Article | April 23, 2018

How SaaS Drives Behavior, Management & Leadership Skills Development

By Eric Saar, Reflektive


This world is one where constant human connectivity and real-time access to information is the norm. The widespread presence of consumerism, digital transformation across industries, daily usage of mobile, and social by all demographics feeds into Marc Andreessen’s 2011 idea that “software is eating the world,” and agile development models are just a few examples of a world where “now” matters as much as “what.”

This real-time reality directly impacts our ability to manage and lead in any role as high-performing individual contributors and people-management leaders.

According to Gartner Inc., mainstream adoption of software-as-a-service (SaaS) is forcing software providers to transform their businesses to be more responsive to customer needs, market changes, workforce capabilities, and skills development. Further, technology business unit leaders are adopting new indicators of success, unconventional business models, and practices to help ensure more personalization, speed to market, sustainable growth, and more predictable profitability.

In this real-time, highly-connected environment, SaaS can help HR leaders and organizations at large to develop new behaviors and leadership skills if they choose to embrace organizational agility and urgency, rather than fight it. According to McKinsey & Company, “Agility is the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment. Agility is not incompatible with stability — quite the contrary. Agility requires stability for most companies.” Organizational agility goes well beyond development and IT teams; organizing for urgency is a business imperative. McKinsey advocates that “to compete at the speed of digital, you need to unleash your strategy, your structure, and your people.”

Why is this important now? Because management and leadership skills in today’s highly disruptive, software and customer experience-oriented business environment are in high demand. And yet management and leadership skills gaps are common in most organizations. With a growing economy including lower unemployment rates, it’s important to develop, empower, and retain motivated employees across functions, and to foster management and leadership skills development with micro-learning moments as part of day-to-day workflows. Time and budgets are limited for traditional learning approaches, like facilitated seminars and offsite conferences.

A culture that embraces SaaS tends to be growth-minded, engagement-driven, knows how to tap cross-functional expertise in scalable ways, is data-aware, and thinks in terms of agility for real-time services delivery and customer success.

This viewpoint is influenced by the evolution of real-time feedback, continuous learning, and performance management concepts. Employee engagement is business critical because employees will learn new behaviors and skills, improve their productivity, and be happier in their roles when they are fully engaged and aligned with business goals. Based on hundreds of customer relationships and our own research, the level of employee engagement and growth are directly linked to the quality of an employee and manager relationship.

In a recent blog, Terry Lipovski of Ubiquity Leadership wrote about John C. Maxwell’s five-tiered progression of leadership development. Maxwell’s model from ‘The Five Levels of Leadership’ book is relevant when you consider SaaS-based organizations are well-connected and have great access to information, thus supporting all five levels of leadership development progression:

  1. Positional Leadership: people follow you because they have to
  2. Permission Leadership: people follow because they want to
  3. Production Leadership: people follow you because you make them more productive
  4. People Leadership: people follow because you help them to become better
  5. Peak Leadership: people follow because you help them become better leaders

According to a recent blog by HR Leader Rachel Ernst, leadership is not something that people schedule around but is actually delivered and observable in their every move. Leaders are mindful of their behaviors in real-time, and it takes an authentic leader to empower employees. She states there are three areas to focus on to support and lead high-performing people and retention across functions:

  1. Work with genuine curiosity
  2. Enable the power of people
  3. Instill humanity in the workplace

To bring this all back to purely a software perspective, it should be stated that at the core, a SaaS strategy is intended to create high levels of engagement and productivity at lower costs. People use about four to five SaaS applications in a day, like email and collaboration tools. It’s not easy to displace those applications, so it’s very important to build engagement, integration and workflow functionality within the most frequently used applications.

As people rely on a handful of SaaS applications for their day-to-day work, it’s easier to leverage those experiences to cultivate desired behaviors and new skills that become part of daily activities and culture. SaaS helps to change and instill behaviors because it’s always present and accessible. Businesses need to be embracing SaaS to focus on creating a real-time culture and business operations that enable frictionless engagement, workflows across teams and leadership skills development.

About The Author

Eric Saar is head of product at Reflektive.