Nash Squared’s group tech evangelist Dave Savage talks to SAP SuccessFactors president and chief product officer Meg Bear on day one of UNLEASH America at CAESAR’S FORUM in Las Vegas.
We join the conversation as Dave and Meg set the scene at the show.
Dave Savage: I’m lucky to be joined by Meg from SAP. How are you today?
Meg Bear: I’m doing quite well, thanks for having me.
DS: Enjoying the start of UNLEASH?
MB: I am loving it. This is actually my first UNLEASH, so I’m really enjoying the heck out of it.
DS: [Is it] what you expected?
MB: Probably more than I expected. Whenever I come, I’m always excited to see all the people I know and love in the industry and get some ideas. But I think the energy is really probably a little bit higher, given the fact that this is a complicated year for HR technology in general. So, so yeah, very optimistic about it.
DS: Well, let’s set some context for people who are listening. Why don’t you tell us what you do for the organization, and why you’re here?
MB: Sure. So I’m President and Chief Product Officer of SAP SuccessFactors. We’re a global provider for HR software. And I am here to get ideas to connect with other colleagues and to share our story.
DS: Are you speaking?
MB: I was speaking, I spoke yesterday at the vendor panel, and I have done a few podcasts today.
DS: So what’s the message that you’re trying to get out to your peers when you’ve got those opportunities?
MB: There’s a couple of things. So obviously, for an HR audience, we’re very keen to help HR step up into the opportunity that is the transformation and change agents that they are. And then of course, we’re all about helping to increase the agency of individuals to step up and solve the skill gap problem.
DS: When you say ‘step up and be the change agents that they are’, what’s stopping them doing that? What are the common barriers that people have to be aware of?
MB: Yeah, so this is an interesting thing, what I find is that right now, everybody gets that there’s a lot of change; there’s a change in how work’s happening, there’s a change in what business is expecting, whether it’s at the macro level of global economic policy, whether it’s at the individual level of regionally hiring or firing or whatever, there’s just a lot of change.
And when you think about that, what I’ve come to understand is that individuals are very resilient and change comes pretty easily to each of us, but organizations less so, and so helping individuals to have the kind of guidance and support culturally within organizations to take what they do naturally, which is adapt, and help make that something that organizations can do as well.
DS: Why is that? If we naturally adapt, what is it about a group or a collective of people that makes that harder to do?
MB: Well, I think, especially depending on the size and scale of your organization. It’s a lot about success, actually. So what happens is, if you’ve been successful in a certain way, it’s much harder to figure out what to stop doing, because it’s not working anymore, right?
So the ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ problem exists for organizations in a big way. And I think the biggest thing, if I were to distill it into a word, it’s ‘unlearning’. We struggle, organizationally and individually, to let go things that we think we know.
DS: And I suppose we’re seeing that right now with this push/pull between what we learned during the pandemic and some organizational legacy memories of what we had before the pandemic
MB: Exactly. And the lived experience. People like to talk about the multi generations in the workforce, but it’s really less about that, but it is about your work experience. If you have been trained up to work a certain way, that feels normal to you. And it feels very uncomfortable to try to think of doing it in a different way. If you’re new in your career, of course, you really don’t have that legacy and that calcification of how you work and what that would mean.
DS: One thing that you mentioned, I think, before we hit record that you love the fact that you’ve got the opportunity to catch up with people in the industry who you know; this is an event that is about peers as much as anything. What question have you come to this conference with that you would like to know the answer to?
MB: So first off, I really feel that this is a moment where being more human really matters. So checking in with my peers and getting a sense of how they are advocating for bringing their humanity to solve the bigger problems that we see in the world today.
And I think that what I’ve come to learn is that for each of us, spending time with each other is really best supported when you don’t have a very big agenda, when you’re open and you leave room for serendipity and when you also spend more time being curious, than coming in with a preconceived idea.
DS: It’s lovely to spend some time with you. It’s lunchtime, have you had a chance to eat yet?
MB: I did. I of course take very seriously that when come on a podcast I make sure I have a working brain, and food helps.
DS: [laughs] Well okay, enjoy the rest of your break and enjoy the rest of the conference.
MB: Thank you so much. This is delightful.
Find out more about our UNLEASH America podcast booth sponsors SAP SuccessFactors here.
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