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Carmen O’Shea discusses why engagement matters more now than ever

Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

What is the Marketing Engagement Team and what is it focused on?

This spring, Carmen O’Shea became Senior Vice-President of Marketing Engagement, a new team focused on empowering SAP’s marketers to help drive the company’s shift to the cloud. Based in Palo Alto, Carmen says that her deepest motivation comes from seeing people grow and supporting them on that journey. In this first installment of a two-part interview, she talks about her team’s focus and challenges, as well as what unlocks engagement for us as individuals and as an organization.

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What does the term “Marketing Engagement” mean?

It’s literally what it says – we’re looking at marketing and asking, “How can we more gainfully engage that population?” Previously, our team was called Talent Marketing, and we were working on HR topics in support of the HR organization itself. Jonathan Becher, our CMO, said, “We’re undergoing a strategic transformation as a company. We want marketing at the front-end of that.” The people part of that change has been a bit neglected, so he came to us and said, “You understand engagement and culture and leadership and diversity – can you shift your focus to marketing and look at these issues in a holistic way?”

What is your team’s charter and approach?

We want these 2,000 people to feel a sense of purpose and direction in doing their work. They need to understand their broader context to be more productive and successful. In addition, people in marketing have often felt more affinity with their stakeholders than each other. This drives disunity, and we want to bring them together and improve the employee experience. We’re trying to create a feeling of a more inclusive and consistent culture – across geography, skills, roles and backgrounds. You do that by listening to all voices.

How does all of this connect to SAP’s business goals?

Our people strategy is really an enabler of our marketing strategy. So this work has to be linked to creating business impact – for example, by ensuring that we have the right processes and tools in place. Likewise, since SAP’s guiding principle is simplicity, that is our team’s guiding principle as well, and we’re working to embed simplicity into our marketing culture. We’re focusing on engagement because it drives so many other benefits for the organization – productivity, lower attrition, higher customer satisfaction and financial impact. A 5% increase in engagement correlates to a .7% increase in operating margin.

What are your team’s biggest challenges?

One is the legacy view of the culture, especially outside the U.S. Also, there’s a perceived lack of mobility from a career development standpoint – a lot of employees are saying, “I don’t know what my career paths are. Where are the role models and loyalty to me as a marketing employee?” Another big issue centers on developing our leadership and accountability for managers in developing their teams. Running across all these issues is the fact that when you go through so much change, it brings opportunities but can also lead to discontentment in the interim.

What challenges do we face as individuals?

One is believing that we have a sense of agency. Part of the onus is on us. The culture may have bred this feeling of, “I’ll sit back and wait.” Another big areas is this concept of purpose. What gets you up and motivated? If you’re not feeling it, how could you feel it? Something else individual marketers can do is get ourselves educated. We should all be getting out there – myself included – blogging, making sure we understand the digital sphere, becoming quick-moving and agile. All of this is the challenge, instead of passively sitting back and letting our job happen to us.

Can you talk about what unlocks engagement?

There are a number of levers. One is all about individual growth. Do people feel they have a true career path, as well as learning and training opportunities? Recognition and rewards is a big driver too – this is not limited to compensation, but is as simple and important as thanking someone for a job well done. Another is purpose and seeing the impact of our work.

And of course there is our work environment. Is it conducive to people being successful? Do they understand their role and how it supports our strategy? Is risk allowed? Do teams collaborate with each other? Do leaders and teams communicate effectively? We are also focused on quality of life – having work/life balance and feeling supported. Finally, relationships are pivotal. Managers drive about 70% of engagement. I love the fact that no matter how advanced our world becomes technologically, it is impossible to overstate the role of people in making someplace a great place to work.

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