What Employees Really Want From The Workplace Of The Future

Dr. Sarah Zelt and Dr. Christian Liebig

In the second episode of the SAP Future Factor series, Bhuvan Naik, global talent management lead at SAP, and Fermin Diez, faculty member of Singapore Management University, explored how technology and digitization are changing talent experience and performance management in the workplace. Also, SAP employees shared how digitization has changed how they work and what they envision their work to be like in the future. These expectations can help create the future of work.

Listening to employees, we clearly hear multiple expectations towards talent experience today and in the future, many of them related to work environments that enable flexibility, independence, mentoring, and trust:

  • It is very important that we are flexible in our working styles
  • If my manager trusts me, he can give me more responsibility and I can see that I have impact with what I do
  • I want in-depth feedback to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, and what to build on
  • A manager should take care to help employees bring out the best in them
  • Technology brings us all together. At any point in time, we can work with Bangalore, China, Australia, Palo Alto, and we have much more possibilities for collaboration.

Reflecting upon the employee insights, we’ve outlined three ways companies can engage employees in the digitized work place today – and in the future.

1. Personalize the talent experience

Digitization makes it possible to create a more tailored talent experience for employees, from recruitment throughout the entire employee life cycle. More and more companies are adopting a “mass-customization” approach in which they assess employees’ individual needs and carve out a personalized talent experience through the entire employee life cycle. This customized approach will ultimately set employees and the company up for success. Creating a personalized talent experience and work model while also nurturing an employee’s interest will keep employees motivated and highly engaged.

2. Make performance feedback part of the daily work

Employees want to be mentored, not micromanaged. To provide employees with opportunities for meaningful contributions, it is essential to cultivate a trusting relationship and dialogue between manager and employee. This also applies to performance management. Based on our discussions with employees, we know that they prefer ongoing, qualitative feedback throughout the year instead of a retrospective appraisal and a number assigned to them. This does not mean we should repeal performance management. Rather, performance management should be part of the daily work routine. With an ongoing dialogue about employees’ strengths, interests, and development areas, employees can make the best out of their skill sets for the benefit of both the employee and the organization.

3. Remove office walls for an interactive work experience

Technology impacts the entire employee life cycle and talent experience. Digitization has already facilitated collaboration among teams regardless of geographical and time zone constraints. It has changed the traditional concept of an office where employees must be onsite. Today, teams can access data and information from anywhere and are not bound by a physical office setting or traditional 9-to-5 office hours. During the episode, our colleagues at SAP expressed that they imagined the future of their work to be much more interactive. New social collaboration tools help connect business units, employees, customers and partners. They break down unnecessary, disconnected silos to achieve results more quickly and effectively. As the talent war intensifies, technology is no longer a differentiator but becomes a necessity to deliver the interactive work experience employees crave.

This customized approach for employees’ talent experience and performance management, combined with the right technology, will help organizations bring the right individuals to the right roles while helping employees grow and develop – a win-win situation.

For more insights and employee perspectives, tune into the second episode of our SAP Future Factor series here. We look forward to your thoughts on meeting employee expectations and on the future of work.


Dr. Sarah Zelt

About Dr. Sarah Zelt

Dr. Sarah Zelt is HR Senior Consultant at SAP SE. She is working in the Chief Operating Office in HR on thought-leadership initiatives related to the future of work. One of her focus areas is the move towards a data-driven HR organization and the use of HR analytics to make smarter talent and organizational decisions. Prior to that role, she worked as a process consultant within SAP HR, consulting process managers on different aspects of process management. She studied Psychology at the University of Mannheim, Germany, and the San Diego State University, USA. She holds a PhD in Business Economics from the University of Liechtenstein.

Dr. Christian Liebig

About Dr. Christian Liebig

Dr. Christian Liebig is HR Senior Director with SAP, working in the Chief Operating Office in HR. In his role, Christian oversees the HR analytics strategy as well as the positioning of the HR function as thought leader for people practices. He focuses on improving all talent related decisions with relevant data and analyses to create a superior talent experience. Prior to accepting these responsibilities, Christian was Senior Manager of SAP survey feedbacks multi-rater instruments, and assessments. Christian studied Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the Universities Mannheim, Saarbruecken, and Amsterdam. He holds a doctorate in Economics from the University of Mannheim.