Writing reference letters is by no means the highlight of the week for HR departments. In fact, it’s a rather unrewarding task: coordination effort is high, legal requirements make it extremely complex and in the end very few employees are satisfied with the final result. At the same time, in an era of digitalization and the ongoing war for talent, important strategic tasks are high up the HR agenda, yet there never seems to be enough time to complete them all.

In this blog post, we show you how to better organize the creation of job references based on SAP. With a simpler and faster process that is integrated into your SAP system, you can reduce the coordination effort and enhance the results of your HR work. Meanwhile, your employees won’t have to wait endlessly for their certificate of employment and can look forward to a meaningful and high-quality reference.

No Easy Task: Creating Legally Compliant Reference Letters Quickly

From conversations with numerous SAP users, we know that the number of reference letters created each year amounts to approximately 10% of the number of employees. This means that a company with 5,000 employees will create around 500 reference letters per year for promotions, transfers and staff that leave. If we assume a processing time of three hours for each reference letter, the company in our example would end up spending a whopping 1,500 hours on this. This almost corresponds to a full-time employee, whom HR managers would much rather employ for value-adding tasks such as personnel development.

For HR teams, writing reference letters can become a real stress factor because cooperation between all parties rarely runs in a seamless manner.

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However, time expenditure is only one of the many challenges associated with creating job references. In many organizations, writing these letters can become a real stress factor because cooperation between all parties rarely runs in a seamless manner. In a paper-based process, coordination difficulties and the limited availability of process participants lead to “idle periods”, which unnecessarily lengthen the operation and can result in a processing time of three to six months. Due to the stumbling blocks outlined below, reference letters can quickly become a real productivity killer:

  • Complex coordination process: The HR department is not the only team involved: supervisors, colleagues and occasionally the legal team all have their part to play. Coordination between all parties can be a complex ordeal.
  • Media disruptions in communication: Those involved often communicate using the most diverse methods of communication. The interplay of emails, telephone calls and meetings causes numerous media disruptions.
  • Insufficient process transparency: If no one knows whose desk the current version of the certificate of employment is on, you have the perfect recipe for chaos. Manual processes are one of the main contributing factors to a lack of process transparency.
  • Lack of legal certainty: Complying with legal requirements plays an important role in writing reference letters. Every phrase must be just right. This poses a considerable challenge, especially to companies with global operations.
  • Unsatisfactory results: At the end of the day, an outstanding employer’s reference should primarily serve to support employees in their future personal careers. However, not all employees walk away satisfied with the end result.
Challenges When Creating a Reference Letter

If you’re an HR manager and are familiar with some of these challenges, you have certainly come to the right place. In the following sections you will learn how to overcome many of these stumbling blocks.

DIY with Employee Self Service

Before you read on: The key to more efficient HR processes lies in empowering your employees through employee self-service (ESS). Optimize your HR processes by actively involving your employees. This applies both to creating reference letters as well as to numerous other HR processes. In our blog post we introduce you to the basics of ESS.

Efficient Standard Process: How to Create a Professional Reference Letter

As is the case with most business processes, the lack of standards is the underlying reason for the lack of efficiency when it comes to creating reference letters. However, creating them is actually a straightforward process that is predestined for standardization. In fact, the duration of the process can be considerably shortened by implementing stringent process control that is seamlessly integrated into the SAP landscape. This makes the following process much leaner and faster:

  1. Application for a reference letter by an employee or supervisor
  2. Description of the employee’s tasks by the HR department
  3. Assessment of the employee by supervisors and colleagues
  4. Drafting of the reference letter by the HR department
  5. Legal examination of the wording in the reference letter by the legal team
  6. Verification of the reference letter by the workers’ council
  7. Approval of the reference letter by supervisor
  8. Signature provided on the reference letter by supervisor and HR department
  9. Handing over of the reference letter to the employee
  10. Filing of the employer’s reference letter by the HR department

While creating job references manually can take up to three hours, the process can be shortened to an average of 36 minutes by introducing a digital reference letter system. This figure is based on project data that was recently collected by EASY SOFTWARE in cooperation with numerous well-known customers. In the example of the company with 5,000 employees, the workload for a full-time HR employee to create certificates of employment would be reduced from almost 100% to just under 10% – a huge time saving that HR departments can use instead to complete strategic tasks.

In addition, a standard process with proven reference letter templates minimizes uncertainties regarding wording – something that HR employees often struggle with. At the same time, text modules reduce legal risks because the respective standard wording can be checked in advance to ensure it meets all the legal requirements. So, how can this process be integrated into SAP?

Automated and Integrated: Create a Reference Letter in SAP in Just a Few Steps

Creating job references should take place on your SAP system if you want to achieve optimal process support. On the one hand, SAP contains all the master data required for an employer’s reference. On the other hand, all process participants become acquainted with SAP, which fosters the acceptance of a digital reference letter process. However, creating reference letters is not integrated as a continuous process in HR systems such as SAP HCM and SAP SuccessFactors. Add-on solutions such as EASY’s software for creating reference letters help to close this gap.

  • If an employee wants to request a certificate of employment, they get the ball rolling with SAP employee self-service (ESS) or in the SAP SuccessFactors employee portal.
  • The HR department receives a notification via the SAP system about the employee’s request for a reference letter.
  • The HR employee first decides on a suitable template and then selects the appropriate text modules with the click of a mouse.
  • The data available in the personnel master record of SAP HCM or SAP SuccessFactors such as name, date of birth and length of employment can be transferred directly into the reference letter template.
  • The supervisor enters their assessment of the employee using a numerical evaluation system, while the conversion into text runs automatically in the background.
  • In the next step, the system automatically informs superiors, other employees and the workers’ council in accordance with predefined rules for approval.
  • Once the reference letter has been created, the employee can view and approve the letter via SAP. The reference letter is then archived securely and automatically.

Employees can bid farewell to the days of waiting a long time for their reference letters and HR departments can reap the benefits of lean, largely automated business processes.

  • HR departments benefit from the legally compliant creation of reference letters on the basis of a standard process and reference letter templates thanks to SAP integration.
  • Managers can easily and intuitively evaluate their employees during the process and approve or reject reference letter drafts via SAP MSS.
  • Employees that are entitled to a customized employer’s reference can start the process and obtain information about the processing status at any time.

This way, creating reference letters in SAP is a win-win situation for all those involved.

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Automated HR processes in SAP

Are you using SAP HCM or SAP SuccessFactors and would like to optimize routine tasks such as creating employer’s references? EASY SOFTWARE offers add-ons for SAP which you can use to further automate your personnel processes.

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About Marcus Kirchner
Innovative solutions for SAP HCM and SuccessFactors are the incentive of Marcus Kirchner. As a product manager, he overcomes obstacles, and not only in the Obstacle Race.
Marcus Kirchner

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