Building organizational agility in the workforce happens through a unique employee development experience.
From the employee’s perspective, moving their career to the next level can be a tough journey in the rapidly changing world of work. SAP aims to be part of the cure instead of the silent disease called stagnation.
So how does a company stimulate knowledge and motivation and how does a company grow the skills of their workforce without generating extra costs for the business?
Though a global program called Fellowships. The Fellowship program at SAP has been running for high potential employees for 10 years. Due to its proven value, this year, the company has opened up the program to all 80,000+ employees.
So what exactly is a Fellowship?
A Fellowship is a career development opportunity where an employee is assigned to a different job and team for a maximum period of six months. This assignment can take place onsite, in a different location (abroad) or virtually to acquire new experiences and develop to the next level.
How does it work?
Offering these opportunities may be a bit tough for managers who would be away from their employees for up to six months, but SAP’s experience and results have shown that the benefit of this program is much greater in the long run for all employees, managers, teams and the organization at large.
It’s a win / win. The employee gains hands on experience to stay relevant and motivated while building their internal network, leading to higher retention and increased engagement. The receiving manager gains extra support and new perspective from the new team member, and the sending manager and team will receive new skills and perspective once the team member returns, increasing the productivity and empathy within both teams. In 2016 alone, more than 400 employees went on a Fellowship.
The program has enabled new products and connections and has helped many SAP initiatives and start-ups to flourish, while at the same time providing employees with new experiences and knowledge. For example, SAP TwoGo was developed by offering Fellowships to employees who have gained new experiences, skills and knowledge, while helping to set up various components that currently still form the foundation of these carpooling services.
And to quote R&D SCP Performance Fellow, Dilip Mamidela –
“As an outcome of my Fellowship, I have contributed to the development of a service, which provides performance testing as a service at the click of a button, thus lowering the entry barrier for performance testing in the SAP Cloud Platform.”
So what do you need to consider before implementing Fellowships?
- Start small and build on best practices.
You’re not going to convince your managers and workforce overnight that this program will contribute to the business. It is important to find a group that drives Fellowships. After all, some managers will need to give up their employees for months at a time. Despite the initial shock of that time period, the program can work and has worked, and managers committed to their organization and employee development will find a way to make it work. Based on the positive experiences and feedback, that momentum will continue to grow.
- Have a platform in place that supports Fellowships.
Without a platform that supports the accessibility of Fellowships, managers will be unable to publish the opportunities and colleagues will not be able to find these Fellowships. Within SAP we leverage our JAM capabilities to share the available Fellowships with the company.
- Align with your stakeholders.
To get the support you need, you must align with managers, social partners and employees to identify their needs and then align your Fellowship Program to those needs. By doing so you will not only create a better Fellowship Program, you will also find the people who will support your program and who may start leveraging on Fellowships.
- Run simple and stay flexible.
Within SAP we have noticed that flexibility along with a clear and simple process have been a winning formula. Every extra step and any additional administrative work can be considered a barrier and must be reduced at all costs to make Fellowships consumable. Unique situations will arise, so you need to be flexible to ensure the Fellowships start off smoothly. A one pager has been a common best practice to display the Fellowship definition, steps, documents, benefits and opportunities.
Tips for managers and employees to make this program successful.
Managers: Plan how to use the Fellow’s new knowledge in your team, check if you can backfill your employee’s position with a Fellowship and be supportive.
Employees: Align your expectations up front, get out of your comfort zone and fully emerge in the opportunity.
What are you waiting for? Start with building the experiences your organization desires by using Fellowships!