Workday Brings 'Insights' To Talent Management

Workday offers Talent Insights app to reduce employee churn, the first of a coming wave of big data applications.

Doug Henschen, Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

April 9, 2015

4 Min Read
<p align="left">Workday Talent Insight provides scorecards such as these used to track churn risk and collaborate on actions to take (individually or by group) to thwart employee departures.</p>

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Cloud applications vendor Workday on Thursday introduced Workday Talent Insights, a data-driven application touted as delivering prescriptive analytics, as it not only spots employees at risk of leaving, it makes recommendations about how to keep them from doing so.

Talent Insights is part of a larger Workday 24 release that also introduced a new Professional Services Automation app. The splashiest news, however, is Talent Insights, which is the first of a coming wave of data-driven Insights apps built on the Workday Big Data Analytics platform announced in 2013. The company started with the employee churn problem because it's one of the biggest that customers are facing.

"It's shocking how much change some of our customers are experiencing," Dan Beck, Workday's senior vice president for technology products, said in an interview with InformationWeek. "We have large, 40,000-plus employee customers that are seeing as many as 15,000 employees change roles within 12 months."

[ Want more on talent analytics? Read Infor CEO Charles Phillips Touts Cloud ERP Gains. ]

The data used in Insight apps doesn't necessarily have to be big and it goes beyond what's available in Workday. The starting point, of course, is the structured data inside the vendor's core Human Capital Management (HCM) and financials transactional platform. That covers some 45 attributes, including role, manager, location, compensation, raises, promotions, and related history going back as long as a company has been a Workday customer.

Customers can add history from legacy HR systems, using connectors to myriad data sources, and the data could go back years. Workday's Insight platform is built on Hadoop, with per-tenant instances and data encryption used to ensure security. Workday also offers access to public-reference data, including Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census, unemployment, and consumer price index information. You tap into data markets, such as the Microsoft Azure Marketplace and Infochimps, and you can add popular HR benchmark data on compensation, labor attrition, and retention.

All the sources you choose are fed into a data pipeline that employs a series of algorithms and machine learning to drive predictions. "The system is data agnostic, and we don't dictate which attributes will predict churn," Beck said.

In other words, the retention risk factors spotted are unique to each customer based on the company's history. Once Talent Insights is set up, the analysis is updated every 24 hours based on a full snapshot of customer-specific data in use. If a top performer gets a raise, is promoted, or leaves the company, such a fact is part of the update, and will affect the predictions for other employees. The application learns and adapts as a company changes over time.

Talent Insights exposes a dashboard of summary insights, including top performers determined to be at risk of leaving within the next 12 months, the percentage of employees determined to be at risk, and breakdowns of risk by division or department. As for those recommendations, Talent Insights spots the top risk factors unique to organizations and departments, such as time in current job function, number of locations, number of job functions held, or time between promotions.

Risks obviously point to remedies, but Talent Insights also offers scorecards for tracking, collaborating, and sparking prescriptive actions to prevent employee departures. The Scorecards are configurable, so they can be tuned for key performance indicators, key business initiatives, or key individuals. An executive can set up daily alerts on head-count progress if there's a company growth initiative. If progress is falling short, the executive can take action within Workday to accelerate related requisitions.

The next step for Workday will be launching a related Career Path Recommendation app. Set for release later this year, this Insights app will consider much of the same data, but will identify patterns of success and failure in past promotions and recommend most-appropriate moves for specific employees at risk.

The Workday Professional Services Automation (PSA) app also announced on Thursday blends Workday Financial and Workday HCM functionality to help service organizations manage billable projects. It's not an Insights app, but it is designed to optimize project performance by delivering analytics regarding personnel productivity, revenue, spend, and project profitability.

Workday Talent Insights and Workday PSA are both optional. In a change from the original Big Data Applications platform vision, Workday says the big data infrastructure required for Talent Insights is included, rather than being a separate platform purchase. Pricing was not disclosed.

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About the Author(s)

Doug Henschen

Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of Transform Magazine, and Executive Editor at DM News. He has covered IT and data-driven marketing for more than 15 years.

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