Ashley Goldsmith is an HR leader and advocate for the way technology can transform an organization. As the Chief People Officer at Workday, a leader in enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources, Ashley helps lead the company’s commitment to creating opportunity for all employees and maintaining a strong workplace culture – one that has gained both local and national recognition.
From its start, Workday has fostered an employee-first culture. The company firmly believes that if employees enjoy the work they are doing, the people they work with, and feel supported by management, then they will do great things for their customers to drive the business forward. Now more than 11 years old, Workday has over 5,200 employees, boasts a 98% customer satisfaction rating, and counts some of the world’s most recognizable and innovative brands as customers, including Nissan, Netflix, and Bank of America.
I sat down with Ashley to talk about how personalization is taking shape in the workforce, how Workday is enabling people to work the way they want and the impact on company culture.
I’ve heard you talk about the personalization of enterprise software. What exactly does that mean and how does it apply to the world of HR?
For many years now, cloud-based consumer applications have provided users with a very personalized experience. At heart, personalization is about removing the friction between intention (wanting to do something) and results (getting it done). No more spending time looking for a good movie to watch or turning on the local news in the morning hoping for information about driving and weather conditions for your commute—consumer applications know your preferences and anticipate when you need to receive certain information to make your life simpler and more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, this personalized experience hasn’t always been possible in the business world. Rather than removing friction, outdated technologies seemed to make relatively simple questions—headcount in a certain department, for example—such a laborious process that by the time you received the information, it was out of date and not very useful.
But that is now all starting to change as we are beginning to see the widespread adoption of cloud-based enterprise applications. An intuitive look and feel means that you don’t spend time wondering how to accomplish a certain task—you just do it. These applications don’t just reduce the friction between intention and results, but they provide mobile and analytics capabilities that give us access to data and information in real time to make faster, smarter business decisions.
From an HR perspective, these technologies can streamline how organizations recruit or manage a global workforce. And they can also provide people with a clearer career growth path within their own organization. Altogether, these technologies empower people in ways that weren’t possible just a couple years ago and enable them to work how they want to work.
Why is it so important to create an environment that enables employees to work how they want to work?
At Workday, employees are our number one core value. We strongly believe that this approach helps people feel more empowered in their role, gives them a greater sense of purpose in the work that they are doing, and creates higher levels of engagement with the business.
Enabling people to work how they want to work means that you are helping to remove barriers. You’re providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
But there’s also an added bonus to this approach. As an employer, it helps you stand out from the crowd so that you can better recruit and retain top talent. People want to work in an environment that empowers them. They want to work in an environment that is people-focused and provides a personalized approach to their careers.
Can you provide some examples of how this approach can play out across different areas of HR?
One big way is through the democratization of data. As I touched on earlier, modern technologies and applications are making critical data and information available to the people on the front lines of the business, which is a far cry from how it used to be.
At Workday, this means that managers don’t have to spend hours meeting with their HR business partners to figure out headcount numbers or get updates on job openings. They already have that information at their fingertips. Instead, the conversations with HR can focus on more strategic topics like how to more effectively engage your workforce to drive the company’s growth.
Another area where this can be applied is in how organizations can help employees grow their careers from within. To do this means you have to be transparent and provide employees with tools that allow them to view other opportunities, learn more about those opportunities, and easily pursue them.
At Workday, this is particularly important given our continued growth, so we are rolling out a tool that will give employees a personalized view of positions inside the company that might be relevant to their interests. We are able to predict what jobs an employee will be most interested in by mapping the actual movement and success of other employees who held similar positions. It will not only help people see what moves others have made, but it will allow them to reach out and speak to those individuals who are a few moves ahead. This employee centric- view promotes retention and helps employees envision a future with their company.
Do you see a direct correlation between creating a more personalized environment for employees and sustaining a positive corporate culture?
Absolutely – I think the two are intrinsically linked together. To bring us full circle to the earlier discussion of personalization in the consumer world: Which products and services have the greatest growth and customer loyalty? The ones that are difficult to use, or the ones that remove as much friction as possible between intention and results?
A personalized environment is a direct reflection of a culture that is open and transparent. Creating opportunities rather than unnecessary friction for employees helps them stay engaged, motivated, and gives them a clearer sense of the contributions they are making to the overall success of the company. All of this together helps to create a culture that people want to be part of and inspires them to do great work for the business.
Read more about Workday.
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