Meg Bear: Individual Experience, Responsive, Dynamic, Transparent | Work 20XX #02

Jeff Frick
December 22, 2021
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The world changed in March 2020, Chief Human Resources Officers and Chief People Officers had to quickly adjust to the new world. Amazingly, the companies and people adapted faster than anyone would have imagined. It quickly became apparent that this wasn’t a temporary situation, but really a catalyst to change the expectation of what’s possible, and the relationship between output and location, between employer and employee.

SAP SuccessFactors is a leading human resource solution provider, and as such, sits at the engagement point between company and employee, where the rubber meets the road in terms of systems and processes that define much of what the company means to the employees. Post March 2020, as the demands in the market, changed, far beyond simply supporting remote workers. It created a new demand need for better engagement tools, sentiment analysis, connection

In this episode, we are joined by Meg Bear, Chief Product Officer, SAP SuccessFactors. Meg shared the challenge many faced in responding to the shelter in place demands and working through a distributed team. Meg had the added burden to deliver tools and applications to support this evolving relationship between employee and employer/

In this far-ranging conversation, Meg shares her take on the factors behind the great resignation, what hybrid really means, and the fact that organizations need to get better at responding to change. We discuss authority, agency, control, flexibility, choice, collective intelligence, and intrinsic motivation because as Meg says “that’s what this is really about.” From the impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to the role of leadership and communications, Meg shared her perspective and vision of the path forward,

So without further delay, my conversation with Meg Bear.

Episode Transcript

>> Crew Person: 3, 2, 1. 

>> Hey, welcome back, everybody. Jeff Frick here. What does the future of work hold? And to answer that question, I figured, hmm, who better to go to than someone who's running one of the biggest human capital management software company product suites out there? So we're happy to welcome, through the magic of Webex, joining us is Meg Bear. She is the chief product officer SAP SuccessFactors. Meg, it's great to see you. 

>> It is wonderful to be here, Jeff. Thank you so much for inviting me. 

>> Oh, absolutely, so first off, just how are you doing? It's been, I can't believe it's been like five or six years since we sat down for that women in tech interview many, many moons ago, so how are you doing? A lot of excitement. You got this big promotion. You're right in the middle of this firestorm thing called COVID. 

>> Yeah, so as you can imagine, like everyone else, we are navigating COVID, but also, really doing some exciting things over here at SuccessFactors. We've launched a new product category we like to call human experience management, and that is really where we're focusing on putting people at the center of business and thinking about how people can make a big impact for themselves and for business at large, so it's been really exciting times and a great place to be for me. 

>> Awesome, so let's just jump into it, so obviously, you had to run your own company with everybody working from home and sheltering in place and all the interesting challenges that that brings up, but more specifically, you have a lot of customers that are using your software that suddenly were thrust into this situation. I'm just curious if you can share a little bit of what kind of happened last spring, some of the immediate kind of concerns and stuff you guys had to overcome, and then we'll get into some more the challenges going forward and how are you looking at this, really, as an opportunity to refine things? 

>> Yeah, you said it exactly right. We have a really interesting vantage point, both as leaders ourselves managing through this, but also, working with CHRs around the globe, in different regions, in different industries, how everyone has kind of been forced to change at a very quick pace, and then, also, how they're thinking about this as they're trying to navigate to what does come next, and I would say, at the beginning, one of the really amazing tools we had this time outside of great technology to do a lot of things virtually, we also had great tools for running surveys very quickly and understanding what people needed, and early on in the pandemic, we found people's needs were very specific and not exactly what you would think of. It wasn't just about their technology footprint. 

It was about their chair. It was about their desk and how to be working from home when other family members are at home and all of those sorts of things, but as we've progressed, of course, it's come around well being and sort of the long-term impacts of being apart from each other, and so, as we look at the opportunity that all of that has brought forward is a real rethink about how do we connect better with individuals that work for us? How do we make ourselves more available to their needs as those are changing? And how do we think about this, organically and systematically, to make sure that we're being responsive to the needs of the individuals? Because the actual lived experience is very different. While we're all suffering this pandemic, it has been coming in waves in different parts of the world at different times, and so this is another piece where you really have to get very local as well. 

>> Right, right, well, I'm just curious too how things have changed within your customer base as the realization kicks in, you know, April, May, June, July, August, that this is not a temporary situation, that there are going to be some elements of this going on for a very long time. People have been working from plane, trains, and automobiles for a long time. It's not necessarily where they went first, but people have been working from not the office for awhile, but from your customer point of view, how has their request to you and their kind of functional priority changed when they realized this is not I'm just enabling people to work from home, but I actually need to start investing to make that an option for the folks that really want to do that going forward? 

>> Yeah, absolutely, so a couple things. I have a internal joke where I say that every time we try to get a this is the plan to get back to the office, the coronavirus says, "Hold my beer" because you know that every time we think we understand what's going to come next, we realize we are just not sure. What we know for sure, though, is that our leadership has changed dramatically, and I don't just mean SAP. I mean, around the globe, the definition of leadership, and so, when you think about what becomes important in bringing people back to work safely, we wouldn't have, two years ago, imagined that we would have to understand vaccination status for everyone, and yet every single company in the United States that is working with any part of the federal government has to deal with that, and several states as well. 

We wouldn't have thought that the way that we organized our facilities was going to change so dramatically, and yet every company is now grappling with how much real estate do I keep? And what does it mean to come back to the office? And what is the reason people come to the office now in this state? So yes, it is about facilitating work from home, and we definitely have figured that out, mostly because we had to, but coming back is a much more broad and deep set of questions that are really hard for organizations to get their arms around, and so what I've been encouraging companies to do and what they're, and giving us ideas about things that they're trying, is to really be a little bit more clear to yourself about flexibility because at the end of the day, hybrid, as we're talking about today, is not an end state. A lot of times, people are saying, "Oh, we're going to be two days in the office "or five days in the office or one day in the office "or fully remote or whatever," but at the end of the day, these are all interim states, and so what we really need to get better at is being more responsive to change and how we look at the entire dynamic of what does it mean to work? So that's either really exciting or really terrifying, depending upon your personality and your interest in change. (laughs) 

>> Right, and both, probably, right? Well, 'cause COVID, it's been said 1,000 times. I'll say it one more time, right? It was an accelerant to a lot of things that were already happening and working remotely and the ability to work remotely and distribute teams was part of it. I'm curious from kind of a prioritization and maybe connection with the other core systems and managing people 'cause the other thing we have going on right now is this great resignation that everybody likes to talk about, but I think, really, it's just that people took a minute. They got off the hamster wheel. They were forced off the hamster wheel. Really odd that 7 billion people had to change their behavior overnight, and I think people are being more thoughtful. They're being more kind of searching for more meaning in what they do because they get a break, and they kind of saw the sun and maybe took a walk in the morning and spent some more time with the kids, maybe too much time with the kids, so as you see that from kind of a functional point of view and really thinking about engagement. 

We talk about customer experience all the time. We talk about employee experience, work experience. It's been a little late to get back to the worker, it feels like. You live it every day, but everybody's been focused on the customer experience and not so much those people that are expecting that same thing in their engagement with all the applications they deal with with the company. 

>> You're exactly right, and what we know is that the power is shifting, right? And so I think organizations are feeling that. When we talk about the construct of the great resignation, what we're really saying is that people have more choice, and that is a moment to take stock, and so the way we like to think about this, when you think about systems, what we want to do is we want to really help bring the intrinsic motivation of people back to their work because that's really what this is about. It's about, "Hey, here's my set of needs. "Here's my set of gifts. "These are the things that I am trying to navigate "in a way that works for both my personal and family life "as well as for the work and how I show up at work," and so what we recognize is that this is an opportunity. This is an opportunity for organizations to really embrace that flexibility, not just for the number of days you work and how you work, but really, the flexibility of listening to your employees and engaging with them to help decide and create this future, so what I mean by that concretely is I see a lot more of dynamic teams. I see a lot more of agile constructs coming into the broader business, and I see individuals grasping opportunities with a lot more authority and power, and so we look at that as the opportunity for how we're thinking about software going forward, but also, how we're sort of supporting our customers in navigating this, what is a real power shift, from a traditional command and control, very structured, very understood set of work, to a much more adaptable, evolving, growing, changing form of work and how to do that in a way that creates goodness for the individual, but also for the business. 

>> Do employers get that flexibility is a great thing for the people and that they are actually hiring adults and that they should be able to schedule to go to their daughter's recital from three to four on a Wednesday even if they have a meeting at two and they have another meeting at 4:30? I mean, this seems like such a great opportunity to rethink that, and I love what you said, intrinsic motivation. I just had a post up the other day that's getting a ton of action. Greg Jones said he thinks most people are only about 60% engaged at work, and the rest of that is because they're not intrinsically motivated, so it seems like a really great opportunity to change things up and to give people that flexibility so that you get that intrinsic motivation, and they're more motivated, and they sleep more, and they spend more time with their family. When they actually do get work done, it's better quality work. 

>> Yeah, it's about being in flow. It's about being able to bring your best skills forward and your best capabilities forward, so back to your question. Do organizations get this? This is not very scientific, but this is based on a lot of conversations. My hypothesis is that at the board and the C-suite level they do get it, but it definitely gets lost in translation as you get in through the different levels of management, and so what that means to me is that intellectually it's understood, but on the ground, operationally, it's very confusing. If you're a line manager, if you're a leader, if you're responsible for an operational area, and you have only ever seen that work with you managing by walking around and seeing people and watching them work, it's a lot of upskilling and relearning for you to be able to say, "Hey, "what are the pointers and the indicators that I look for "that help me feel confident work is getting done?" And so you're right: We've had a good opportunity to experiment and develop some of those skills, but I do believe that there's still... Change is complicated, and I do think that there's a little ebb and flow here in how people are adjusting, but there is a core group of people that were trained that leadership requires you to watch and pay attention to every single thing people are doing versus understanding that they're helping you and giving them more agency, authority, power, and control, and so it's the skills and tools you need to do that as a leader are very different than what you had needed in the past, and there's some unlearning there, for sure. 

>> It's funny. You said that I had noted that in my notes, that agency and value and interest keeps coming up in all your guys' literature, and again, I think it goes back to this... Terry McClure says most these people are fully functioning adults. Give 'em an opportunity. Give 'em the task. Give 'em the objectives, and let them do their things. I'm curious if you're seeing that in the way the software works and the way that they're managing? Or, say, an arcane process like annual reviews, which is just the silliest thing of all time, and there's been movement on 360 reviews, and I'm sure... How are you seeing something like a annual review process that is clearly so outdated, you know, kind of- >> Absolutely, yes, and- 

>> into this opportunity to rethink the relationship between the boss and the employee. 

>> Yeah, and even before the pandemic, there was a strong shift starting to come forward where people were looking at making feedback more continuous because, right? Growth does require feedback, but doing it in a way that was much more closely tied to the work and the skill and the capability that you're developing, and so we have been investing in that, of course, for quite some time, but now what we're looking at is even bigger than that, so we've just recently launched our opportunity marketplace, and what we're really bringing forward here is an actual dynamic, bringing demand and supply together in a more coherent way, but doing it with the individual at the center, and so what we're saying is, "Hey, "it's the organization's job to make it clear to individuals "what they need and what problems they're trying to solve," but they should value the individual, raising their hand and volunteering and wanting to be part of that, and the people that are going to be drawn to that will be the ones that become your change agents ongoing, and so what you need, if you're going to think about making things more adaptive and more dynamic is you need more constructs that bring that understanding together, and so because I'm a technologist, I believe what you really need underneath all of that is a data story that creates understanding, not just understanding of what I'm doing, but actually understands more about me, and that leads to something really interesting we're starting to think about, which is we call the whole-self model. I'm much more than just a few skills or a pretty face or somebody that comes onto web casts and has conversations. I have things that I'm super-passionate about, and being able to understand more about that helps to create this opportunity for me to give more, to be more engaged, to have more to do. 

>> And how are you culling that, how are you pulling that information out? The softer stuff that maybe is not so directly related to your job, but it's an important thing for me to know about you? 

>> Right, and this is such an important question because we know that there's a fine line between understanding interesting things about me and being creepy, right? (laughs) 

>> That's right. >> And so we really, really want to make sure that we're thoughtful about this, and we've been spending a lot of time on this, both with research and with actual customer interaction, but it just falls to this. It's important that there's a return on investment for me, and if there's something in it for me, then the rest of it sort of take care of itself, so what we want to bring forward is opportunity and transparency to the individual to participate more, to create more opportunity for themselves, and so, in doing that, we trying to be really clear about what we're using the information for and then, how we bring that value, but to the specific question about how do you understand the more broad things about me? The things I'm passionate about? The things I value? The things that motivate me, et cetera? 

There are a fair number of instruments that organizations have used forever. A lot of people are fans of DiSC or the StrengthsFinders or other sorts of things. We are looking at this in a sort of broad way, and so we have some partnerships that we're developing to make it easy for our customers to take this on if they don't have existing stuff, but we also are pretty open to other batteries out there, but what we want to do is be able to make that useful to the individual so that the more we know, the better opportunities we can can make available to you. 

>> I want to shift gears a little bit. It's kind of tangential to that, but really talk about the application of AI, right? It's the most powerful thing to happen, probably since the microprocessor, I dunno. It's a big deal and you guys, SAP purchased Qualtrics years ago, and you guys are using AI, so from a platform perspective, from a product, head of product perspective, what gets you excited? What does AI open up opportunistically that you just couldn't do before, you couldn't even roadmap it? 

>> Yeah, so there's a couple things. First off, the scale and the ability to test and learn is super-critical, right? If you think about the conversation we've been having, which is things are changing, and they're changing at a rapid pace, understanding that, and having the ability to think about that structurally is super-important, but the other piece that's really important to us is, again, the transparency and the clarity of how we're using data because we know that there's a lot of unintended consequences as well. There can be unintended consequences for diversity inclusion. There can be unintended consequences for how people are left out of populations because anything that you do with machine data learning is tied to the data that you already have, which we all know already has bias in it by design, right? And so what we're trying to do and be very thoughtful about is looking at it as an opportunity for nudges and better interactivity and better connection with the individual and less about it doing all of the work for you, right? So we do want the benefit of automation, but we also want the transparency so that we can have a better handle on what is the machine learning starting to understand about you, and is that ultimately helpful or not to you as opposed to is that withholding opportunity for you somewhere else because we happen to know something about you that maybe you didn't want to share. 

>> Right, right, 'cause it's also is a valuable to your customer, right? To the employee, or excuse me, the employer, but I'm just curious. I just saw something the other day about NPS scores, and I'm sorry, I have a personal thing with NPS scores. I think it's a silly measure. It's too many questions, and you've run out of steam, and you have to put one or five on all of them. Anyway, but you guys are, so you're trying to measure employee sentiment and engagement, right? Clearly, your customers don't want other people leaving, and you talked at the beginning of this that it was a real benefit to be able to send out surveys and quickly get data back, but I would imagine on the AI side, you have many, many, many, many more indicators of behavior and sentiment and likelihood of leaving within a particular period of time based on actual data of activity as opposed to asking them, so I presume you're using this. 

You're in kind of a nice situation where people have, they're sharing their information with their employer in kind of a closed environment anyway, so you don't kind of have maybe quite the same privacy issues, or maybe you do. I mean, maybe it's a little bit more complicated a story here than than we really think, but the AI's there. You see every transaction that's going through the machine, so you have a lot more sentiment analysis than you used to by a survey. 

>> Absolutely, so there's two things. We have a lot of action and activity based on what you've done, but what we're trying to gather is more action and activity on what does it mean to you? And then, also, how does that enriched by the things that you do? So again, what's really becoming interesting is now everybody is working from home, and everything is digital. You actually are starting to collect a lot more things that can signal how and where you're spending your time, right? Because of that information becoming almost exclusively digitized, and so, again, the way that we're looking at this is, first off, making sure that we have the technology backbone to be able to do interesting things. 

Second off, make sure we have the transparency and the permission of the individual, and that they're really understanding what it is we're going to analyze and why, and then, to your broader point, make sure, then, we use this understanding to help inform the organization of trends and pain points and opportunities for change, and then, more importantly, after all of that, we have to make it easier for organizations to take action on what needs to be changed because, again, if you have all this understanding that you've got this kind of ticking time bomb, but you don't have the organizational muscle to make these kinds of changes, if you're stuck and don't have the empowerment at the organization level to change how work happens, all you're going to do is just have really good insight to a lot of dissatisfaction, so what we're trying to do, as well, is think about the adaptability of what's, in the HR industry, called service delivery, right? 

Like, how does HR deliver services to individuals? What are those things that are important? And how do we make that easy to adapt and change over time? Because, again, if you think that this is a one-time thing, you're missing the kind of broader construct of what's happening, so there's a lot going on, and it does advantage companies that have the ability to kind of look across and do things in a broad way, and that's something that I find interesting and exciting, for sure. 

>> Yeah, you know, it's funny, we're both in tech, and change is constant, but people still don't grok that this is a change, right? We're not going back to the old way. We never go back to the old way. This is never the way it's going to be for the rest of time, and we all get locked into this thing like we think this is the way the story ends, and it doesn't. I want to shift gears and talk a little bit about kind of reskilling and employee investment because a huge thing that's changed, again, since the 1850s, whenever we're started this whole thing, right? Is people don't go to school, learn one skill, and do that thing for 25 years, and the technology's changing. The requirements are changing. The automation is taking over certain jobs, certain tasks, certain roles, so how has kind of reskilling and training and education and kind of lifetime development of people kind of being factored in beyond just are they getting their benefits and can they sign up for their dental plan during open enrollment? 

>> Yeah, exactly, so there's... This is a broad construct, and let's be clear, again, since we're in tech, we've seen this pretty much the entire time. I remember within a few years of leaving university, none of the technologies that were taught at university were anything that was being used in the workplace, and, of course, that's changed only at a more rapid pace since then because it's been quite a few years since I've left university, so this has been staring us in the face for a long time, and early on, we were very excited about, "Oh, we can do e-learning," or, "we can expand courseware "and buy off-the-shelf training and all of that," and absolutely, that is important, and then, as time grew on, we started to have tools like YouTube that our kids kind of just learn how to do stuff by watching someone else versus the stuff they're learning at school, and all of those things, right? 

So those are things that we sort of think of in the traditional learning space, but we always have kind of instinctively known that really upskilling our workforce is also about doing, right? You can go to all the training you want, but if you don't actually practice a skill, you're not likely to be very proficient at it, and most companies, when they identify a skill problem, it's much bigger than a single training course or taking a bunch of people and putting them through some sort of bootcamp or workshop or whatever. They need a whole path that helps them practice that skill, and then they need a way to turn that into something that's structurally beneficial for the company because if a company's saying, "I've got a reskilling problem," it's pretty significant, right? It's not just a onesy-twosy little thing, right? 

>> Right. 

>> And so this is why we're starting to think of the broader construct of learning to be much more about this idea of temporary assignments, like trying things out for shorter periods of time, talent mobility, moving people around that have the skills, and then bringing them together with others in teams, forming dynamic teams that can either be used as seed teams to share and grow a broader population or come together to solve that problem that you needed the skills for in the first place, and then, really thinking in terms of how do you think about training as something that you may start that journey with, formal training? You may then do some practicing, some getting a team together, whatever, but then, that team itself might be responsible for creating the training for the rest of the company. We've done this already multiple times, but we've never really thought of it as part of that upskilling story, and so now we have this opportunity to really rethink, again, putting people at the center of it instead of shoving it down their throats from an organization, having them co-create it for you. 

>> Right. 

>> Presenting them with the problem, not the solution, offering to give them some formal training, if that's helpful to them, but also pairing them up with a mentor, pairing them up with a team so that they have a chance to develop the skills the way we've always developed skills from the beginning of time, which is apprenticeships and working with masters, right? These are the things we've always done, but somehow, we just gave that up and said, "Oh, e-learning'll fix it." 

>> I think it's part of the change in the attitude too and people as resources versus people as people and not calling it the chief human resources officer and not thinking of them as a piece of steel or a pile of cash or a truck that you use as an asset in the business and deploy, right? They're people. They're complicated. They're messy. They're not clean. They have a lot of things going on, and I wonder, and you touched on it a little bit in terms of how that gets baked into software that you are dealing with people at the end of this thing, that they're not really resources and they're not super-clean. Like you said, you can't just jam a bunch of training on them and they suddenly take it. It's a lot more nuanced, and tricky than that. >> And they're not static. 

>> So how do you get that in software? 

>> Yeah, and they're not static either, right? So who I am today is not who I will be next year, God willing, right? 

>> Jeff: Right. 

>> So, again, when you think about it, software's actually really good at this. Software is good at understanding lots of things at one time and automating and responding to a lot of things without it being overwhelming. Where software breaks down is when it is designed to solve a specific problem, and usually, in the past, HR software was there to help HR's job get better, but we're not talking about making HR's job better, right? What we're talking about is making work better, and then, if you want to think about making work better, you really need to think about how do you do that in a way that really respects what the individual brings, and recognizes them as a dynamic entity as well. And so this is where we see this concept of the whole self model coming to play because it's not just who I am today, but it's who I am becoming, who do I aspire to be? 

And how do I find that to bear more fruit in this organization than somewhere else? Because that's really what you start talking about when you're talking about agency is that I have a vote, right? I have a vote of what's important to me to use my skills? And where do I want to be? And so the better job an organization can help facilitate that, the longer I'm going to stay, the more I'm going to bring value to the company, the better it's going to be for both of us, and so that's really what we're trying to think about. 

>> Right, right, well, and then you're talking about trust, which is the most important thing of all, and interestingly, right? HR departments, I think, are viewed as, ultimately, they work for the company, and even though they're trying to help out the employee, ultimately, their responsibility rolls up to the corporation, but, as you said, companies are now realizing they can't do that. (laughs) So binary, and just completely discount the value. It's a competitive marketplace. It's a very different way, so is there, are you seeing, in the way people interact with the applications, are you seeing the companies try to find better ways to build trust and drive engagement and just begs the question how are they actually measuring engagement? 

>> Yeah, so we have, in the past, probably for the last 10 years, thought about engagement as usually companies did a large annual survey once a year to say, "How is everybody feeling?" And then maybe quarterly pulses to see if anything is changing dramatically, and I do think that there will always be a place for that kind of sort of formal benchmarking a company tries to do to say, "How are we versus last year?" But I think we all understand that when you have so many different things changing, it's hard to say, "Well, are people disengaged "because of something the company's done, "or just what's going on in their lives right now?" It's sometimes very hard to deconstruct that, and again, I think it's the bigger challenge is the drawing the through line to what changes you're making as an organization and why you're doing it, and this is where, I think, again, leading companies right now are really investing, not just in the construct of getting that feedback, but also empowering their organizations to make changes more frequently, and then, really, there's a big communication element of this. How do you make it clear to people the changes that you're making and why, and how those are directly tied to the things that you're learning from the individuals? And so, again, I think the better that we get at these thinking about as feedback loops as opposed to survey and just action, I think it's really the way that the best companies are really looking at it. 

>> And then, clearly, there's a diversity angle here as well, right? Because everyone doesn't have the same setup at home. Everyone doesn't have broadband. Everyone doesn't have a spare room or even a corner to get their work done that's quiet, so the impacts from a diversity and inclusion thing has been pretty dramatic as well. How are you guys seeing that on your side? 

>> It's huge demographic elements. People with children under 12 see the world very differently and have a very different perspective of wanting to get into the office (laughs) than people with kids that are in school for long periods of time or out of the house for longer periods of time, so, again, I think the lived experience really matters, and I think we all know this instinctively, but in the past, it's always been very separate, right? I have my lived experience, the crazy chaos that's happening at home, and then I have my work experience, and what I'm really hopeful for is that we have come to learn that the value is in the humanity and that we do need to problem-solve how to make it better for people who have small children at home and really want to get out of the house, and we do need to problem-solve for single parents or people that are taking care of sick family members or any of these kinds of conditions because we can, and in the past, maybe we couldn't. 

Let's be fair. Maybe in the past, that was just sort of socially and organizationally too complicated, but what we've learned is we absolutely could do something about it now, and because we can, I think this speaks a lot to people speaking with their feet when it comes to their jobs because they know it's a solvable problem. It's complicated, but it's solvable, and they need to go to a place that will help them solve it, and so I think organizations, and certainly HR leaders, are really feeling this viscerally and trying to figure out how do they navigate this overarching understanding of... Our lived experiences change pretty rapidly and over time, but there are points in our lived experience where we need to go further in or further out from how we contribute at work. Well being and kind of our emotional state matters, and that our emotional health matters as much as our physical health, and we should be able to have open conversations about that and have affordances and plans in place to help people when they find themselves struggling, and then recognizing that we have more choice than we give ourselves, organizationally, and to really own that. We should be more creative. 

>> I love that, and do you think people get that? I mean, do you think, I mean, they did it. I mean, if you would've told people on March 1st, "Guess what? "I bet you can get your entire workforce "working from remote in three weeks," right? They would've said, "No (indistinct)," but they did, so, I mean, it really opened up, I think, people's eyes to what's possible if you have to, right? I mean, you can actually move pretty far, pretty fast, pretty quickly. 

>> Yeah, I am really inspired at not just how much people get that, but also, how creative and interested people are in trying to think more creatively broadly, but, like any big change, I also am seeing a fair number of people saying, "Oh, no, no, no. "We got to go do it the way it's always been done," so there's going to be tension, but I do think we've expanded the definition of the possible, and I'm excited about it myself. 

>> So I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about you and your journey, and again, for those that weren't paying attention, we first met, I think it was in 2015, for a women in tech interview. You were at Oracle back then. You've been doing this for awhile. You're super-engaged in a number of women in tech organizations. You speak frequently. You're all over the Internet, which is fantastic, and congratulations recently appointed to the board of Heidrick & Struggles, so I wonder if you can share a little bit about kind of your experience, and more importantly, kind of what's changed from 2015 to now, and even more, has anything changed, from your perspective, in the last 18 months? 

>> Yeah, so first off, I should thank you again. That women in tech interview was at the very beginning of my recognition that I needed to do more public-facing things. I had been on that journey a little bit. I'd started out with a fair amount of blogging and industry stuff, but I hadn't really spent a lot of time, in the broader sense, having conversations that weren't tied to my products or my business or things like that, and it was really on purpose, so it was fantastic timing that you invited me, but it was also a moment that I was saying, "This is a place I need to be investing more," and I feel very compelled, as we talked about then, of owning the fact that I'm a role model. There's not a lot of women in tech. You don't see a lot of these conversations from the seat that I have and really wanting to make that more accessible and available to people for people to see that there's nothing that special about me, and that they can do it too, and I really wanted to be more visible in that way, and as far as the Heidrick & Struggles thing, that's a huge thing I'm so excited about, so it's a new learning for me. I've been purposely looking for a board seat. When you have a big job like mine, it takes a fair amount of time, so I knew I was only going to be able to do one, and I'm just so excited to find a company that has, first off, it's got such a similar line of sight into the kind of things I think about and want to understand all day long because they are also very focused on human capital and people and leveraging talent, and the group and the organization is a place that I know I'm going to learn a lot, which inspires and makes me happy, so it's been really wonderful. 

>> Yeah, good for you. I talked to Robin Matlock years ago. She used to be the CMO at VMware, and they did a small, they called it VMwomen at VMware, again, forever ago, and she said, "You know, I never really paid attention "'cause I was just busy just doing my thing "and raising my family and working at my career," and it wasn't till she got a little bit more senior where she thought, "You know, I need to be a voice. "I need to be a face. "I need to kind of represent women," because ultimately, it's for the younger girls to look up and see people that look like you and look like Robin and look like people that they can recognize and see themselves in those roles, so I think it's such an important thing to do, and maybe it's a little uncomfortable now and then, but super-super-important, so good for you, but I'm curious on the Heidrick & Struggles kind of the what's the view at the upper echelon? Their conversations about the COVID impact on the future of work? 

>> Yeah, so first off, the sort of business of change is one that they're very directly connected to because leadership changes. They're the people that you look to when you're thinking about leadership changes, board seat changes, et cetera, and so that's why I say there's this really good learning for me in taking in that broader market perspective of where are the dynamics happening? And reinforcing things that I've already learned with our global customers, which is that talent really matters, right? And it's no surprise. Great talent is what drives business outcomes, and yeah, it's just been really delightful to be part of that organization and to have experience at the board table to talk about business and decisions that are critical to business, so yeah, it's really good. 

>> That's great, and so important. I mean, I think leadership, especially at the top, at the highest levels, right? Is really about convincing people to come on your journey, right? And not go on somebody else's journey, whether that's a customer or a potential customer, an employee, a potential employee, partner, potential partner, investor, and as a leader, it's so important to be out front and storytelling and getting out ahead of these trends and being empathetic to what's going on in the market, so it's great that you're there. I think it's a very different skill, as you said, than being a taskmaster and kind of a task manager versus, as you said, where do we want to go? Set a path and then get out of the way and then help people achieve that path. They're very different kind of way to think about people in your organization. Definitely, they're not resources. That's for sure. 

>> Yeah, humans first, absolutely, and I think that that is the core... No matter what, as you spend more time on this planet, you become kind of more grounded in that reality that at the end of the day, humans matter to all of the things that we're doing, and the better that you respect that, engage that, connect with that, it's just the better that it's going to be for all sides, and so I've really feel that that empathy, curiosity, putting yourself in their shoes, understanding the problems that people are trying to solve, giving them better insight into the way that you look at it, your own thinking about it, I think these are the places that create outsized power in getting things done, and so this is why I'm so excited about dynamic teams because when you bring people together to really solve a problem, you get that collective intelligence. You get that broader understanding, and it is in that collective intelligence that the interesting things are solved, and when that collective intelligence is diverse and has multiple backgrounds and multiple perspectives, guess what? You're probably going to come up with something that's much more creative as well. 

>> Right, right, and to your point, intrinsically motivated, right? 'Cause they feel part of a team. People like to do things for their team members more than they like to do it for themselves, so I mean, it's so much power wrapped up in that, so that is awesome, Meg. Thank you for spending some time, and good luck baking all this very important stuff into software because these are going to be interesting times going forward, and you guys are sitting right on top of that really intimate relationship between the employer and the employee. 

>> Yeah, it's about making work better, so excited to do it. 

>> Right, well, thank you very much and have a great day. All right. Thank you.

-- Links and References --

Meg Bear, Chief Product Officer, SAP SuccessFactors, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blog,

SAP SuccessFactors - Human Experience Management (HXM)


A Sample of Meg’s Podcast Appearances

A SuccessFactors Conversation with Meg Bear, SAP HCM Insights Podcast,

SuccessFactors’s Meg Bear on HR Driving Post Pandemic Change, HCM Technology Report, May 2020


A Sample of Meg’s YouTube Appearances

A Conversation with SAP SuccessFactors’ Meg Bear, Velocity Network Foundation, Sept 2016

Meg Bear, Oracle | Women in Tech of the Week Interview, SiliconAngle, YouTube, May 2015

#90: CXOTalk featuring Meg Bear, CXOTALK, YouTube, Dec 2014


* Building Organizational Adaptability: Understanding and Enabling "Dynamic Teams," by Tammie Eldridge, SAP SuccessFactors, Feb, 2021


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Jeff Frick
Founder and Principal,
Menlo Creek Media

Jeff Frick has helped literally tens of thousands of executives share their stories. In his latest show, Work 20XX, Jeff is sharpening the focus on the future of work, and all that it entails.