Editor Jon Kennard gets some time with Workday’s Richard Doherty to talk adaptability, data-led automation, personalization, just as a start. We join in the discussion as Richard compares pre- and post-2020 footfall at the show.
Richard Doherty: We were back here in 2019 and I actually think we are busier on the stand. I gave a presentation yesterday, [at] one of the stages on skills and there were hundreds of people there. So yeah, it’s going fantastically well. Lots of really good conversations with customers, and also prospective customers.
Jon Kennard: Really glad to hear that it’s going better than three years ago. This is my first UNLEASH World. UNLEASH America back in May was my first UNLEASH event in total.
But one question that I try to ask everyone and I get different answers every time – because there’s so many different ways of experiencing the show – is, what themes are you hearing and pulling out? From the conversations you’ve been having in the areas of the event that you’ve been basing yourself, what’s coming through for you?
RD: We’ve been talking a lot about skills and skills gaps, and what strategies can organizations adopt to fill those gaps and create this future ready workforce. But, other areas would be… I know a lot of organizations are struggling with the whole concept of what does hybrid work mean, for them? Do we need to have a policy that workers must be in two days a week or three days a week? Or do we not have a policy? So, organizations at a strategic level, are struggling with that.
And there seems to be a disconnect, actually, between the bosses and what they want, and what the workers want, right? So we hear about ‘quiet quitting‘, and the ‘Great Resignation‘, and I think that may well be linked to, in a large part, people are comfortable working at home, and then that leads me on to the other topic, which is around engagement and understanding employee sentiment and the need to listen to your employees understand what they’re concerned about.
There’s obviously technology at Workday, we have Workday Peakon Employee Voice, which enables organizations really to continuously listen to employees and understand what the challenges are. And then, the really important thing is – and this replaces the outdated annual survey, to have this continuous listening mode – once you hear something, you need to do something about it.
And there’s nothing worse than as an employee, raising your voice and saying, ‘this is a problem’, and then nothing happens.
So employee engagement, hybrid, also agile organizations, the ability to adapt to change. We’ve seen over the last couple of years, that’s been absolutely key, many organizations have really transformed completely what they’ve done. And we heard this morning a fantastic keynote from Erin Meyer, who talked about US Netflix, as an example of how they have adapted time and time again to react to the changing world around them.
And all our organizations need to be able to do that. And I think HR has a key role to play in creating the adaptable organization.
JK: It’s interesting to see that there’s still this disconnect between what the C-suite level want and what workers want. I’m just wondering whether that will ever change because we know, statistically, from the plentiful analytics that’s available, that people are more productive when you work remotely, or when you’re not in the office. Not to say that there’s not a place for that, but do you think this disconnect will continue forever?
RD: I think there’ll be a shakedown, right? Because I think we’re only now entering this phase, where organizations are actually [saying], it’s not fair. In some organizations, people have been going into work the whole time. But for for white collar workers, we’re now getting to that point where their organizations are saying, we’ve got this new policy, you need to come in three days a week.
But going back to what I just mentioned before, organizations need to be listening to their employees to see what impact is that having on engagement levels, on productivity? Is it is it having a positive impact? Is it having a negative impact?
So I think, over the next 12 months, 18 months, hopefully, most organizations will start looking at the data to see what impact their hybrid working model is having and then react to that because maybe it needs to be changed, or maybe it’s fine. But the important thing is to look at the data, rather than being emotional. And then let’s react to that data and implement a policy or a way of working that’s going to work for our employees.
JK: Looking forward…so you’ve got the next 12 months to analyze this data, from the challenges that you’re seeing from your clients now, can you predict the kinds of things that there’ll be? That will be challenges for them in the next 12 months? Is it going to be just an extension of what they’re already struggling with? Or are there any other kinds of factors that might play into their big decisions?
RD: The world’s not the happiest place at the moment, is it? And I think there are a lot of pressures on us all as individuals, as employees; financial pressures, mental wellbeing coming out of the pandemic, war in Europe, and so on. So I think there needs to be a period of focus on wellness and care for the employees. We need to see some changes around us for to ease the situation for us all. So there’s that side of things.
You and I are both from the UK, and in the UK, for instance, it just came out in the news, I think, for one of the first times now there are more open jobs than there are unemployed people. So there’s a scarcity of talent, there’s a scarcity of the right skills. We know restaurants are closing because they can’t get staff, we know that some businesses are having to really cut back on the services they provide, because they can’t get the staff.
So I think that’s a challenge for the next 12 months, not only just getting people, but it’s about having the right skills in the workforce. And I think organizations need to deploy strategies and programs, which probably should really be focused on the existing workforce; to upskill those existing members of the workforce.
I was on a roundtable yesterday, and one of our clients was on there; Lloyds Banking Group, big UK retail bank, and they’ve got a fantastic program. So they know that certain types of role in the bank, particularly in the retail bank, are going to disappear, right, because most people are doing Internet banking. And what they’ve done, they’ve reached out to those people and said, look, those jobs are going to disappear. But we have this opportunity in our technology department, where we will retrain you to become a programmer. Isn’t that fantastic? Totally different type of job.
They’re willing to focus on their employees to retain them and to retrain them in new skills, to move into a role which is going to have a lot more opportunity in the future. Not 100% of those employees, I guess, but lots of them are embracing that opportunity. You go back a few years, and no companies would have thought of retraining someone who works in a retail banking branch to become a programmer. But those are the sorts of innovative solutions that organizations are having to come up with. Because it’s difficult to get people with the right skills.
JK: That’s good news – it shows loyalty, shows trust. That’s the second or third time today that I’ve heard Lloyd’s referenced actually, as a business doing really exciting things.
My final question is around trends. Of the work that you’re doing, and the work that you’re seeing, what are the kinds of technological trends that you would like to see spread further out across global organizations?
RD: In Workday, it’s all about the data. We’ve got more data now than we’ve ever had on employees, work history, aspirations, skills, performance, rewards, all that sort of stuff. And we’ve got more of that data than we ever had before.
And if the organization’s got a robust HR technology strategy, that data is hopefully in one place, it’s not spread about, where you can’t really use it, you keep that data in one place. And it’s what we do with that data, I think that’s going to be really interesting.
We’re building out more and more functionality based upon crunching that data through machine learning algorithms, just to do things like optimize processes to automate processes, but also to make suggestions and match people to opportunities, to jobs, to learning activities to create this personalized experience, right within the application. So I think that that’s an emerging trend.
A lot of vendors are talking about that, but I still think it’s actually quite immature. But I think it will mature at an increasingly rapid rate over the next year to two years. So, come back here in a couple of years, I think we’ll be able to show some really cool stuff.
JK: That’s the other thing; as you see this evolution, you see a lot of new companies springing up and a lot of new trends, based around AI and more generally, other types of machine learning, natural language processing.
All very exciting. Richard, thank you so much for talking to us today.
RD: Thank you for having me.
Got that FOMO? Early bird tickets for UNLEASH World 2023 are on sale now. Book today.
Sign up to the UNLEASH Newsletter
Get the Editor’s picks of the week delivered straight to your inbox!
We found search results for
- UNLEASH World 2022
- UNLEASH World 2023
- Clear filters