Experience is everything. SAP CEO Bill McDermott emphasized this message in his opening keynote at SAPPHIRE NOW,  where he delved a layer deeper into this insight to tell the 30,000-member audience why feelings matter.

Everyone Contributes to the Experience Economy

For businesses seeking differentiation in the marketplace, delivering exceptional experiences to customers can indeed be the magic that fuels customer loyalty and generates brand awareness to drive profitability. Before tapping into the experience economy, however, business leaders must understand one caveat: Experience is delivered by people to people.

Though seemingly obvious, this truism is a reminder that the employee experience is every bit as important as the customer experience. If you truly expect your employees to deliver a joyful customer experience, you need to ensure that they have a joyful employee experience in your workplace.

As dedicated human resources (HR) managers know, employees lead complex, fascinating, and sometimes turbulent lives. After all, employees are people no different from your friends, neighbors, or family members.

No one can turn away from the dire statistics that characterize global society today. Whether it’s the middle-aged office worker, the factory team lead, family farm owner, or teenage student, depression, loneliness, and suicide are on the rise across the strata of society. Researchers say mental health is one of the most neglected areas of the human condition. We now know that 90 percent of today’s workers are impacted by mental health challenges, but only one percent of employees disclose at work that they are suffering from mental health issues. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 44 in the U.S. and nearly half of millennials have experienced suicidal thoughts. According to the World Economic Forum, the loss of workplace productivity due to mental health issues until 2030 is estimated to reach $16.3 trillion.

With so many lives at risk, SAP is stepping up with a comprehensive global initiative – encompassing health, culture, personal responsibility, and workplace programs – to enhance employee mental health and well-being. By elevating and de-stigmatizing mental health issues, we can turn the tide on these statistics, so that every employee fulfills their human potential and experiences joy in their contribution to the workplace. In the experience economy, everyone should be a winner.

Workforce Happiness Gains Awareness at SAPPHIRE NOW

Employee mental health and well-being received special prominence earlier this month at SAPPHIRE NOW, where SAP took the leadership opportunity to talk to customers and partners about the importance of creating an atmosphere of psychological safety and a culture of inclusion. Leading experts presented the latest research on employee mental health and shared their insights in the panel discussion, “Cross the New Frontier on Leadership and Workforce Happiness.

Vivek Bapat, senior vice president of Marketing and Communications at SAP, moderated the panel and discussed the program’s message that kindness matters. “Kindness is the one basic human value that we all have, regardless of where we are born, who we work with, what level of the organization we are in,” he said. “In my mind, it’s one of those things that is the first step to creating a culture of inclusion and creating psychological safety.”

For many employees, finding the right balance between the demands of work and personal life leads inevitability to even greater stress. “Work-life balance is just the wrong metaphor,” said Dr. Stew Friedman, practice professor emeritus of management and director of the Work/Life Integration Project, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, during the panel discussion as he confronted long-held misconceptions about the workplace. “It’s a much more fruitful way to think about the integration among different parts of your life, if you focus on harmony or integration across your whole life.”

Dr. Friedman explained that as people go through the Total Leadership process of integrating the various parts of their lives, they begin to feel a greater sense of control and agency because they are taking steps in a direction that they choose. Business leaders can contribute to a healthy culture by modeling proper behavior for mental health.

“The most important thing for leaders to do is tell their stories about where they have struggled in their lives,” said Dr. Friedman. “When you talk about challenges you have faced in your life that have made things difficult for you and the people you love who depend on you, other people are then made more comfortable sharing their stories. It becomes more normal to be talking about life as a part of our work.”

“We looked at what’s important in corporations that have more mentally sound employees and it was three things,” said panelist Cynthia Germanotta, president and co-founder of Born This Way Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that she started together with her daughter Lady Gaga. With a mission to make kindness cool, Born This Way Foundation seeks to enhance the mental wellness of young people and empower youth in building a kinder, braver world – including as they enter the workplace. “One was as simple as having management and peers that say hello. Second is having diversity and inclusion programs. Third is having affinity programs for minority-based organizations. It gives people permission to talk about mental health to have a more open environment.”

“We accept the idea that we should see a medical doctor every 12 months but somehow the idea of talking to a mental health professional has stigma,” said Nick Tzitzon, executive vice president of Marketing and Communications at SAP. “We need to put these two conversations together. We’re doing that in my own family.”

Judith Williams, head of People Sustainability and chief diversity and inclusion officer at SAP, emphasized the importance of providing employee programs that foster mental health and create an inclusive workplace. She shared a message from McDermott: Diversity is a reality; inclusion is a choice.

“We want to have a healthy and inclusive workforce that’s empowered to run at its best,” said Williams, who explained how the effects of mental health challenges vary across different minority groups. “We know that the experience of discrimination and racism has an impact on your physical health. We also know that Asian-American communities, like African-American communities, are less likely to ask for help. We have a great opportunity to bring those two together to say that we provide these resources at work and that we talk about them proactively.”

SAP Global Mindfulness Practice Creates Business Impact

With a global workforce of more than 100,000 people, SAP has taken a pioneering role in offering its employees innovative programs to enhance their well-being and maintain positive mental health. Some of these include an Employee Assistance Program to help identify and resolve personal issues that may be interfering with an employee’s performance; support resources for stress management and addiction; and healthy leadership training. SAP has also developed the Business Health Culture Index (BHCI) to measure the health and well-being of its workforce relative to the financial impact on business performance.

One of the most successful employee programs is the SAP Global Mindfulness Practice program, which started as a grassroots initiative. Seven years later the two-day mindfulness and emotional intelligence workshop Search Inside Yourself has become SAP’s most popular training, with more than 9,000 trained practitioners and 8,000 employees on waiting lists around the globe. The positive impact on business is undeniable. Employee engagement and leadership trust has spiked while absenteeism has declined.  Employees who are practicing mindfulness report greater job satisfaction, a greater ability to focus, and a higher level of mental clarity and creativity.

Since 2017, SAP has been offering mindfulness as a consulting service. Customers like Siemens, Procter & Gamble, and Deutsche Telekom are now offering SAP Global Mindfulness Practice programs and Search Inside Yourself courses to their own employees.

Partnership with Thrive Global for Well-Being at Work

Launched in 2018 in partnership with Thrive Global, an organization dedicated to combating stress and burn-out, the Well-Being at Work initiative seeks to embed a culture of well-being and purpose in organizations to enrich the employee experience and drive peak performance. It takes a holistic view of employee well-being that includes physical, psychological, social, motivational, and financial well-being.

SAP customers and their employees benefit through the integration of content from Thrive Global into SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life,  a cloud solution that uses real-time data and intelligent technologies to help strengthen employee satisfaction, well-being, and health. With self-assessments, employees can explore aspects of their lives and work that affect their well-being, and get relevant customized insights and recommendations for steps they can take to make improvements.

Thrive XM Index: Linking Employee Experience to Business Performance

SAP customers also have access to the Thrive XM Index, the first-ever tool that measures and recognizes the impact of the employee experience in connection with business performance. Launched by SAP, SAP SuccessFactors, Qualtrics, and Thrive Global, this diagnostic tool relies on a combination of proprietary methodology, employee feedback, and HR expertise. By collectively analyzing experience data (X-data) and HR operational data (O-data), the tool generates an index that provides new insight into businesses performance.

The Thrive XM Index is different from existing, corporate employee surveys in that it takes a holistic view of employee well-being, including moments that matter, in five key experience areas: career, family, health, financial, and time. It examines root causes of factors affecting employees and business, providing insight into upstream factors that impact employee well-being, performance, and productivity, so businesses can anticipate challenges, course-correct, and drive better outcomes.

To learn more about participating in the Thrive XM Index, sign up here, or to start today, take the assessment, either as an individual or company, here.

Watch the SAPPHIRE NOW Panel Discussion on Facebook

Find out how you can make an impact toward promoting employee mental health and well-being in your workplace. Watch a replay of the livestream of an exclusive look back at the SAPPHIRE NOW panel discussion: Cross the New Frontier on Leadership and Workforce Happiness.

And remember: Be kind!


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