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Get insider info on SAP SuccessFactors HCM suite for core HR and payroll, time and attendance, talent management, employee experience management, and more in this SAP blog.
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Community Advocate
Community Advocate

The SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics, such as emerging technologies, learning, and other topics, and provides insights from Mentors and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.

The essence of empathy is quality listening. The need to empathize with employees, customers and other stakeholders has never been more important.

With digital transformation accelerating, every organization should consider the impact or disruption of decisions from an employee and customer-centric standpoint or risk losing a competitive advantage.

When empathy and action work together the best of both can be realized. Today business and IT issues are complex; keeping the operations running smoothly in a world of increasing digitalization is a major challenge. Insights alone without action will not lead to successful outcomes. Understanding what it is that will drive action from insight is key.

For chris.paine, SAP Mentor, Chief HR Geek, and Head of Technology and Innovation at Discovery Consulting, he lives by the principles of turning empathy into action. It was great to learn from Chris about his passion for the Human Experience Management (HXM) space and his volunteer work as an Assistant Scout Leader in Australia.

Stacey Fish (SF): When did you become interested in human resource management (aka as a “Chief HR Geek”)? Did it start at the University of Nottingham or later in your career path that led to your current position at Discovery Consulting?

Chris Paine (CP): My entry into the world of people management was kicked off by my first job after graduating. I was sent on a 6-week course to learn SAP Human Capital Management (HCM), Payroll Configuration, and HR Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP). But it’s the experience of working over 20 years with so many amazing people leaders that has fueled my passion for this space.

I’ve always been interested in tech, and I’m pretty sure I was one of first ever students at my high school to use the excuse that my hard drive had failed for handing in an assignment late. There are very few “right” answers in the people management space, but a huge variety of ways to get the best results. I love to see the possibilities and work with awesome people to make the best experiences.

SF: As a volunteer Assistant Scout Leader in Australia, you have supported youth development around adventure, achievement, leadership, teamwork, and service to the community. How rewarding has this experience been for you? How have you leveraged what you have learned in your professional journey?

CP: Scouting is very different from my day job, and it certainly can be challenging, but it’s rewarding in a different way. Where I have taken inspiration from my work is the approach for getting the best outcomes from planning. Manage everything with empathy! Put yourself in the place of the youth member, think about what their experience is, what do they want to get out of the program. Then work with them to help them achieve a great outcome. This is about leading vs. managing. We try not to tell the Scouts what to do, but rather enable them to achieve. In many ways, this is how I work with team in my business.

SF: How did you become an SAP Mentor? What does it mean to you to be in this program?

CP: During the time when I became an SAP Mentor, SAP HCM was one of the first areas to pick up Web Dynpro ABAP and the Floor Plan Manager (FPM). I think I was in a battle with Thomas Jung (I lost, mostly) to get the most accepted answers in the WDA section of the SAP Community forums. Through my contributions there, as well as presenting at various conferences and community events, I was noticed and was asked to join the program.

To me, being part of the program is very important. It enables an easier discussion with key people within SAP, but it also allows for a gathering of very smart independent thinkers. There is a huge diversity of personality types in the program, which is vital to its success, but does make for some, um, “interesting” discussions. Let’s just say, I don’t think you’ll find a group of people so willing to have strong opinions on anything, but also happy to debate or discuss. We’re always learning!

SF: In your blog, I love a good moan”- SAP SuccessFactors Integration IDP, (Implementation Design Principles), you discussed the importance of providing structured guidance and advice as a “way to channel constructive criticism (double constructive!) into something of value.” What's a high-level example of when you have used an IDP (or seen it used) with a customer to help avoid a pitfall?

CP: The fact that that many IDPs even exist is quite amazing. IDPs provide best practices by means of documents created in collaboration with top implementation partners (often who otherwise compete with each other). This helps work out the best solution that all customers can leverage. Sometimes there can be a counter-intuitive solution/work-around which is actually the best approach.

I like SAP working with consulting firms to recognize excellence (not just in sales figures) and provide advice that benefits the customer experience. Now, the solutions set out in the IDPs aren’t always the right answer, but it sure encourages an informed and intelligent debate, and that’s always a win for a customer.

SF: You once presented at the SAP Australian User Group (SAUG) Summit on organizational data considerations for SAP SuccessFactors, including what data should be considered for employee access. When you reflect on gaining data-driven insight in all HR processes, how can organizations start the process to gain access to business-ready information that is secure, private, trusted, anonymized, and as a result, reliable?

CP: Wow, this question sounds like it ought to be accompanied with fancy moving graphics and an inspiring soundtrack. The truth is that it’s simple…you can’t have all of the cake. A perfect solution doesn’t exist (at least not yet, and I think we are many years away from getting there), but you can try to get close.

Having people data in SAP SuccessFactors is a great start to secure, private and gets you towards trusted. But only through ensuring your data is being used, along with the metrics captured and reviewed, can you start to pull useful insights from it.

Yet again, an empathetic design approach is your best option. Understand what it is that will drive action from insight. Then build your processes to ensure that the data to support that insight is available. Unless there is going to be action from the insight, it’s generally not that useful to have the insight!

SF: You started your education studying physics and French, and along the way you made a major shift to HR consultant. What suggestions do you share with students and recent graduates who are interested in HXM and HCM (Human Capital Management)? How can they obtain a quality job in this field and jumpstart their careers?

CP: Right now, the opportunity for someone to get into the SAP SuccessFactors space is booming, but what business and consultancies want is two-fold.

From an integration and technical area, those with good ability to logically work through flow diagrams and to create them from a problem statement and then translate into code are invaluable. These are your typical IT/computer sciences graduates (or potentially physics grads in my case).

Then, there is a real desire for people who have HR experience but are looking for a challenge and variety to their work. If you somehow have an overlap in these two areas, then this would be a skillset that would stand out.

Look out for a mentor, especially in the HR space…Leaders are acutely aware of how hard it can be to start out. Any company that you can apply to that has an internal mentorship program is a good place to get started. The most important part of HXM is the Human part – work on using empathy as a skill to achieve results. The future of work is changing. Think about what’s important to you as a person and then find an aligned company.

Learning about good employee experience by having one, is the best way to go!


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