Kathy Gibson is at SAP SuccessConnect in Berlin – Human resources has a responsibility to excite the organisation, but this can only happen if new life is breathed into the HR community.

“We talk a lot about technology and about how important it is to focus on experience,” says Stefan Ries, member of the executive board of SAP and chief HR office at SAP SuccessFactors.

“Consumer experience means what we do in HR, and with our SuccessFactors solutions, we are able to help candidates, employees and managers to have an amazing experience with us.”

A recent MIT Sloan study showed that 78% of workers believe the most important thing for them is to have a digital work life – one that is similar to what they have at home.

“When you have many of your workforce being millennials, they will decide which companies to join, and if we don’t show them a great digital experience it won’t be us.”

This means systems have to be intuitive and simple to use, says Ries. “You can’t be the boring old HR organisation that is perceived to be a back-office function,” Ries says.

“We’re not in the back-office any more: we run the talent and we run the learning – we are at the forefront of change.”

When we think about the digital age, it is about bringing technology to solutions, Ries says. “And consumer experience matters.”

A powerful vote in confidence in the SAP SuccessFactors solutions is the fact that the company uses its own systems, Ries adds. “There are 92 000 people in SAP around the world and we have to be the Formula One test driver. I believe that if the software works for us, some of these processes will also fit our customers’ needs.”

In fact, SAP uses 95% of its solutions in the cloud, without any customisation. “Customers see this as a really big benefit,” he says.

“I think it is a competitive advantage. SAP’s reputation is established in 25 different territories. We know what is on the radar; we are an international company; and we care about driving change.”

Technology is a great enabler, Ries adds, “It is a great opportunity to enhance our profession. We talk about artificial intelligence bringing data together, but human beings have to make the decisions.”

With AI, people have more time for creative work while the machines can automate the processes, he says. “But machines won’t replace our judgement and empathy.”

This ties into privacy and data security. “GDPR is not just about being complaint, but about bringing back humanity,” Ries says.