Companies must empower employees with experience. That’s how you keep them from going to another employer.

As SAP Chief Human Resources Officer Stefan Ries pumped up the crowd at SuccessConnect London last week with The Clash classic on stage, the audience were nodding their heads in agreement on the topic of empowering employees to better serve consumers.

“’Should I stay or should I go?’ is the question candidates and employees are asking themselves as industries and enterprises deal with the pressure of changing business models and digital transformation,” said Ries. “Enterprises in all industries are scrambling to define and acquire the new skill sets that are required for the consumer-grade experience in a world where machine learning and artificial intelligence are changing the game. In HR, we need to think like a consumer business. We must focus on impact and not on activities.”

Experience Matters

During his keynote, Ries had a candid conversation with customers on stage. Yulia Chupina, CHRO of Sperbank, Russia’s largest bank with 300,000 employees, reminded the audience that people don’t need banks anymore.

“If we want to remain relevant, we must add services to improve the consumer experience. People don’t want a mortgage; they want a new home,” she said. “Our job now is to help customers find the home, deal with bureaucracy, save time and money, all in a frictionless experience. But we cannot provide good customer experiences without good employees who are able to deliver the new model.”

For Jon West of Jaguar and Land Rover, the role of HR is to help the company scale seamlessly to address rapid growth: “When we first implemented HR self services, managers thought we were increasing their workloads by making them do things formerly done by HR specialists. But managing people is the manager’s job, not HR’s. Our job is to make the management process as smooth as possible with automation so managers have more time to actually engage with people. We’re making good progress with SAP SuccessFactors.”

Continuous Dialogue with Employees, Anywhere, Anytime

Nestlé, for example, is empowering a modern digital workforce in 191 countries by giving employees access to a mobile-enabled, flexible HR platform. By shifting to a continuous performance management model, Nestlé’s employees and managers can turn a backward-looking annual assessment into an ongoing series of activities that focus on employee development and align performance management with other critical HR and business processes.

True empowerment depends on full access anywhere, anytime. That’s why mobile access is critical in today’s digital workforce, where success depends on being faster, smarter and more connected than the competition. The stunning new design of the SAP SuccessFactors Mobile app for iOS by Apple and SAP announced at the event will revolutionize the HR experience for employees and managers.

It’s already enabling Conrad Electronic, an electronics retailer, to remain an attractive employer as it increases their number of products from 750,000 to 10 million in the B2B market over the next years. SAP SuccessFactors solutions — all optimized for mobile — not only save time and empower users, but they also take the workforce and HR into the future to support the company’s overall digitalization.

Success is Simply Human

The key message, however, was not about technology. It was about people. Throughout the event, customer after customer mentioned the need for empowering people with the right skills to succeed in the digital economy. Not every millennial is tech savvy, and many baby boomers remain flexible and eager to learn.

HR was a different animal five years ago. Thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence, more and more tasks in all lines of business are being automated. To differentiate themselves from machines, people will need skills to solve problems that arise when bots can’t answer the standard questions. People will need more training than ever before.

Clearly, there can be no success without people. In his closing statement, SAP CEO Bill McDermott explained that SAP’s business success is closely linked to its people-enablement culture: “We encourage our employees to spend 80% of their time achieving their own goals in alignment to the company’s goals and 20% of their time on discretionary efforts to help other people in the company achieve their goals. That’s about giving back.”

He also told the crowd that the acquisition of SuccessFactors back in 2010 was the most important M&A move in terms of making SAP the largest cloud based company in the world.

“When we acquired SuccessFactors,” said Bill, “someone in marketing told me we have to rethink the logo, because we can’t have a heart in it. I said, why not? We can’t be successful without people or passion.”

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