Thursday, February 27, 2014

Workday unveils recruiting platform

Note: I posted this a while back but had to take it down because it was pre-release. Now that its available I'm re-posting it.

This post is going to be a bit different from my normal ones.  I'm not going to talk about research, but instead focus on technology.  Long time readers know HR technology is another passion of mine, and as recruitment/assessment professionals I think it behooves us to know "what's out there."

Recently in my day job we've been looking at automated HR systems, primarily to replace our manual time and attendance process, but it's impossible to not consider other applications once you start looking.  For the uninitiated, these systems go by various names like HCM (Human Capital Management), HRMS (Human Resource Management System) or HRIS (Human Resource Information System).

In my opinion, now is a very exciting time to be looking at automated HR systems.  Why?  Because unlike years past, when using these systems was about as pleasant as reading FMLA regulations, recent applications have taken a decidedly more "consumer" approach, borrowing heavily from popular websites like Amazon and Facebook.

One of the companies that has been the most trailblazing in this regard is Workday.  Workday was founded in 2005 by the former CEO of PeopleSoft along with its former Chief Strategist following Oracle's hostile takeover.  Workday provides cloud-based SaaS software for a variety of functions, primarily around finance, HR, and analytics.  One of Workday's big differentiators is it uses a single line of code, meaning every customer is using the same version all the time (again, just like a website).  Those of you that are used to being on Release x.2 while others are on x.6, and planning on how to upgrade, know what a big deal this is.

(If you're thinking "cloud-based whatnow?" this basically this means delivering software over the web rather than relying on locally hosted systems; obvious benefits include a potential massive reduction in local IT support, particularly attractive I think for the public sector)

For me, considering a large IT project implementation, I've seen enough to know that the user experience is essential.  Obviously the product has to work as advertised, but if users (including HR) don't like using the system--usually because it's unintuitive or overly complicated--chances of ultimate success are slim.  At best people will tolerate it.  I certainly don't want my name attached to that project.

That leads me to why companies like Workday are adding so much value to HR software.  Because their interface looks like this:

Not like this:

Up until now, Workday's HR offerings have focused on things like benefits, time tracking, and internal talent management.  Their recruiting module, announced back in 2012 and eagerly anticipated, has just been rolled (GA, or general availability, to Workday customers).  Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a pretty-much-finished version, and here are my observations:

1.  It's clean.  As evidenced by the screenshot above, Workday prides itself on a clean UI, and the recruiting module is no exception.  I don't have any shots to share with you because, well, I couldn't find any.  But there's plenty of white space, the eye knows where to go, and you won't get overwhelmed by sub-menu upon sub-menu.  Candidates are displayed using a "baseball card"-like interface, with key stats like years of job experience, skills, social feeds, and attachments.

2.  It's mobile- and social-friendly.  These were clear marching orders to the developers, and it shows.  Workday's mobile app is great, and SNWs like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are consistently integrated.  One feature they consistently stressed (for good reason) is how easy it is for candidates to upload their info from their LinkedIn account, saving a ton of time.

3.  At this time it's basically an ATS (applicant tracking system).  This isn't a bad thing, but don't expect qualified candidates to magically jump out of your monitor.  It's a very clean way to manage applicants for requisitions, and it's integrated into their core HR.  For many long-time users of other ATS products, this is a big deal.  Additional features, such as being able to quickly change candidate status and do mass emails, will also be popular.  Finally, you can easily search your candidate pool by competency, location, etc., similar to the employee search function in their HCM product.

4.  It will be particularly useful for organizations with dedicated recruiters.  I commented in the demo that in many organizations (including my own), we don't have dedicated recruiters; rather recruiting happens locally, driven by the hiring supervisor and their staff.  So anything these systems can do to engage and reward proper behavior (dare I say gamification here?) will pay huge dividends, and I think this is a development opportunity.  On the other hand, organizations with full-time recruiters will immediately "get it".

5.  It's a work in progress.  The career portal of the system wasn't up and running yet, although I was assured it would be by GA.  To me this is a huge missing piece, and I look forward to seeing how they integrate this with the back end.  There were also clearly plans for future features like assessments (e.g., video interviewing), job board aggregation, and CRM.  Definitely features to watch.

So at the end of the day, it wouldn't solve all our problems, but it offers an enormous potential for us, as HR, to get a better handle on what our hiring supervisors are doing.  Not only will this help with compliance, it will allow us to gather information to make more strategic decisions about resources.  The built-in business intelligence functions have the potential to transform our practices. You can get more details here:

Now lest I leave you thinking that I'm a Workday shill, its not the only game out there, there are plenty of competitors, including newer players like Ultimate as well as more established ones like Oracle, both having lots of satisfied customers.  But Workday is--at this point--one of our finalists and has been on a crazy growth spurt over the last few years.

Want to know more about this technology?  I've found CedarCrestone's annual report to be extremely helpful, as well as HRE's technology articles.  The HR tech industry is huge (see my earlier post about one of the conferences) and you can very easily spend your entire career in this space.

I can honestly say it's technology like this that has the potential to evolve much of HR from unpredictable and frustrating to exciting and engaging.  I'm ready.>

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