Shraddhanjali Rao, VP & Head- HR, SAP India on Talent Strategies and Succession Planning


Shraddhanjali Rao, VP & Head- HR, SAP India on Talent Strategies and Succession Planning

Shraddha is a leader with extensive experience in designing and executing the people strategy for building a high-performance organization for SAP’s 13,000+ workforce in India. Additionally, to foster the start-up ecosystem, she commits her time as the Advisor of the SAP Startup Studio, an accelerator program of SAP Labs India.

Under her leadership, SAP Labs India has ranked #1 in India’s Best Companies to Work for by the Great Place to Work Institute in 2018 & 2019, along with being the Best Workplaces for Women and for Culture of Innovation and Certified as a Top Employer for 2019, 2020 & 2021.

She was also awarded the Women Leadership Award by Observe Now in 2020, the Exceptional Women of Excellence 2017 by Women Economic Forum and is among Top 20 most voted HR Role Models in India in 2018.

She is passionate about Future of Work, Leadership, Inclusion, nurturing Start-ups and recently co-authored the book Why Blend In When You Can Stand Out? She believes that in order to change the game, you have to change the frame!

Q- How do you see the talent development challenges post-pandemic?  

I see the pandemic as a change accelerator. Pre-pandemic, we had put much thought into futuristic talent strategies, however, 2020 made us more action-oriented and lunge forward faster. A post-pandemic world calls for organization and business changes, challenging talent development strategies to extend beyond just reskilling talent and instead meet the changing nature of jobs.

Some of these needs will be predictable and can be prepared for, while others will make us think quicker on our feet. We need to establish an adaptive workforce management approach focusing on building and developing a pipeline of talents, tapping into the transformation of not just skill but also mindset to address emerging needs.

The focus will be on creating a culture of continuous learning and upskilling, paired with future-ready leadership development, and building organizational resilience to drive business value. This will require us to move away from a linear approach of talent development to strategizing experience-based offerings.

The challenge here is not just in shaping these new talent strategies, but a well-rounded execution of these in the inclusion of the multiple variables that will take effect for a futuristic hybrid working environment. We would need to look at talent even more holistically, moving away from the ‘single people strategy’ to bringing all talent together. It about going beyond catering to the needs of the top 10% and truly leveraging the right platforms for collaboration & innovation, to build larger and sustainable talent pools where we move forward together.  

Q- How do you optimize talent strategy to meet business vision?

Our People Strategy with each of its pillars supports our business by interlocking with our product-related and customer engagement-related strategies and drives value for our employees and thereby, SAP’s success. Each pillar has a clear target state and a roadmap on how we will get there, as a strategy is only as good as its execution. Therefore, people focus is a key element in our business strategy where each leader holds the accountability of building skills for the future, changing the way we lead, and driving a culture of high performance with inclusion infused in its DNA.

One example of our approach is our in-house designed & executed ‘Tech Know School’. Built for virtual learning, it caters to upskilling our people on 2-3 clearly defined focus areas with great caliber. We measure the impact in two phases – the short term and the long term. The short-term milestones simply put, is the number of people whom we upskilled, and the long-term measure is talent moving into areas where the skill is used.  

Q- What is your strategy to develop and retain the top talent?

At SAP, we believe that everyone is a talent. We ensure our corporate strategy is relatable for each employee by connecting the dots between their individual goals & development to how it adds into the company’s overall success. We leverage data-driven approach to identify skill gaps across current and future workforce, create targeted learning journeys to close skill gaps and integrate skill insights across the talent management cycle.

We also keep a close tab on our critical talent by regularly assessing our Talent Loss indicators and providing meaningful interventions through customized approaches for key demographics that has help us engage and retain our talent. One such example we can share is our focus on Talent Agility, designed to improve engagement and retention of our young talents.

Understanding the need and challenge of this demographic, we rolled out multiple career development Initiatives ranging from broad-based to personalized ‘1:1 engagements that included #CareersOverCoffee sessions, Social engagement, Speed mentoring, Coaching, Career Dialogues, and Hot Jobs mailers to improve awareness of career opportunities within SAP.

Our focus has transitioned to experiential learning where opportunities like fellowships, job shadowing and significantly diverse experiences are in the grasp of anyone from any part of the globe, thanks to the virtual reset brought on by the pandemic.

Q- What are the new trends in succession planning?

We deliver the future of work today with greater insight enabling us to match the skills and aspirations of our people to the strategic needs of our business. This ensures our people become equipped for future work requirements and enables us to fill critical roles with the best talent.

Our leadership development framework has a robust succession management program ensuring that short, mid, and long-term successors are identified with targeted development for incumbents and successors of these roles. We lean our market-leading practices like gathering real-time insight into the leadership bench and other critical roles, transparent succession planning, and ensuring our talent pools are up to date with diverse talent.

The focus is on looking at talent pools differently to capture more inclusive pools of talent – beyond just gender. These will need to include generation, cultural and regional diversity, along with the multiplicity of experiences and strategic capabilities.

Q- Any concluding remarks?

Let’s stop calling these tough times – they are challenging, but they have pushed us to broaden our horizon of thought exponentially in just a matter of months. This is our opportunity to own and redefine work, nature of jobs, and how talents are understood, in order to cater to the needs of both the organization and the individual.

This is our chance to revolutionize the cultural mindset of organizations in the areas of innovation & collaboration, to leverage talent in the best sense in a world that is ours to inspire.

Thank You, Shraddha!


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