The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Path Forward: Employee Mental Health with SAP North America President DJ Paoni

DJ Paoni, President, SAP North America joins Washington Post Live on Thursday, April 22 (Video: The Washington Post)

DJ Paoni is president of SAP North America, a global enterprise software company whose tools help businesses of all sizes streamline their operations and improve customer relations. Highlighted by the challenges of COVID-19, Paoni announced SAP’s first-ever Global Mental Health Day, giving all employees a mandatory day off to help them recharge and balance priorities. Paoni, who believes safe and supported employees protect the bottom line, joins Washington Post columnist David Ignatius to discuss the importance of prioritizing employee health and the future of work.

Click here for transcript


The president of SAP North America DJ Paoni said the flexibility of video conferencing has been important during the pandemic, but he doesn’t believe it replaces the strength of in-person connections. “From listening to our employees[…] culture is what keeps people here. And video conferencing technology is certainly a convenient way to stay connected. But it’s not going to replace an in-person connection, certainly not. In our business, it’s critical to build those relationships, and build those relationships over time, and when you do that, that builds trust.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
DJ Paoni said the covid pandemic has accelerated business trends—like positive company culture— that have been percolating for years. He said, “As a business leader, I’ve certainly come to call covid is the great accelerator, right? The world was already moving faster than it ever had pre-pandemic, and I think covid certainly put everything on fast forward. And it’s accelerated so many trends. A company’s culture, for example, was very important obviously pre-pandemic. And now, you have to win the culture game, or it’s game-over for you, because I think now more than ever, things like work-life balance are at the top of every employee, it’s at the top of their mind.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
The polls also showed more than 60-percent of SAP employees were working beyond their capacity. Paoni said, “Through our remote work poll surveys[…] we’ve certainly seen a wide range of feedback over the past several months and we’ve been responding as best as we can.[…] We learned that a third of our employees have stress levels higher than their satisfaction levels, right? And 61-percent said they’re working slightly above or well above capacity. And so we’ve seen a slight decrease in how employees report the amount of stress they’re experiencing and how difficult it really is to maintain a healthy balance between you know their work lives and their personal lives[…] So clearly people need a break and that’s what we’re looking to give them.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
The President of SAP North America also said companies already using digital supply chains were able to more easily transition to the pandemic world. He said, “I think those companies who have had more sophisticated digital supply chains in place already were able to pivot faster, were able to connect with customers a little bit better. I think of customers of SAP like Moderna where the stakes, the stakes are high, and they certainly turn to SAP to give them end-to-end visibility as they manufacture and distribute the vaccine. But we certainly learn that your supply chain is only as good as the weakest link, right? If one component is broken, the system breaks down.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

DJ Paoni

As president of SAP North America, DJ Paoni is responsible for the strategy, day-to-day operations, and overall customer success in the United States and Canada. Dedicated to helping customers become best-run businesses, DJ has established himself as a trusted adviser who places a high priority on their success. Since joining SAP in 1996 as an account executive, DJ has held several leadership roles throughout the organization. Prior to his current role, he was the managing director of the Midwest and oversaw the region’s profitability, strategic direction, and all client-related activities. As head of the Strategic Customer Program in North America, he was responsible for establishing the strategic direction and vision for all efforts related to SAP’s top North American-headquartered customers. DJ’s previous distinguished roles have included leading regional sales organizations in the Midwestern and Eastern United States. Prior to joining SAP, DJ began his career in the software industry as an account executive with Legent Corp. (acquired by Computer Associates International Inc., now CA Technologies Inc.).

An active member of the community, DJ serves on the board of GENYOUth, a non-profit organization that collaborates with schools, communities, and business partners to improve nutrition and physical activity in children’s lives. He is also on the board of Qualtrics, a leader in experience management software. DJ earned his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. DJ is married to his wife Susie, and together they have two children, Anna and Ben.