First thoughts from Berlin – SAP HR Best Practice meeting

I mentioned that I facilitated a workshop on Human Resource Performance Management  (part of my day job). We held the meeting in the SAP office in Berlin, on the Alexanderplatz. SAP bought the spot way before before it was hip, so even if we don’t  always spot IT trends early, I guess we made a good property investment….

I’ll post the minutes of the event on the HBPN site, but in the meantime, herewith some reflections. Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone that participated.  Companies attending included Infineon, Shell, Henkel, Danfoss, Solvay, Nordea Bank, SAP internal, Vodafone, TeliaSonera, Firmenich, Atos Origin, LM Glasfibeer, Holcim, Wallenius Wilhelmsen,Infohrm and IES. I’d also like to thank our organisational genius, Ines. Without whom this event would have been chaos.

My random thoughts:

1. HR analytics is on the rise. HR folks are begining to realise that numbers aren’t the sole preserve of the finance function. Peter Howes from infohrm is in the right spot!

2. ERP 2005 rollouts are picking up serious momentum in the existing customer base.

3. HR performance management is moving online, globalising and standardising. It was great to have a look at demos from Shell, Danfoss, SAP internal and Henkel. Just between them, over 250,000 appraisals..

4. Getting the balance between globalisation and local flexibility is tough. What works for one company doesn’t necessarily work for another. Culture is key, as is executive commitment.

5. Performance management is fundamentally about the conversation between the manager and the employee. the technology should help that, not become an end in itself. The software is small part of the puzzle.

6. Managers leave things to the last minute, so make sure that you scale your portal etc accordingly. Expect a large portion of your managers to log on, probably for the first time, with 48 hours of the appraisal deadline.

7. Most companies are realising that developing managers is not enough. They need to build compensation and career models that reward key specialists. If the only way is up is into management then the Peter Principle will rule.

8. With performance management, companies tend to make very few if any modifications to the standard SAP application, but they do flex the frontend to meet branding and simplicity demands. The companies at the meeting used standard SAP technologies (webdynpro-BSP)  for the front end, yet the look and feel reflects their design and branding.

9. Creating processes that balance the link to reward and the link to personal development remain challenging. Employee motivation and performance aren’t just about money. At the risk of generalisation, Nordic companies really get this.

10. The finance function is finally realising that traditional accounting and controlling methods don’t work in a world where intangible assets dominate the balance sheet. The challenge now is to find a viable alternative. Dennis? Donald?

11. Nobody mentioned SOA.

The best thing about these meetings is listening  and watching customers helping each other. The presentations help shape the discussion, but it is the discussion where people really learn.  We had dinner in the Altes Zollhaus, and hearing the ideas and suggestions flow was great.  Best practice isn’t a formula, it is a conversation.

We are planning a series of podcasts with HR and Finance practioners, but more news to follow on that soon. I’m also currently organising the Chief HR Roundtable (end of June in Heidelberg) and in September we have a best practice meeting looking at Shared Services and BPO (in Edinburgh). Drop me a note if you’d like to know more.

Do please make a point of visiting Berlin, the city has a tremendous buzz and the sense of renewal is infectious. Seeing the holocaust memorial and the remains of the Berlin wall reminded me that there are more important things in the world than enterprise software.

 

6 thoughts on “First thoughts from Berlin – SAP HR Best Practice meeting

  1. Thanks Michael.
    One of the great perks with my job is that over the years I have seen many of the capitals and great cities of europe. If I can I try and take an afternoon or even a day off to explore, or at least walk instead of taking a cab.

    Berlin will remain with me, it is a very special place.

  2. Thomas – I think that there is gap between the metrics and theories available and the good Human Capital practice actually happening out there. However, it won’t be long (a couple of years?) before consensus starts to emerge over Generally Accepted Reporting principles for HC.

    In my posting (see above) I try to show graphically where this gap is.

    Although I’m a director of a software company, I don’t believe that these principles will come from the tech field. They’re more likely to emerge from a group of users, with some institutional leadership, backed by some government funding. Those suppliers and consultants involved will be those willing to bury their differences for the sake of making some progress.

    Apologies for the delay in response – some family business has taken me off line for a while. Your last paragraph really resonated with me. There are indeed some things more important than software.

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