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New benchmark for high performance culture: SAP in Malaysia

AvantiKumar | Sept. 12, 2018
"As of 2020, everybody entering the workforce will be a digital native," says SAP Malaysia's Duncan Williamson.

SAP Malaysia MD - Duncan Williamson

Photo - SAP Malaysia managing director Duncan Williamson.


  SAP Malaysia has set a new benchmark for the Malaysian information, communications and technology (ICT) scene by winning the "Aon Best Employers 2018" award for building a high performance culture.

Aon is a renowned global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement, and health solutions.

Receiving the award on behalf of SAP Malaysia last week, its managing director Duncan Williamson said: "Our purpose is to help the world run better and improve people's lives. The effort we put out into ensuring employee retention and well-being underpins that purpose, from the way we want to deal with people, to the fact that we regularly engage in social responsibility projects. We want the people in the company to be so excited and passionate about working here that they go out and ensure that the customers run better."

"The testament to the fact that we've been good at that is the number of companies that run SAP," added Duncan.

Today, SAP serves some 404,000 customers in 180 countries, including 92% of Forbes Global 2000 companies. On top of that, 77 per cent of all worldwide business transactions is said to touch an SAP system.

SAP's employee strategies revolve around three core pillars. One is investing in the youth for the future. The second is a focus on diversity. The third is learning as the foundation for people to grow and be successful.

"With regards to retention, we want to improve how engaged our employees are, and how many employees we retain. If we can get really close to zero people leaving the company, and really close to 100% engagement, that's fantastic," said Duncan.

He also disclosed that SAP has five generations working in the company.

"As of 2020, everybody entering the workforce will be a digital native. That is fundamentally different from myself; I first got to play with a computer when I went into university. So we pair people up; we ensure that senior leaders in our organisation are doing what we call reverse-mentoring. Those people entering the workplace bring with them an understanding of their age group and its expectations; what they want; and what technology should be doing for them. So that reverse-mentoring bridges that gap between them. That proves to be quite effective."

Besides constantly being on the lookout for experienced professionals, SAP has also invested significantly into hiring and growing the younger age group. "If you want to generate solutions for the market, then you need to have people with an understanding of the market within the organisation. I have had positive experiences with hiring young, inexperienced people who are amazing, because they come with one ingredient which they would never get from experience, which is enthusiasm."

"We're also very conscious of building a broader ecosystem of younger people, so if somebody leaves SAP, they don't necessarily leave the ecosystem. They might go to one of our partners; that's not a bad thing."

SAP Malaysia employs a broad mix of nationalities, including Malaysians, Germans, British, Indians, Singaporeans, Indonesians, together with Thais and Filipinos amongst others. "Malaysia is a country that is very diverse. You've already got major culture groups anyway, so you start from that basic premise."

Duncan observed that this diversity exists in SAP offices throughout the world.

"When I managed the consulting organisation in the UK, 25% of the population that I was managing was South African. In London. And that was quite a surprise for me. Singapore and Australia are among other countries that have got very diverse populations."

SAP Malaysia's human resources strategy is to create a culture of people who can deal with complexity, the speed at which the changes are happening, and high data volumes.

"Our people want to have a meaningful career, where they feel they're doing something of consequence, and they also want the ability to develop and learn and grow. So we have to provide them with the ability to learn and grow themselves as individuals."

In addition, SAP Malaysia is constantly looking at various avenues to give back to society and "to touch people beyond the working environment".  For example, employees recently prepared and served food at the Pitstop Community Café to feed the homeless in Kuala Lumpur. Afterwards, employees spent the day cleaning, cooking and providing other community services to the needy (see pic below).


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