How SAP Wins with the Best Recognition and Rewards Practices? Interview with Chetna Singh, Part 1: Holistic Approach to Total Rewards

We’ve sat down with SAP’s Global Head of Total Rewards, Chetna Singh, to talk about how SAP’s Total Rewards and Recognition practices make SAP one of the best places to work globally

March 26, 2023 By Ravijojla Novakovic Share on Twitter! Share on Facebook! Share on LinkedIn!


Chetna arrives at our interview promptly, cheerfully, and in an easygoing manner, like she doesn’t manage the Total Rewards packages of almost 110 000 employees spread out over 75+ countries.

Chetna Singh’s experience in the Total Rewards field speaks for itself. She has been with SAP for 11 years; she rose from being a Total Rewards Director for South East Asia, to filling the role of Vice President of Total Rewards Partnering for Asia, Pacific, and Japan, and finally embodying the role of the SVP Global Head of Total Rewards for the past two years. With a such vast knowledge of the Total Rewards industry, her career trajectory is full of excellence and awe.

She is the creator of the Total Rewards Reimagine Strategy, taking on the mission of transforming SAP’s outlook on all the dimensions of Total Rewards, and contributing to the holistic employee value proposition. She currently focuses on SAP’s Future Success and Cloud Growth.

SAP has been proclaimed as one of the best places to work time and time again. In 2021, Glassdoor named SAP one of the Best Places to work in multiple markets, making SAP one of only three employers recognized in four out of five markets. In 2022, SAP performed even better, adding one more market, achieving top scores for Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the USA, proving a unique culture spread across countries and continents consistently.

A Holistic Approach to Total Rewards

We’re familiar with your three C’s pillars of Total Rewards. Please share a bit about it. How do they intertwine in SAP, and what is the process in balancing them out to keep employees happy and engaged?

The three C’s of Total Rewards stand for Compensation & Benefits, Career Growth, and Culture. Let’s start with the first C. When you join an organization, you are looking at the compensation and benefits package – these are the tangible elements that enable you to live the life you want to live.

Then there is the aspect of a career that is equally important. It refers to an employee’s need to grow and learn in their role, whether the company provides these opportunities to develop their talent, or if the organization is an equal opportunity employer. Are employees promoted, and when they’re promoted, are  their compensation aligned with their new responsibilities?

And finally, the third C, which to me is the secret sauce, is the culture. This is a fundamental pillar in terms of the value proposition. Culture matters to a person, and I’ll give you my personal example. There was a time in my career when I joined an organization where the money was really good, but the culture was toxic, and I had to leave that organization. Money alone was not enough for me to stay with that employer.

So I realized that these three C’s interplay differently depending upon where you are in your career. When you are young, and have just joined an organization, money plays a very important role. As you graduate, you want to learn. You want to expand your horizons, and culture brings you back to work every day. There is a very famous saying from Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

How do you design a program tailored specifically to employees’ needs? How deeply can and do you segment the employees according to their needs? For example, how do you approach designing a total rewards package for employees who have just assumed a caring role in their personal lives?

To answer this question, let me zoom into the benefits part of the value proposition.

Benefits are one of the areas that could be highly personalized to employees’ unique needs.

Looking at SAP’s benefits strategy, we use three critical strategic anchors. The 1st one is total wellbeing, which entails mental, physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing. The 2nd pillar is about inclusivity, and the 3rd pillar is personalization.

Let’s take the example of somebody who has just stepped into the role of a family caregiver or a new parent. If I’m a mother, I will look for flexibility; is there a program supporting me when I return from maternity leave? Is there a phased return to work?

My needs are very different if I’m a very mature talent approaching the last gig of my career. I would invest more in retirement funds. 

SAP offers different types of support, for example, support for new parents, family support, and crisis or bereavement leave, so that employees can take time off when needed. 

All these programs are designed to a person’s unique needs. Flexibility is at our core. A big organization like SAP that’s been in business for more than 50 years comprises multigenerational talents, and naturally, one size does not fit all. 

The pandemic taught us a fundamental lesson: hybrid work and flexibility. Some organizations already went further and said you could work from anywhere in the world.

But if you take a step back, you quickly see that not everybody can go there because, from the compensation and benefits perspective, you also need to be aligned with different countries’ tax rules. So, the availability of flexible work needs to be tied with the pragmatism and the reality of how the country taxes and what your employment contracts offer.

The programs that were relevant ten years ago, are they still appropriate today? The scope and concept of work are totally different now, so we all have to start reimagining the workspace.

🔜 Stay tuned for the next part of the series, How SAP Wins with the Best Recognition and Rewards Practices? Interview with Chetna Singh, Part 2: Rewarding People in Flexible and Hybrid Work Environment.