This is how SAP is increasing the sustainable employability of its staff

18 January 2023


Employees of business software manufacturer SAP can count on an exceptionally wide range of fringe benefits. Among other things, to increase their sustainable employability. This prevents people from leaving the company and helps keep the talent SAP manages to attract happy and healthy on the job.

Extended holidays, hybrid global working, an always accessible telephone helpline and a highly flexible pension. SAP offers employees attractive fringe benefits and many perks. As the market leader in business software, SAP helps companies streamline their operations. The company employs 100,000 people worldwide, including over 700 in the Netherlands.

A wide range of employee schemes that can sometimes even be a bit overwhelming for new employees, notes Niclas Fischer, Total Rewards Partner at SAP Netherlands. Consequently, there is a lot of choice. Among other things, Fischer is responsible for the Total Rewards programme of fringe benefits in the Netherlands and tells employees of appropriate perks when necessary. ‘That wide range is a deliberate choice. The more extensive our range, the better it matches employees’ needs. Not everyone benefits from the same solution.’

Contributing to job satisfaction
With these extras, SAP aims to contribute to employees’ job satisfaction and sustainable employability. Like SAP, more and more employers are seeing the need to keep employees healthy, happy and competent at work throughout their working lives. Fischer: ‘Recruiting talent is important in today’s tight labour market, but we also want to keep them vital at the company for as long as possible. It does no one any good if employees leave after a year. We can play a role in this by creating the right working conditions.’

Questions on financial topics
What does it take to enhance employees’ sustainable employability? SAP involves its employees in that question in various ways. As a result, Fischer is seeing the number of questions on financial topics increasing, which is also due to the changed economic situation in 2022. It’s an important indicator for the HR team; after all, financial health also contributes to employee well-being. In the ‘My Pension’ app of SAP’s pension administrator BeFrank, employees can view pension accrual and other important information about their pensions. The team also works closely with BeFrank when answering questions. Fischer: ‘They regularly give presentations on employee pension schemes, both online and here on site.’

Development opportunities
Sufficient development opportunities are an important part of sustainable employability, says Fischer. People have to work longer and longer, and we help them do so in a pleasant and healthy way. Most employees don’t want to do the same job for years, so we regularly look at options together. How can someone take on new responsibilities, and thus continue to grow professionally?’ SAP eliminated the annual performance review some time ago. They replaced it with a more casual performance file (SAP Talk) in which manager and employee include wishes and goals. Those who need some help in achieving those goals can take advantage of mentoring or coaching or opt for a fellowship. ‘It is important for every employee to be able to develop and use their talents.’

Hybrid working is the standard
Fischer believes the focus on sustainable employability contributes to SAP’s low staff turnover and absenteeism compared to industry peers. ‘More importantly, rankings and periodic employee surveys show that employees appreciate our approach.’
One of the most appreciated benefits is the ability to work in a hybrid manner. SAP has adopted a location-independent working style for decades, but since the pandemic, hybrid working has become the standard. Fischer: ‘Employee surveys after COVID-19 showed almost unanimous support for maintaining the option of hybrid working.’ Since the launch of Pledge to Flex in 2021, employees can choose their own working hours and locations. ‘Each employee decides how he or she wants to work, in consultation with the team and customers.’ Those who want can also work temporarily from abroad thanks to smart software. ‘This is particularly useful if your partner is working abroad for a project. Or if a longer stay abroad fits better with your children’s school holidays.’

Discussing dilemmas
The basis of Pledge to Flex is trust. Fischer knows that making clear agreements is an important part of success. At the launch, teams were challenged, through workshops and a clever game, to reach agreements on issues such as working from home. ‘We had the office environment of our new headquarters in Den Bosch recreated like a board game.’ Using game assignments, the players faced options and dilemmas. Such as the employee who always wants to work from home. Or choosing a day to meet with the whole team. ‘The game made it clear where the wants and needs are within the team and helps in making good agreements.’

Mental health
Especially at knowledge-based companies like SAP, improving sustainable employability emphatically also focuses on mental health. It is well known that the workload in the tech sector is high and this can lead to absenteeism. Fischer: ‘Even in a dynamic organisation like SAP that places high demands on employees, you need to be able to work in a healthy way. It is important for employees experiencing a high workload to not stay under the radar. This is a challenge now that colleagues no longer see each other every day.’ A good work-life balance is therefore on the agenda at the annual health week organised by SAP. It’s a week during which extra attention is paid to employees’ physical and mental health. In various workshops, employees receive tips and advice on how to stay vital – including on the financial front. During the annual Health Week, a pension threshold was laid out in the hall of the headquarters. It was intended to help employees literally cross the threshold into exploring their pension in more detail. Fischer: ‘BeFrank employees were on hand to help the employees log in to their personal pension page and answer their pension questions.’

Talking with professionals
A mental health day has been in place since 2021. This is an extra day off for all employees designed to draw attention to the importance of mental health. To further lower the barrier to seeking help, SAP launched an Employee Assistance Programme in the same year. ‘A telephone helpline you can call 24/7 if you have a question or problem. For example, if you’re not feeling comfortable in your skin or need financial advice.’ The employee will be put in touch with the right professional, who will provide him or her with further assistance.

Understanding your pension
Fischer believes it is important that employees reach retirement age financially and physically fit. ‘Everyone has to work longer and longer, and we help them do so in a pleasant and healthy way.’ This makes paying attention to the pension scheme important as well, even though retirement is still far in the future for some of the younger employees. Attention to income for later should contribute to the pension awareness of young and older workers alike. SAP’s pension scheme is flexible and generous, but this is often only part of a person’s income for later. ‘It’s important for employees to have sufficient understanding of their pension,’ says Fischer. ‘We also give them the opportunity to go over their retirement plans with a financial advisor. You want to avoid employees coming to the conclusion a few years before retirement that they made the wrong choices in the past. By then, it’s usually too late.’

This article appeared on on 17 January.