Attracting and retaining talent in a hybrid world – The secret sauce


Elke Manjet

Global Head of Talent Attraction, SAP SE

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To describe 2020 as a unique year might be an understatement. But after having been witness to how a global pandemic can shape almost all areas of life, not least the working world, 2021 also came with its own set of challenges.

Has Covid-19 changed the game for talent attraction?

I would argue: It has intensified the trends we´ve already seen. Although the “Great Resignation” is on everyone’s lips and companies are feeling the impact of significantly increased competition for talent all over the globe, the core challenge has stayed the same. For most, employment has become more than just a job. Today’s talent wants to join companies that drive purpose beyond the business outcomes, companies that provide an environment where they can bring their true self, grow and give back. It´s obvious that many people have reset their values pushing topics such as health, wellbeing, life-life-balance and flex work top of mind. And without a doubt the pandemic has significantly accelerated this demand. However, these trends already being apparent in pre-Covid times should not come as a surprise to us. In my opinion they just emphasize the necessity of really understanding talent’s wants and needs to appropriately address them. At SAP we used this opportunity to complement our rich health offering e.g. with initiatives like #lowertheload helping everybody understand and overcome mental health issues. Our #pledgetoflex approach establishes a 100% flexible and trust-based workplace as the norm, not the exception.


Another trend undoubtedly fuelled by the pandemic is the leverage of AI in Talent Attraction. While the application possibilities of AI are manifold if not unlimited nowadays, I stand behind a conscious decision against establishing processes completely dominated by technology as I am convinced Recruiting experience is best when paired with a “human touch”. This being said, the implementation of solutions like career site chatbots addresses talent’s demand for quick answers to somewhat generic questions while allowing for a human point of contact when demands get more complex. We need to think outside the box on how we can further drive the application of AI in Talent Attraction, not only for the candidate’s benefit but also to improve our Recruiter’s experience. The example of Smart Job Matching is only one of many tools where I am excited to see their great potential further evolve in the future. Facilitating the job search by identifying best match of job requirements and individual skillsets boosts personalised candidate experience by being able to tell candidates “Let our jobs find you” versus having them search.


So, what’s the secret to not only attracting but also retaining talent in this hybrid world to build a strong and diverse post-pandemic workforce?

We are living in an Experience Economy and in order to appeal to our customers, may it be candidates or employees, we need to provide amazing experiences tailored to individual needs. While such a customer-centric approach is already the norm in areas like Sales, I see this change in thinking as just as relevant when it comes to a people perspective. Hence, we need to design end-to-end processes from the customer’s point of view. Following this approach, at SAP we view the entire employee lifecycle as one consistent journey; starting when someone first becomes interested in our company, through recruitment, learning, success in the role and corresponding recognition, to various growth steps and, although it might seem counterintuitive at first, it does not end with an employee leaving SAP, but even goes beyond. On this journey I see several "moments that matter" having a special emotional weight for the employee. Think of the rejection after an application, the return from parental leave or being a manager for the first time, to only name a few examples. Our aim at SAP is to focus on creating an especially great experience for these moments, backed up by well-structured and efficiently executed processes.


Ultimately, it’s all about the experience –now more than ever. No matter whether pre- or post-pandemic, you cannot focus enough on culture, values, and purpose as well as a personalised approach that targets people’s moments that matter.

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