SAP Makes Aggressive HR Moves to Move the Market Needle

SAP is fighting a war for talent, inside and outside it's walls.

SAP in the 1990s led the pack in ERP (enterprise resource planning) sales, growing to become the world's largest business applications provider. But now with the -90s far behind it and a tapped enterprise market the company is looking for novel ways to grow its market share. While it has taken on new areas of business-on-demand ERP and business user applications among them-SAP, like its competitors, faces internal challenges to its very external growth plans.

"If you want to grow, you have to win the war of talent," said Claus Heinrich, a member of SAP's Executive Board who heads the company's global human resources efforts.

Heinrich is at the forefront of building SAP's employee base to meet the aggressive growth goals the company has set for itself. In 2005, SAP's Executive Board devised a plan to double the company's customer base by 2010. To get there SAP has taken a three-pronged approach that includes the recent acquisition of Business Objects (which added about 6,000 employees to SAP's roster) and fits into the company's business user segment, the build out a new mid-market on demand suite, Business ByDesign, and a renewed focus on obtaining more small and midsized enterprise customers.

This year alone SAP plans to add about 4,000 employees to its current roster of 50,000 global workers; it has not yet defined its hiring goals through 2010. But the company's hiring goals do not come without challenges, according to Heinrich.

The first thing SAP needs to do, according to Heinrich, is get new people involved in the company, on a global scale. The next initiative is to develop new skills within the company's existing employee base to include new technology skills-on-demand computing and native social networking are top of mind-and mid-market expertise. Following that, SAP has to nurture its global competition around the world, winning talent in every corner of the globe. Finally, the company has to focus on profitability and performance.

"This is a combined approach," said Heinrich, who has taken steps toward each area of focus. "We have globalized our HR organization. That was the first thing. Everybody who delivers value in the future is in one organization, our global HR. Then we have large projects in IT systems and we made a large investment in an IT system and reward projects, to have a [SAP] talent management system in place. Then we've done some more process oriented things. We want to become better in recruitment and hire new graduates."