How SAP Leverages People Analytics to Drive Diversity

People Analytics and diversity at SAP

How SAP Leverages People Analytics to Drive Diversity

Interview between Yannik Leusch (Kienbaum), Dr. Sarah Zelt (Head of People Analytics, Intelligent Data & Analytics at SAP) and Dr. Judith Williams (Head of People Sustainability and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SAP)

Reading time: 8 minutes

How do you understand people analytics at SAP and what role does it play?

Sarah Zelt: In People Analytics, we work with people and organizational data to improve decision-making in the organization. The overall goal is to provide actionable insights into our company’s talents.

In my point of view, People Analytics is important both from a strategic but also from an operational point of view. On the one hand, it is a crucial aspect of the strategy execution. For example, analytical solutions like the SAP Digital Boardroom or Mission Control Center help the CHRO, COO and Leadership Team of HR to monitor strategically relevant people and organizational KPIs.

On the other hand, it helps to drive digitization of various functions in HR (e.g. Talent Attraction, Total Rewards, Talent Development, Leadership and Learning). We can look at how we can improve data collection and provisioning in an automated way and support decision-making though actionable insights. This helps to improve business processes and drives digitization.
On top of the strategic and operational relevance, better decisions also mean more objective and fair decisions, so People Analytics also contributes to our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) ambitions.


Dr. Judith Williams, Head of People Sustainability and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SAP

Dr. Judith Williams, Head of People Sustainability and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SAP

Talking about D&I, SAP is well known for its efforts around diversity and inclusion. Can you give us some examples on how people analytics contribute to these efforts? How does it help to create a more diverse, inclusive and fair environment?

Judith Williams: The value proposition for diversity and inclusion is clear. Research across academia, financial services companies, the media and consultancies, has found that diversity and inclusion has a positive correlation on profitability, productivity, creativity and innovation. At SAP, we know that to thrive as an intelligent enterprise, we need diverse teams and an inclusive culture that empowers people to run at their best.

As such, we have set clear targets to increase the diversity of our workforce. We use the diversity dashboard to measure insights and accountability associated with workforce attributes, including workforce share, hiring, attrition, regional, and profit center differences. This allows us to create a single source of truth for compliance reporting, to measure progress against goals, and identify where we have gaps.

If companies want to make a meaningful change, they need to understand the demographics in the moment, they need to understand the historical trends and the other numbers that provide context. The data is critically important.

At SAP, People Analytics is relevant for different stakeholders, correct? Can you explain the organizational set-up and how the partnership between different units drives analytics in HR?

Sarah: At the end of 2014, we centralized analytics capabilities in one organization which is called Intelligent Data & Analytics today. Its mission is to create a seamless experience to access trusted data across our system landscape and deliver smart insights to enable steering excellence at SAP by leveraging SAP’s latest technologies. One main consumer of our data is the Chief People Officer (CHRO) and the Chief Operating Office of HR. As mentioned above, people analytics helps in strategic steering, defining strategic KPIs along our People Strategy and then continuously measuring our progress. Departments outside HR (e.g. Controlling, COOs) use insights for planning purposes and forecasting. Our more than 10.000 managers’ day-to-day decisions depend on insights about people and the organization they lead. One of the most used analytical solutions is the “My Team Dashboard” – a solution that includes in-sights into a manager’s team structure, learning and development of talents, compensation information, and upcoming events.

Judith: Analytics and data can help us identify specific gaps or business problems and target our strategy interventions to solve them. Everyone plays a role in ensuring the accuracy of the information and a collaborative partnership across the business is important to achieving common goals and objectives.


Dr. Sarah Zelt, Head of People Analytics, Intelligent Data & Analytics at SAP

Dr. Sarah Zelt, Head of People Analytics, Intelligent Data & Analytics at SAP

Not every company has a world class tech environment like SAP. Can People Analytics work on a smaller scale, in a less integrated environment?

Sarah: Wherever there is data, there is a way to analyze it. Of course, it helps if you have a good system infrastructure in place with harmonized data models, especially when it comes to big data or automating procedures. But also in less advanced organizations, you can start doing people analytics with what you have and use it as a lever to drive digitization in HR. Just start with a business problem, collect relevant information and explore it. In many cases you don’t need ALL data that is potentially out there as soon as you have the RIGHT data to make informed decisions. Identify ways how to create transparency for users around the da-ta which is available. Enable functions to work with and interpret data … there is a lot you can do.

How do you think People Analytics will impact the future of HR in general?

Sarah: Moving forward, I think People Analytics will make HR even more relevant. From my point of view, HR’s purpose is not administrating and delivering HR processes just for the sake of doing so. HR professionals must understand the overall company strategy and direc-tion and find ways to contribute to the overall objectives from a people perspective. With data, transparency and collaboration, we can help identify the right talent, where we have gaps, and make strategic interventions to meet the needs of the business today and in the future.
a. Do you see any specific challenges or opportunities for People Analytics in the German HR landscape?

Sarah: Challenges are often opportunities. Data protection and workers council can be viewed as a challenge or limiting factor. But you can also view it as an opportunity to a) gain a trusted environment for people analytics through collaborating with data protection and workers council which, at the end, also makes analytics more trusted for employees. Plus, it forces us to become creative in how we can anonymize data which means automating data collection and matching of data. As such, it drives our digitalization and path towards be-coming more intelligent enterprises. I know this sounds overly positive and a lot of people feel hindered by those limitations but maybe we should view the final goal we work towards as a positive endeavor and face the responsibility we have when dealing with people data.

Many organizations are just getting started on their way to making data-driven people decisions. What are your recommendations for getting started with analytics in HR?

Judith: I’d say 1) Start with a business problem and take it from there. 2) Find a sponsor in the business – this is crucial – who is interested in the data insights and can act as a vested partner and who will actually feel responsible to do something with the data – you don’t want insights that no one uses or applies. 3) Use the data to validate that your interventions are driving the outcomes that you care about and change course if you need to.

Sarah: I fully agree! And don’t forget to close the loop from analytical insights back to the data and business processes. This requires digging deep into business processes and drive data quality improvements which will help to drive your digitalization and lead to becoming more intelligent enterprises. Finally, don’t try to do everything at once. Prioritize what data is important to your journey and implement it step-by-step. Perhaps begin with something fundamental like accurate headcount across your organization. Align your analytical requirements with the processes supporting the analytics. Apply your learnings to the next steps in the process and take it forward from there.

Sarah, Judith, thank you very much for sharing, we are looking forward to hearing more of your people analytics projects at SAP.


Would you like to learn more about People Analytics?

For further information please visit our People Analytics page and feel free to contact our expert:

Yannik Leusch | | +49 30 88 01 98-49

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