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The Changing Workplace: Business Is Personal


By Ashley Goldsmith

As the work landscape continues to evolve, one thought stands out for me as I think about the year ahead: In the workplace, the voice of the individual continues to gain strength—perhaps because of our increasingly intertwined work and personal lives, and the climate we operate in today.

People are a company’s most valuable resource, and in this tight talent market, there is even more responsibility on organisations to create a culture where workers can have meaningful experiences and bring their best selves to work. Business leaders everywhere, particularly CHROs, are recognising why this is so important: it’s better for all employees and it’s better for business.

A positive employee experience can impact the level of trust workers have and, ultimately, improve performance and retention. This, in turn, impacts the customer experience and helps increase a company’s bottom line. Focusing on a few areas in particular, including diversity, digitalisation and an employee-first culture, can help meet workers where they are as their needs continue to shift.

Diversity Means Difference

We’ve been focused on diversity since our inception at Workday, but as social issues continue to take centre stage in the world, we’ve been re-examining and broadening what the term means to us. Diversity, in our view, really means difference.

Our chief diversity officer, Carin Taylor, explains that diversity is a blend of unique attributes in each of us, including our differences in background, perspective, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, location, function and more. We strive to look at diversity with a wider lens, and to understand that the diversity issues that we grapple with in the San Francisco Bay Area might not be the same as the issues in other parts of the globe.

To support our goals with action, we took our Belonging and Diversity programme to the next level with VIBE, an acronym for valuing inclusion, belonging and equity for all. This year, we dedicated a week in June to VIBE—five days of global awareness across the company to continue our journey of creating a culture of belonging and inclusion.

We’re continuing to leverage data from our weekly global employee surveys to understand employee sentiment, and this year we’re placing an increased focus on examining diversity trends. We are analysing the data to find out if our employees are having a similar experience at our company across gender, race, age, geography, years at Workday and so on. This enables us to think about diversity in new ways, and we’ll discover where we’re living up to our expectations and where we can improve.

The Digitalisation Imperative

Shifts in the nature of work, new technologies, and the needs of new generations are driving the digitalisation of HR, which organisations must embrace to create modern people practices. These shifts often bring uncertainty, but this is an incredibly exciting time to be in HR. We can help guide companies as they navigate these changes, helping them determine what to automate so that they can elevate the many tasks that are uniquely human, and free up time for teams to tackle this higher-order work, such as figuring out the right approach to a particular strategy.

Bringing a consumer-like experience to enterprise software is another aspect of digitalisation that is at the heart of our DNA at Workday. In our personal lives, many of us use Alexa, Google and Siri—technologies that are fun, innovative and easy. I expect digital tools in my work life to have the same attributes and I know workers feel the same way. We focus on being mobile first and we want employees’ digital experiences to echo their consumer experiences.

We are analysing the data to find out if our employees are having a similar experience at our company across gender, race, age, geography, years at Workday and so on.

This year we offered open enrolment for Workday benefits on mobile phones. If a team member didn’t complete the process on one device, they could finish up on another. We also bring a consumer-like approach to learning, with interactive media and peer-generated content that is available on-demand and all in one place, with features similar to those we see in our consumer lives, including the ability to recommend videos, create a playlist and bookmark links.

People Come First

According to a study from Accenture, “The parallels between a superior customer experience and employee experience are striking. An optimised customer experience generates loyalty and additional sales. A stellar employee experience attracts talent and boosts workforce engagement, productivity and retention. This, in turn, directly improves a business’ financial performance”. More simply, happy employees lead to happy customers, so at Workday, employees must come first.

In a blog post last autumn, I highlighted a number of programmes and activities that help us create meaningful employee experiences, from encouraging an agile career to supporting well-being. Employees and individual contributors are the ones on the frontlines doing the work, so they deserve to have great leaders; we invest in our people leaders with a variety of training sessions throughout the year. I particularly enjoy our two-day People Leadership Summit. We fly our new managers from around the world to San Francisco, California, where our senior leadership team talks about culture and what it means to be a people leader at Workday. We wouldn’t expect our customer service team to know how to handle customer challenges without training; so similarly, annual training opportunities are investments in our people, who deserve to have a strong, steady hand supporting them and helping them develop their skills.

The Happiness Quotient

There’s another benefit to happy employees: happiness is important for productivity. For years research has told us that when our teams are happier and more fulfilled, they are more productive. And just as customer feedback helps us inform our focus for new product features and improvements, our employee feedback helps us think about how we structure people programmes and experiences that will contribute to positive employee sentiment.

Employees and customer service are two of our core values at Workday, and I’m humbled that Fortune recently ranked us #4 on its 100 Best Companies to Work For list, #2 on its 2019 50 Best Workplaces in Technology list, and that we currently have a customer satisfaction rating of 98 percent. There is a strong connection between these two areas, and when we apply the same principles to both experiences, we see positive outcomes.

But most importantly, like much of what we do here at Workday, creating meaningful employee experiences isn’t just the right thing to do because of business value; it’s the right thing to do because, well, it’s simply the right thing to do. As we continue to innovate ethically, make people’s working lives easier and more productive, and put employees first, I look forward to sharing more about our journey.