It's sometimes difficult to get your head around the extent to which the modern world of work is changing. All the old certainties are dissolving as job roles become more fluid, skills constantly need refreshing, and teams often cut across functional and geographic boundaries. This may not be happening yet in every organization, but it's a trend that's already led several of the leading HCM vendors to adapt their products to support it. Workday is one of the furthest along this path.
At this week's Workday Rising EMEA, held in Milan, Italy, it's been interesting to catch up with just how far Workday has gone in enabling greater talent mobility. There are several ingredients to the mix, including a taxonomy to ensure skills have the same meaning across job descriptions, course descriptions and candidate profiles; a Talent Marketplace where employees can find potential openings that match their skills gaps and interests; and machine learning to help automate the recording of skills and the discovery of learning and development opportunities.
All of this was presented at Rising in Orlando a few weeks ago, but I hadn't understood the full potential until I sat down earlier today in Milan with Cristina Goldt, VP HCM Product Management.
In part that was because a lot of the emphasis when I had first heard about the new functionality had been on employee experience, which is a separate and important trend in itself. But it's also because I've now been primed to focus more on the changing patterns of work after attending the UNLEASH conference in Paris last month. There, I had been particularly struck by keynote speaker Heather McGowan's account of how the old model of one-time qualifications for a single lifetime career has disappeared, to be replaced by a lifetime of continuous learning and career transitions:
In the past, you learned once in order to work. In the future, we're going to work in order to learn continuously ...
Upskilling or reskilling isn't something you think about doing after you've been replaced at work — way too late. We all need to be upskilling and reskilling every single day.
I've also been thinking a lot recently about patterns of digital teamwork. This was a topic I presented on at UNLEASH, where I emphasized talent management as one of eight core ingredients in the collaborative canvas that supports successful teamwork in the digital enterprise.
Assembling teams dynamically
All of this thinking came together when Goldt began by talking about the use of the talent marketplace tool to place people in internal projects and assignments. This is a departure from traditional employment patterns, where people use talent management tools to help them move from one job to another. Instead, Workday's tool helps them join projects or teams that will develop their skills and experience, or where the project owner believes they have a valuable contribution to make. It can also help them to move jobs, but its first use case has been to help assemble teams dynamically. Goldt explains:
It isn't, I move from role A to role B. It's, I'm doing a stretch assignment or experience or special project or whatever that is — and I could be on more than one. But also, as I'm trying to figure out who goes where, I need to understand, are they oversubscribed? Perhaps that's the perfect person to do this, but they're not available.
That's not to say that everyone is moving right away to a DevOps-style structure of highly connected, agile teams across their organization. But Workday's customers do want to have the tools in place to support a move to more agile team structures, says Goldt.
More and more, we're hearing our customers saying, this whole idea of the marketplace for talent, and the idea of skills, they're getting that, 'I need to lay that foundation and I need to get ready. And make sure that I turned on the skills graph, that I'm taking advantage of that, that I have that foundation to then begin to move to the next things.
Is this a case of a technology vendor getting ahead of itself and pushing customers to go faster than they want or need to? Not at all, says Workday — in fact it's customers that are asking for these capabilities — the talent marketplace was designed with customer input. Here's what CEO Aneel Bhusri told me today when I asked if Workday was getting ahead of its customers:
The work that's being done across companies is much more project-based. You're trying to pull together the right people for a particular project, it's not as functionally driven as it was 10-15 years ago. So people are already working outside of traditional hierarchies, and they've been doing that for a while.
Now you need to get a better handle on the skills to put together those project teams, whether inside or outside of the company. And that's where we can help ... We're just an enabler to actually help those trends come to fruition within a company.
This was a similar message to what I heard about continuous learning from talent management vendor Cornerstone in London earlier this week. It's still quite early in the evolution of digital teamwork — most enterprises still organize themselves on very traditional lines. But it's interesting to see the more adventurous among the customers of these forward-looking vendors asking for new tools to help them navigate this new world. These are the early adopters of trends that the majority will follow later on.