this technology, we’re able to automate much of the back-end routine, administrative, transactional aspects of HR allowing the focus to shift to more meaningful interactions with their teams. This helps them operate to their fullest potential and feel supported at every turn.

Learn More: 10 Ways HR Managers Can Boost Workplace Productivity

Are there any new technologies or upcoming features for HR managers that you’re excited about and would like to give us a sneak peek into? Which trends are you closely following in this space as we head towards 2020?

We are introducing new technologies like Chatbot and Robotics (RPA) in all our daily core business and providing intuitive dashboards with meaningful people analytics for our managers.

The potential impact AI and machine learning can have on HR, for the better, is enormous. For example, we’re piloting a program that applies machine learning to the way managers digitally communicate with their teams.  Serving as a “digital coach” to help increase the effectiveness in their area real time in a targeted and research-based way.   In this case, the software notifies that manager of ways that he or she can learn and take measures to more optimally communicate to team members.  

I’m also excited about layering experience management (XM) across the talent lifecycle. It’s something we’re working on now, integrating technology from Qualtrics into the employee experience so that we can glean deep insights into how our employees are feeling on a micro and macro level. It takes AB testing to a completely new level, and when overlaid on top of employee actions – like taking certain training or using wellness apps – it gives us an incredibly rich mosaic of the employee experience at a given moment.

Neha: Thank you, Jewell, for sharing your insights on why workplace wellbeing is important for businesses to succeed. We hope to talk to you again soon.

About Jewell Parkinson

Jewell Parkinson provides HR leadership for SAP Global Customer Operations and heads the regional HR Business Partner organization across North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific Japan.

About SAP

As the cloud company powered by SAP HANA®, SAP is the market leader in enterprise application software, helping companies of all sizes and in all industries run at their best: 77% of the world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP® system. SAP’s end-to-end suite of applications and services enables more than 425,000 business and public customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and make a difference.

Found this interview interesting? Do share your views and opinions on employee wellbeing with us on TwitterFacebookand LinkedIn. We would love to have a great conversation with you.

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