Article: Workforce analytics is a strategic area of investment for HR leaders: David Webster, Workday

HR Technology

Workforce analytics is a strategic area of investment for HR leaders: David Webster, Workday

In conversation with People Matters, David Webster, President of Asia Pacific and Japan, Workday, talks about rethinking HR tech solutions to meet the changing business needs, making informed decisions with integrated solutions for a safe 'return to work' strategy, and driving productivity of a more distributed workforce in the face of an emerging hybrid workplace.
Workforce analytics is a strategic area of investment for HR leaders: David Webster, Workday

David Webster is the President of Asia Pacific and Japan at Workday. Based in Sydney, David oversees Workday’s business across the region. 

He has more than a decade of experience in the region’s enterprise technology sector. Prior to joining Workday, David spent 14 years with Dell EMC where he helped to drive EMC’s growth and build its service offerings. He was the President of EMC for Asia Pacific and Japan in 2012 and subsequently became the President for the combined entity following Dell’s acquisition of EMC in 2016. 

David was the Vice President and Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand at PeopleSoft prior to Dell EMC, and he was also the national board director for the Australian Information Industry Association.

In conversation with People Matters, David talks about how HR tech solution providers are rethinking their products to meet the changing business needs, making informed decisions with integrated solutions to allow employees to return to work safely and understanding, protecting and driving productivity of a more distributed workforce in the face of an emerging hybrid workplace.

How do you see the overall impact of the pandemic on businesses and people? Do you see a synergy on how business and talent leaders are sailing through?

The pandemic has impacted businesses and people in many ways but universally, they are concerned about the health and safety of their employees and keeping their businesses running. As most people are required to work from home, having a sound business continuity plan becomes critical to ensure that essential services of the business can be continued remotely without delays. Businesses who have invested in digitally transforming their processes prior to the pandemic will find themselves in a better place to overcome the challenges from remote working and will be able to adapt faster to the new world of work.

Conversations for a changing world are needed for organizations to learn from each other and take action to be more resilient, agile and diverse by exploring how their collective actions can help them emerge stronger in a changing world.

How has COVID-19 changed the human resources landscape globally? How can HR help recalibrate work and the workforce as we come out of this pandemic? Is this the moment to digitize the HR function?

As businesses reopen the workplace, HR leaders play a critical role in helping employees to transit from remote working to developing more flexible work arrangements. In order to ensure a successful transition, it is important for organizations to implement new employee experience and well-being strategies for the returning workers. The pandemic has accelerated the pace of the digitalization of the HR function. By adopting HR technologies, HR leaders will be able to gather meaningful insights on employees to develop tailored employee experience and well-being strategies for the new world of work beyond the pandemic. As the Chief HR officer of our customer General Electric (GE) Korea said, “from the employee perspective, HR-related tasks will be much simpler and more efficient when most of these systems are integrated or consolidated within Workday. Everything will be processed in real-time…there are so many benefits from technological innovations, such as analytics, big data, and AI, that will continue to add new value to what HR has already been doing.”

With the pandemic disrupting businesses in a never before way, do you think organizations are spending on new-gen HR technologies? Can you share some numbers? Any stats on overall HR tech adoption by organizations?

The pandemic has brought into focus the need to act fast. Business leaders are now facing the hard truth of needing to be digitally agile thus organizations are recognizing the need to invest in HR technologies related to human capital management.

We received calls asking us about Workday’s People Analytics solution that can help them get accurate and meaningful insights about their people, reflecting an increase in demand and adoption of HR technologies by organizations  in the first half of the year when COVID-19 started disrupting the old normal.

How are HR tech solution providers rethinking their products to meet the changing needs of businesses? How have you realigned your product offerings to deliver maximum value to customers and meet the challenges HR professionals are facing?

Earlier this year, Workday announced the availability of Workday People Analytics, a new augmented analytics application that identifies top risks and opportunities regarding an organization’s workforce and delivers these insights to empower HR and business leaders to make better people decisions to shape business outcomes. Workday also announced Workday People Experience, a machine learning-driven employee experience to further help organizations manage the complexities associated with the new world of work. For customers who may need additional support for a COVID-19 product configuration, Workday also offers additional virtual office hours with a certified Workday consultant at no additional charge.

At Workday, we are constantly listening to our customers’ needs and will continue to forge new partnerships and realign our product offerings to deliver maximum value for our customers.

What are the key areas of HR function have you seen maximum tech implementations in the last few months, and the categories seeing the greatest levels of innovation from the service providers’ side?

Organizations worldwide are grappling with how and when to return to work and many of them are turning to data to make safe and smart decisions. HR technologies that can allow employees to foster cross-organizational collaboration, drive smart decisions, and allow effective communications between employees are key areas during the pandemic and see the greatest levels of innovation.

What HR leaders need is an integrated solution that can centralize critical data like employee skills, employee well-being and health information so that they can make informed decisions to allow employees to return to work safely.

Workday Human Capital Management, for example, enabled HKBN Group in Hong Kong to increase engagement with its talents and proactively address areas for improvement through empowerment, using ownership dashboards and analytics to align talent development with business goals and changing work environments.

Which tech are you most excited about? Which ones among AI, blockchain, analytics, etc are being bet on most by organizations by both users and vendors? 

Workforce analytics is a strategic area of investment for HR leaders that can empower them and organizations to unlock valuable insights and drive intelligent business decisions. Workday People Analytics, for example, automates insight discovery for a broad range of workforce questions using technology called augmented analytics. Such technology offers companies a deep and accessible understanding of the workforce, which is critical to success in today’s ever-changing business environment. Companies that base decisions on workforce insights can focus on emerging stronger from crisis because they are better positioned to take informed action to effectively manage talent, such as hiring, re-skilling, and retention.

Amid this uncertainty, what role can leaders play to ensure a better alignment of HR technology investment and business goals?

Human capital is the greatest asset of a company. Business leaders need to recognize that investment in HR technology is essential and be the leading force of change as the ability to make well-informed people decisions faster can help to shape business outcomes and allow businesses to achieve their business goals.

How do you see the HR tech scenario two years down the line? What are your priorities and new focus areas as we come out of this pandemic? 

The pandemic has redefined the new normal of work and two years from now, flexible working arrangements may become the new normal.

HR technologies may have a greater focus on helping to foster a data-driven culture built around better understanding, protecting and driving productivity of a more distributed workforce.

HR-related tasks will also become much simpler and more efficient through the use of an integrated and consolidated system such as Workday Human Capital Management. Organizations may also become more employee-centric and HR systems will be designed to allow employees to access information that was previously available only to senior managers or HR staff to empower people leaders to make decisions about their teams, which includes things like recruitment, performance development, and compensation.

Providing an integrated HR solution for our customers will be our priority, focusing on unlocking automated insights through machine learning and analytics so that they can make informed decisions and effectively respond to the needs of their organization. 

Would you like to share any case study of how companies are exploiting technology to make the most of this situation?

With Workday, St Vincent’s Health Australia was able to undertake workforce planning and communicate to all staff efficiently during the pandemic. They were able to track all the certificates and skills required from staff moving from private to public hospitals to assist in the pandemic response and load the training onto Workday in just 10 days when such changes would have easily taken a year to implement in a normal situation.

Separately, The Salvation Army in Australia also used Workday’s Human Capital Management solution to identify customer-facing front line workers who are over the age of 65 to move them to other roles. Workday’s solution also allowed them to check numbers of paid workers in teams to assist with potential redeployment planning and allows them to add new allowances to manage the distribution of government payments.

Also Read: Companies that succeed amid COVID-19 will be those that prioritize people: Walmart’s Donna Morris

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Topics: HR Technology, #HybridWorkplace

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