Helping the world run better and improving people’s lives: this simple phrase is our purpose. To some, it might sound unrealistic, but in reality it is what we do at SAP – even as part of our learning and leadership development.
In 2022, SAP launched EmpowerU, a signature talent program across the SAP Product Engineering Board area. Its purpose was to widen the participants’ aperture, foster relationships, and break down silos while building, engaging, and retaining a diverse, sustainable leadership and expert pipeline across the organization. Working towards this purpose, the program’s organizers, Kevin Welty and John Millea of the SAP Intelligent Spend and Business Network People & Culture team, worked closely with SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (SAP CSR) to try something new. Together, they devised a unique initiative, embracing the power of pro bono consulting to develop the next generation of SAP engineering leaders and to expedite world-changing solutions in the process.
In 2022, EmpowerU’s inaugural cohort brought together 145 individuals from across all SAP Product Engineering solution areas. Over 12 months, the program provided a cross-organizational experience, developing and coaching great talent from the Board area, broadening participants’ understanding of all SAP solution areas and SAP Product Engineering functional areas while fostering a powerful cross-organizational network of multipliers.
This program helps connect employees and social enterprise clients across the world through the TRANSFORM Support Hub, a global pro bono consulting platform powered by social enterprise MovingWorlds. Pro bono consulting offers an opportunity for EmpowerU participants to grow as leaders by leveraging their technical skills for good. Four small teams of employees with diverse skill sets ranging from engineering to project management were paired with clients in need of technical support to solve strategic business challenges. Each team offered their dedicated time and expertise over the course of three months to deliver quality solutions. In the end, these teams had the unique opportunity to use their skills to support refugees, rural healthcare, workforce inclusion, and more.
Welty believes this hands-on, thoughtful approach to leadership skill-building is paramount. “Leadership is taking responsibility for how you show up in the world and the impact that it has,” he said. “Thinking about how you make a difference in the world and how you impact others is what I think of as leadership. It doesn’t have anything to do with your job title or your experience.” One powerful outcome of connecting EmpowerU with the TRANSFORM Support Hub is that it gives participants the opportunity to explore how they are showing up at work, in their personal life, and for the world.
Through this experience, participants are exemplifying the leadership qualities that the EmpowerU program aims to highlight in unique ways. “That was probably my big takeaway,” shared Chris Roethler, who supported Boxtribute, a refugee aid platform, during the 2022 EmpowerU cohort. “I have knowledge to share that is beneficial outside of my daily work. I have also grown a network of people who I otherwise would not have had the chance to work with. My strengths can have a powerful impact in the world and my career.”
Beyond enabling the entrepreneurs to scale their work and impact, cohort participants are integrating innovative thinking sparked by their experiences working with their social enterprise clients into their roles at SAP. Through collaboration on these projects, employees are building networks across the company as well as with enterprises that are changing the way business works. They are becoming champions for sustainability, social impact, and personal fulfillment through purpose-focused work.
While connection is important, consistency is what truly creates change. Piloting technical pro bono consulting through EmpowerU has led to a multi-year, multi-program partnership between SAP Product Engineering and SAP Corporate Social Responsibility. In fact, the Intelligent Spent and Business Network line of business alone is more than doubling the number of employees and social enterprises participating in its initiatives in 2023.
The resulting impact for social enterprises is tangible, especially in the tech space. Social Entrepreneur, Founder of EnRoute, and Technical Consultant for the EmpowerU program Angela Busheska noted, “I don’t have the same resources that a team at SAP might have when working on a solution. Often entrepreneurs like me are working multiple jobs, going to school, and doing this work for free because we believe in what we do. When pro bono consultants understand the problems we face and help us prioritize solutions, that is extremely valuable.”
Programs like EmpowerU are just the beginning of experiential learning and leadership development for SAP Product Engineering. Every team at SAP – in every corporation even – can create a more connected, collaborative, and sustainable world through pro bono consulting. What started out as a curious pursuit to develop employees has turned into an opportunity to invest in sustainable development, social impact, and personal growth. By empowering employees to harness their skills for good, we are building capacity for innovative social enterprises around the world.
With a decade of success engaging employees, SAP, together with EY, MovingWorlds, TRANSFORM, and Unilever, continue to work on the TRANSFORM Support Hub, connecting employees everywhere to social entrepreneurs anywhere through pro bono consulting, coaching, and more. If you feel inspired to build a more sustainable world, we invite you to join us.