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How to ensure employees feel a sense of belonging and connection in uncertain times

We’ve all seen the news and announcements about COVID-19 in our regions and email accounts. SAP has done an amazing job communicating with employees frequently, localizing the messages, encouraging people to work remotely, etc. We are fortunate in that most of us are set up to work from home – we have laptops and mobile phones, and we use MS Teams and Skype regularly. Our learning team has offered courses with tips on working remotely and SAP News has posted best practices for keeping employees safe and productive. These come from regions that have already gone through what we’re experiencing now in North America.

We’ve also found ways through Ariba and Qualtrics and with SAP HANA and other solutions to help our customers in uncertain times, which is awesome!

But what about all of us who are working from home now – we know SAP trusts remote working, but do we feel connected with our managers and teams? This sense of connection is especially important for people who are underrepresented in the workforce like women and people of color in tech, people with autism or with different abilities, and those who identify as LGBT or non-binary. We can help people feel a sense of belonging if we understand the challenges they face, recognize their accomplishments, and support their growth. Yet this has become exponentially more challenging over the past few weeks. So, what should we be doing?

Over the past few days I asked a few fearless leaders what they’re doing differently to ensure that employees feel included and connected to their peers and leadership. Here’s what they shared:

  • Kelsy Trigg, VP and Global Head HR Advisors at SAP: “One specific thing I’m doing is sharing some thoughts via email each Friday to make a personal connection and share my perspectives with the full global team. This is in addition to my regional leaders who are doing an amazing job of being agile, staying connected and listening carefully to what different team members need to be heard and supported.”
  • Vanessa Smith, Head of SuccessFactors North America: “Last week I sent a personal note to my team members to please focus on employee well-being and customer needs. This week, I hosted a virtual town hall with my entire team to build a sense of community and share tips and tricks on working in this new environment.”
  • Joerg Wagner, SVP, Global Head Consumer Industries Services at SAP: “I suggest transparency (daily calls with all managers, all employees) and leaders who are approachable and empathetic. Include everybody at all levels and on all teams (not only your direct team) at these times.”
  • Pam Chance, VP, North America Business Operations: “One thing that we are doing differently as of today is having informal Skype / Team chats with video to compensate for the in-person interactions we have typically had in the past. A second thing is that I’m providing a forum on an existing weekly team call to share updates, ideas and questions they have regarding the implications of COVID-19, how we are engaging with our customers, leadership perspectives, etc.”
  • Sebastien Denes, Head of the Center of Excellence in Greater China: “In China, we created a special group on WeChat for all employees located in the Wuhan area, during the lock down, to keep us close to each other, get information from the ground, and take simple actions to support each other. Every morning since the beginning of the outbreak, we have checked-in on how everyone is doing and been on hand to address challenges. Also, our VP has sent regular messages of encouragements, to not give up and stay strong.”

In addition, SAP’s Employee Network and Advisory Groups are doing things to ensure that people feel connected:

  • Carrie Hall, member of the SAP Autism at Work Advisory Group, commented that, “For people with autism, we suggest regular communication updates about working remotely as well as a check-in call with everyone in the program to talk about how they’re doing.”
  • Melissa Best, Global Lead of SAP’s Business Women’s Network, shared that, “We have a few things we are working on at the moment, including creating a Remote Work Resource Stop on Jam that will crowd source content for working from home situations like being a ‘school teacher’ or caretaker, linking to SAP’s Global Mindfulness Practice for daily guided meditations, and posting social challenges that bring employees together to celebrate the things that bind us during these unprecedented times.”
  • Ezequiel Massa, Interim Global Pride@SAP Lead, said, “We’re having a virtual meeting with the leadership team next week to discuss updates from the regions and share our experiences going through COVID-19. Also, some are starting to host webinars on different topics to bring awareness to our cause, even when working from home. For example, in Latin America to commemorate International Transgender Day of Visibility we’ll have two transgender colleagues from Argentina and Brazil share their stories and comment on systematic exclusion of non-normative gender identities.”

During this time of uncertainty, we need to check-in on people, even our strong colleagues and friends who seem to handle everything well. This situation may be more stressful for them than we know, and our kindness might be just what they need to cope with the new normal.

So, I’m curious about your experience. What are you and your teams doing to stay connected right now?

Suggested reading:

Leading in Uncertain Times – Trust Series Part II

Life at SAP crowdsourced remote working tips from the experts: our employees

15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered

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