SAP Incorporates Social Sabbaticals

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly rearranged the way people work, leading many individuals to reconsider their career paths—or change course completely. This means many organizations are struggling to keep their staff intact. German multinational software corporation SAP SE has found a unique and apparently effective way to retain its workforce through social engagement. Since 2012, SAP has implemented “social sabbaticals” into its social responsibility efforts. This program takes workers out of their repetitive 9-to-5 roles and places them into teams to tackle certain global problems. According to SAP's Global Head of corporate social responsibility, Alexandra van der Ploeg, the program has seen 1,300 employees partner with almost 500 nonprofit organizations and social enterprises, impacting roughly 6 million lives.

The immersive program takes employees on-site for four weeks, freeing them from their regular jobs to work on concrete strategic challenges faced by nonprofits and deliver genuinely impactful results. Individuals are placed in diverse team environments, typically in underserved regions, with the goal of helping nonprofit organizations solve real-world problems. SAP claims that the program has resulted in higher staff retention and engagement, and has motivated participants to pursue improvements in their own professional environments.