Imagining The Future of Performance Management

Bhuvan Naik

To follow up on our discussion during the second episode of the SAP Future Factor series, I recently sat down with Fermin Diez, adjunct professor at Singapore Management University, to exchange views on how technology is changing the way we work. We also explored how employees’ expectations from the workplace are changing with technology, and how companies can reassess talent experience and performance management to fit these changing expectations.

Bhuvan: Colleagues at SAP recently shared how technology changes the way they work – they said that they work more interactively, that they access data and information from anywhere, and that they work across different locations and time zones. In addition, they mentioned that they work more flexibly and require empathy and understanding from their managers.

Beyond that, how do you think technology contributes to changing the expectations employees have of their work, and how can companies deliver on these expectations?

Fermin: Companies that are able to create a distinct culture in the minds of their employees and combine that with the effective use of technology are going to be winners in the digital age.

In a digitized workplace, two things change. First, with the ability to work away from the office, the concept of an “office” changes. Second, technology changes how HR gets done. Data and analytics help companies access the right talent faster. However, defining and maintaining the right corporate culture will still be the key to attracting and retaining the right talent. And companies need to remember that in order to implement their strategy, they need employees who are engaged and motivated.

Bhuvan: I agree. Today’s definition of employee goes beyond pay and career. It is a sense of belonging, an “emotional connect” between a company and an employee, that motivates the employee to put in the discretionary effort.

Fermin: Precisely. And we must remember that creating the right “culture” – one that results in engaged employees – has a direct influence on business outcomes. For example, if you’re a company that prides itself on delivering above-and-beyond customer service, you really need to have the right culture in place, otherwise you will be hard pressed to find the employees who are willing to deliver at that scale.

Bhuvan: Moving onto talent experience and performance management – what role do you think talent experience and performance management play in creating the right culture, and how can companies adapt their processes?

Fermin: Correctly setting key performance indicators and targets is key. Targets need to be set in a “stretched” manner so that organizations can differentiate who is able to reach their targets. Also, it’s important to provide employees with as much feedback as possible about how they do their jobs and how they can do them better. It’s not about the “what,” but the “how” – employees are looking to their managers to teach them how to do their job better and to be more effective.

Bhuvan: The feedback we get from employees participating in the survey supports that point as well. Our colleagues have expressed that they expect their manager to be like a coach, providing feedback on an ongoing basis to help them identify strengths and weaknesses. Trust and loyalty are only nurtured by continuous feedback, conversation, and dialogue between the manager and employee. This creates that “sense of belonging” for the employee, which motivates them to remain engaged. And, as I mentioned, engaged employees have a huge impact on the top and bottom lines of a business.

Fermin: Agreed. Just like anywhere else, in the workplace people want to feel like they belong to something that matters to them. Companies are beginning to recognize that. What are some of the positive trends you’re seeing?

Bhuvan: I see a shift towards the “mass customization” approach that enables companies to deliver this personalized talent experience to employees. It’s encouraging to see that more and more companies are beginning to adapt this approach. With the right technology, the sky is the limit in terms of being able to create personalized experiences for our employees. Today’s workplace is not defined by a paycheck anymore, it’s about the experience. Every day, we have to think of all the possibilities that shape not just the workplace, but the work experience of the future.

For more on shaping satisfied employees, see How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization.


Bhuvan Naik

About Bhuvan Naik

Bhuvan Naik is Vice President and Head of Global Talent Experience at SAP SE. His responsibilities include defining, designing, leading, and executing the talent management strategy. Prior to this role, he was Vice President and Head of Human Resources for the Indian subcontinent at SAP and member of the Board of Directors for SAP Labs India Pvt. Ltd. Bhuvan has over two decades of HR management experience in global organizations such as Taj Group of Hotels, SAP, Capgemini, and Yahoo!. He graduated with a Bachelor Degree in electrical engineering from National Institute of Technology, Calicut, India, and holds a Master of Arts degree in personnel management and industrial relations from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.