Many dotcom companies have imploded in a generation, but the German computer specialists who started SAP have a profitable family of 23,000 staff in 50 countries. Formed in 1972 by five consultants at IBM who saw a need for special financial packages for businesses, the firm has expanded hugely but kept its familiar feel. Almost a sixth of staff in the UK office (launched in 1987) have been there for more than five years.
Despite a tough year in the industry, SAP’s emphasis on long-term customer relations
has meant it outperformed its profit targets; UK sales increased in 2001 (figures for 2002 are not yet available). Last July, 126 employees in unprofitable areas were made redundant, but the firm has kept its high investment in training (almost £2m a year).
Ray Barratt, a head of customer relations management, joined as the 18th employee 12 years ago: “It feels as though I have worked for many companies holding the same name, but what is like those initial days is the feeling of ‘large company, small culture’, a framework I’m proud to be part of.”
Last year everyone shared a £2.1m profit and performance-related bonus, with awards ranging from £3,000 to £98,000. A special recognition bonus offers up to 10% of salary for work exceeding an employee’s normal role. The sharesave scheme gives staff 15% discount, and there is life cover of four times salary, family medical insurance, free health checks and identical maternity benefits for adoptive and natural parents.
Added rewards include £3,000 for successfully recommending a candidate for a job vacancy — and colleagues can nominate each other for incentive awards.
Just under nine in 10 staff say they have fair workplace benefits compared with similar firms — only one company scores higher. These include free sandwiches and biscuits, on-site massage, a concierge service and a free shuttle bus from train stations to the Middlesex offices.
SAP supports its local community, offering paid leave for charity work, and up to six months off to work on overseas projects in partnership with VSO; it also sponsors the Donmar Warehouse, the award-winning theatre run until recently by Sam Mendes (director of the film American Beauty).
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