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Karen Minicozzi


VP HCM Product Strategy EMEA

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“We are seeing a shift from talent management to people management.”


Karen Minicozzi is Vice President, HCM Product Strategy at cloud HR technology company Workday. In this Q&A we ask her opinions on what HR directors need to know about the HR technology industry, how companies are approaching talent management, what businesses are using analytics for, and more. 

What do you think are the three biggest trends in HR technology in 2015/2016?

The first is simplification, the second is taking the idea of big data and making it accessible, and the third is around using technology to drive engagement and culture within an organisation


Simplification is going to be a major trend and runs across everything. This trend is being driven in part by consumerisation and the move towards a “mobile first” mind-set. When employees and HR professionals enjoy easy-to-use mobile apps in their personal lives, they don’t see why they should be forced to use clunky and complex ERP systems at work.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that inflexible, siloed ERP systems have driven business users away from embracing HR, and in the past have held the whole discipline of HR back. But now simplification – driven by mobile engagement – is bringing HR to where managers and business leaders need it to be. Intuitive, mobile-first systems also reduce training costs and boost self-service uptake, which makes data more accurate and reduces the administrative burden for the HR team.

Big data

There has been a lot of hype around big data and we also expect to see big strides in the use of analytics in HR. But we need to understand what this means for organisations. When you talk to HR professionals they think big data is a great idea but they want to understand they can actually do with it. So at Workday we are taking all the complexity of big data, the machine learning, the algorithms and the technology, and packaging this up into real use-cases that HR people can actually use in their roles.

Here’s an example: looking at retention risk and using the rich transactional data that has been gathered on your employees through their tenure and using that information to bubble up to the surface what might be keeping people or making them leave. It’s about helping organisations use that big data in ways that are meaningful and make real business change.

We can also expect to see the new breed of prescriptive solutions coming soon. The next step on from predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics tools analyse the data and recommend a course of action to deliver the best results for the business – an exciting new development which removes the guesswork from business decisions. These solutions will also employ machine learning techniques, so their recommendations will improve based on previous outcomes.

Employee engagement

We’re also going to see a greater use of technology to improve employee engagement for all workers within an organisation. The battle for talent is heating up with many companies moving into a growth phase, and millennials are making up a greater proportion of the workforce. Younger workers tend to want constant, instant feedback, which can be difficult to deliver without the right solutions.

The ability to provide a sense of incremental accomplishment and career progress to every employee relies on a simple, intuitive user interface and requires a solution that enables that type of instant sharing of a job well done.

The integrated ‘talent management suite’ is the holy grail of cloud HR technology now, but what will it be in 2016?

We are seeing a shift from “talent management” to “people management”. The change from bolt-on, stand-alone talent systems that simply automate processes to a unified HCM/Talent solution is a recognition that talent is more cross-disciplinary, and needs to be more involved than simply connecting processes.

We need to create a holistic experience to cultivate and engage all employees, not just the top 10% of performers. One of the linchpins in this is the concept of continuous learning, which requires HR teams to reconsider how we think about learning. To encourage continuous learning, the entire learning architecture will need to become more agile, more nimble, pro-active and engaging.

What use cases are you seeing the most for analytics in HR?

Organisations tend to buy HR systems to gain insight into their business, but sometimes they find challenges in truly understanding how to leverage the rich transactional data they are capturing and turn that into insights.

At Workday we realised that companies are intrigued by “big data” – it sounds like nirvana and to some extent, the hype around the term means some view it as a panacea. But we realised that our customers needed us to provide compelling use cases in order for them to see the power of their data. And one of the key concepts here is the consumerisation of big data. We need to package it up and make it easy to access and use in people’s daily working lives.

We see those use cases across the board in HCM. One example is Retention Risk Analysis, which calculates who is likely to leave based on various risk factors such as time in post, and even includes data from external sources such as job boards to show market demand for that employee’s expertise.

Another example is talent searching – where can our organisation find the best talent? What does a successful profile look like? Then, we can add a layer of dimensionality on that – looking at that successful profile through different lenses. So for example, there has been much talk about workplace diversity and how do you get to that goal.

So by looking through a lens of diversity you can more effectively reduce or eliminate bias in the workforce and ensure compliance with hiring processes.

How are social recruiting, employer branding and the candidate experience impacting employee loyalty and retention?

Recruiting shouldn’t only be focused on external candidates. At Workday we built our new Recruiting application to be as compelling for internal candidates as it is for external candidates.

To keep employees engaged, effectively we need to re-recruit them at every opportunity.

To keep employees engaged, effectively we need to re-recruit them at every opportunity. Providing employees with an engaging way to identify career opportunities gives them a way to chart their own personalised career progression, taking into consideration their skills, job history and their career goals. Looking to move towards things like gamification to provide the guidance and support in career progression and to energise that process.

It’s also important to let the hiring manager be proactive by sourcing internal candidates who would be a great fit for job openings so that they can keep great employees energised and engaged.

I feel that the conversation around HR technology being a tool to improve and enable employee engagement hasn’t matured – what can we do to help organisations better engage with their employees and enable them to have a richer experience and interaction with the HR department?

HR is not just about managing changes to employee data, so HR systems should not just be about capturing those changes. HR systems have a much more strategic role to play for the benefit of the entire organisation.

For HR to become a more natural part of the work life of both employees and managers it needs to be about more than compliance. Instead, it needs to be about exploring career possibilities, gleaning insights about your team from transactions with both employees and managers, and then using these insights to coach and guide decisions. The technology needs to be fun, engaging and simple and the HR department needs to be ready to engage directly on that level as well.

Workday is expanding existing functionality around Campaign Management – pushing messages out and getting people to participate. This is about really marketing to employees, almost treating them as external stakeholders – being engaging and re-recruiting at every opportunity. For example, you could run a campaign like “Give feedback to a colleague today!” to encourage positive feedback.

It is also about personalisation – ensuring the HR system really understands who you are.

Or asking employees “Have you updated your profile lately?” is a great way to tie that into their ability to see job recommendations based on their own personal skills profile. For HR teams, the huge benefit is the analysis around those campaigns which enables them to understand the engagement level through those internal marketing processes.

It is also about personalisation – ensuring the HR system really understands who you are, and provides suggestions tailored for each employee and their own personal career path and goals. This would be extremely labour-intensive as a manual process, especially in larger organisations with tens of thousands of employees. But modern HR solutions make this possible.

And finally, we come back to simplicity. We have really found that bringing a simple, consumer-like UI and having mobile access changes the engagement levels of employees. They enjoy the experience of interacting with the HR system, rather than see it as a chore.

Because it is intuitive they are able to get things done easier and quicker which makes the employees work-life balance better and simultaneously helps the HR department move away from transactional overload.

Imagine you’ve gone through the process of implementing a new HR system and you’re two years down the line. You’ve transitioned to the maintenance phase and the project team has been disbanded. How do you now optimise and extract even more value from the system?

This is where the cloud really changes the game. With cloud-based systems extracting additional value is easier than ever, especially with new features added automatically and at no extra cost with each product update. But maximising the value from these updates can mean a real cultural shift for some organisations.

The most successful customers are the ones who are engaged with our ever-growing Workday Community, and who capitalise on the new developments Workday delivers with every new release. This means preparing their own internal roadmap to add incremental value to the organisation over time.

Many of these customers are highly self-sufficient and are able to make use of new features without any outside assistance, delivering quick value to the organisation. It’s a constant dripping of new functionality and innovation rather than a big bang approach.

We feel this is a significant improvement on the old model of more expensive and time-consuming product updates. These upgrades would often mean a resource-intensive installation process and roll-out, including downtime and sometimes lengthy and expensive training processes.

With cloud-based solutions like Workday, all of our customers run on the same version and global updates are rolled out automatically and completed in a matter of hours. On our latest update, Workday 24, all our customers were updated on the new system is four hours and three minutes.

Author Profile Picture
Karen Minicozzi

VP HCM Product Strategy EMEA

Read more from Karen Minicozzi

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