“We are in the midst right now of maybe the greatest tectonic shift” in a generation – that’s how newly appointed co-CEO of Workday, Carl Eschenbach, kicked off Workday Rising EMEA in Barcelona last week.
“Technology is what is going to lead us into the future. If we do it correctly, technology will allow us to be more efficient, [plus] we’ll be able to adapt to change and we’ll able to build more fulfilling careers”.
Picking up on that careers point, Workday’s co-president Sayan Chakraborty shared: “Workday is fully committed to the future of work as skills-based”, not about credentials or traditional job profiles.
“To do that at scale, effectively, AI is really the only approach that’s tractable.”
He builds on this in an exclusive conversation with UNLEASH. Being skills focused will help solve the ongoing talent shortages that employers across the world are facing, as well as opening up the “possibility to give you not just a more diverse workforce, but a more socially equitable workforce”, notes Chakraborty.
Moving from credentials to skills
The Great Resignation might be over, but talent shortages continue to impact organizations across the world.
“We’re entering a period of talent scarcity,” Richard Doherty, senior director, product marketing, EMEA, for Workday, tells UNLEASH.
This is because of demographic trends.
“People are living longer, and birth rates are declining in developed nations. There’s going to be fewer workers, and I don’t think any organization is going to respond by having less work – throughout history, we just see the volume of work goes up.”
The labor shortage is “the real thorny topic of the moment”, adds Carolyn Horne, senior vice-president, EMEA strategic customer engagements at Workday.
She notes that the main issue is that “everyone is actually after the same skills, technology skills” – and this means that organizations, and HR teams in particular, really need to refocus their energy on skills.
But the issue is they don’t know what skills they need, “so how do they get ahead of the game?” – “that’s a real challenge for all our customers”, Horne tells UNLEASH.
The answer is becoming a skills-first organization – “you have to become a skills business” if you want to thrive in the future of work, says Horne.
This means moving away from the traditional job architecture, traditional job pathing – historically, “we have hired people who look like us, and have resumes like us”, but this narrows the talent pool.
“I see a lot of job descriptions…that [require] an undergraduate degree, but do you really need an undergraduate degree for that job?”, asks Chakraborty.
He adds that by adding this qualification requirement, organizations are saying no to a pool of highly skilled, incredibly qualified people who just haven’t taken the traditional career route.
It should be “more about the skills you’ve got, rather than what degree or experiences you have”, states Doherty.
But, he continues, “deploying skills-based strategies is not easy” – especially at scale – there is just so much data to deal with.
To help here, Workday has a few tools, including machine learning-powered Skills Cloud. Horne shares: “We’re helping customers with the skills taxonomy [so they] understand what they’re looking for”, and whether they can develop those skills in house, or need to hire externally.
Skills-first case studies: Accenture, Aviva and Rolls-Royce
There are a few companies that are really leading the way on being skills-first.
Horne and Doherty both picked out Accenture as a great example – the consulting giant has a whopping 750,000 employees globally, and it currently looks to hire 20% of new employees from a non-university background.
In a previous exclusive interview, Filip Gilbert, an Accenture managing director, told UNLEASH that Workday’s skills taxonomy has really helped the employer to produce personalized skills profiles and career paths at scale.
The skills profile, rather than job titles that don’t say much about people’s skills or capabilities, is then used to help Accenture identify the employees with the right skills for particular projects or open roles.
For Doherty, another example is car manufacturer Rolls-Royce; “Rolls-Royce are pretty far on the journey” around skills and technology. They are taking an experimentation approach around skills, but also more generally about AI.
Doherty recommends that other organizations do the same around AI and skills; try things out, “if it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world. You can learn form that. It is not wasted time”, if you wait to figure out the perfect approach, “you’ll get left behind”.
At Workday Rising EMEA 2023, UNLEASH had the pleasure of sitting with Dan Godfrey, group people operations and strategy director at Aviva.
Aviva was Workday’s first UK customer over a decade ago – and last year, the insurer took the opportunity to re-implement Workday as part of a wider company reconfiguration – Aviva did look at other vendors, but realized Workday was the best solution. “They’ve been brilliant [and] I don’t say that lightly,” shares Godfrey.
As part of the re-implementation, Aviva took the opportunity to rethink strategic workforce planning and career pathing across the organization.
The HR team has created job profiles and assigned skills to them – “so now we can look at the organization in relation to our skills investment”, “we can help move colleagues across the organization”, and show them how they can have a career at Aviva.
The next steps are to get those skills profiles fleshed out, leveraging the full power of Skills Cloud and its machine learning capabilities, as well as implement a talent marketplace.
“We want to drive a different conversation – this is why we are investing in our skills infrastructure”, and really taking the HR tech and transformation conversation to the wider business.
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