Workday 22: recruiting is a team sport, worktags are back

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy May 6, 2014
Recruitment gets a big splash but financials are not ignored in Workday 22

Companies that are moving fast seem to collapse time. So when Workday announced the general availability of Workday 22 my immediate thought was: "Is it that time already?" When they focused on recruiting as the latest module I thought: "That didn't take long." In reality, it is a full six months since Workday 21 and almost two years since the company started working upon recruiting.

In short, don't let anyone kid you that moving fast equates to necessarily getting stuff done any quicker. It just seems that way. But what about the outcomes?

WDAY recruiting
On yesterday's webinar, Workday recruiting was enthusiastically received with Equifax positively gushing with praise - but with purpose. From my notes of Micheal Bause, VP HR systems and innovation - recruitment: about a game of Survival, they’re doing their thing, we’re doing ours, when requisitions change outside of Workday that’s a challenge when Workday is the center of everything we do. We want to develop people, that's part of our promise to new hires. So now we’ve given recruiters the ability to find those people and employees can go find jobs that fit their interests. That’s powerful stuff for us.

Josh Bersin has the best analysis on this topic, noting that this has been an element of HR that has seen very little innovation in many years.

Why are these systems so important?  The entire job application process has gone digital. Thanks to the internet and companies like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Facebook,, and others, companies can now post jobs all over the internet and receive hundreds of applicants in minutes (“resume overload” is now one of the biggest challenges recruiters face).

All these job applications have to be stored, ranked, and routed to managers for review. Candidates have to be interviewed and screened, then offers have to be written and people need to be onboarded. The process is complex, high volume, and filled with opportunities to create a positive or potentially negative experience for candidates.

When seen in that context, it makes perfect sense that rather than cobble services together, Workday went back to the drawing board to reinvent recruitment from scratch. Or, to quote Leighanne Levensaler, VP HCM products Workday on the topic of alternative recruitment solutions:

“It’s useless, it’s not for me. It's for recruiters. We didn’t want to build something you hate less.”

More pleasing to note was that Workday emphasized the importance of its customer design partners, was able to point to 70 customers (roughly 10% of all Workday customers) as in process of implementation with an expectation that most customers will go live with an implementation period of 4-6 months.

What has Workday done that's different? The slide above suggests that Workday has viewed recruitment as a complete process that has to involve people internal to the company recruiting and not just recruiters themselves. That implies embedded collaboration. This came across loud and clear in the remarks made by Rause. In some markets - high tech for example - more than 50% of recruits are found via referrals.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the parallels between recruitment and brand recommendation in sales cycles is clear. And listening to the language Workday execs used in the presentation, you get the sense that recruitment is seen in much the same way as customers are in the buyer cycle. Again, this makes sense in the context of talent competition.

Not all markets behave in the way Workday suggests. Some markets just need a lot of people doing relatively simple tasks. But as the labor market changes to one where an emphasis is upon appropriate skills, experience and fit become differentiators, it is easy to see how Workday's solution - which by the way is built upon 'mobile first' principles - is a compelling offering. But will it work?

You can have the slickest processes on the planet and still fail in the recruitment cycle. A colleague of mine who has recently been through this talked extensively about how delays in feedback, not knowing where he was in the cycle of some companies was a complete turn off. He eventually settled with a company that worked hard to ensure he met all of the main people with whom he was expected to work prior to making a final decision. In his terms, it was less like a recruitment process and more like an induction process.

Financials - and the return of worktags

My headline may be viewed as a tad misleading but read on to see why I say worktags are back.

I have a real soft spot for Workday financials. They have taken the oldest reason for enterprise automation and made a valiant effort to re-imagine the execution of financial processes. Central to this is the notion of 'worktags.' The easiest way to understand this concept is to think of your personal taxonomy applied to financial transactions.

Example: you might have a marketing campaign in the works. Let's call it: Mega-Bunny Promo. This is only meaningful to you and the people around you because it is your campaign. Try coding that using the traditional accounting code block. It's almost impossible. But, if you use worktags then you now have a descriptor that can be used to aggregate and report upon all the costs and sales related to Mega-Bunny Promo. Make sense?

I was very excited when I first saw this idea but Workday has not been successful getting customers to fully understand what worktags mean and how they may be used. It is not entirely clear why this is the case. Workday 22 attempts to correct that with what they call a more simplified approach to financials and by making aspects of worktag use more obvious.

So for example, they talk about having financial and non-financial data merged into operational reports that speak to revenue management reporting. That is a natural use case but I suspect that Workday needs not a handful but hundreds of use cases to make this concept stick.

Paradoxically, this could well take off in the context of so-called 'big data' analytics. In these scenarios, the mashing up of unstructured data - revenue management might be one example - establishes the backdrop for understanding how worktags help solve the organizational data problem that would otherwise be very difficult to manage.

My guess is that Workday will need to provide a deep library of example templates so that customers just 'get' what this means. Past history suggests that Workday is very good at this in the HR space. Since there is a natural alignment between the way Workday views HR and finance then it should be possible to make this shift without too much difficulty.


There was a lot more to the presentation than this story can give justice. For instance, Workday talked about radically simplifying expense management. I can hear a thousand execs yelling 'W00t' to that one. They also talked about simplification in business processes and especially in procurement. I'm all for that as well. HR localization for things like certification will be welcome in EMEA.

Recruiting was the real star of the show but it was good to see more emphasis on operational financial management. In the past, Workday has been (rightly) criticized for being light on some financial processes. As the financial process landscape spreads, the company will need to pick its spots very carefully to ensure that it doesn't become bloated. This is a tricky path to tread but one that can be solved through rapid verticalization.

The overall message of depth without compromise but kept simple is one which should appeal to potential customers going forward.

Continuing to highlight the number of customer requested enhancements (68) going into 347 new feature updates demonstrates the laser focus on customer satisfaction that has been a Workday hallmark almost from the get go.

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