Working Together to Manage Continuity During COVID-19

How can HR, accounting, and financial planning and analysis teams work together efficiently during times of uncertainty? In a recent webinar, four of our leaders shared their experiences using Workday during the coronavirus pandemic.

Julie Jares April 21, 2020
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During this challenging time, our Workday executives have been thinking carefully about how to work together to guide decision making and encourage initiative at all levels of our organization—particularly across HR, accounting, and financial planning and analysis (FP&A).

“As leaders we routinely encounter situations that we don’t anticipate,” said Robynne Sisco, Workday co-president and chief financial officer, during a recent customer-focused webinar, “The C-Suite Data Advantage: How Workday Executives Reduce Costs and Make Better Decisions Using Planning and Analytics.” “It’s times like these when we have to stand true to our mission and our core values. We’re empowering our people, because they are in the best position to come up with creative ways to respond to unanticipated needs and manage continuity, to learn how to recover and emerge stronger, and to thrive in the next new normal.”

Robynne participated in the webinar, along with Greg Pryor, senior vice president of leadership and organizational effectiveness at Workday, and several of our senior finance leaders, to share with customers our own experience running the business using Workday systems against the backdrop of COVID-19. These leaders also shared how accurate and connected data, in particular, helps us make decisions across the company to support our employees, customers, and broader business. 

Understanding the Employee Experience

To help us get a clear picture of our employee experience during this transition to remote work, Greg explained that Workday already has a great tool in place: the Best Workday Survey. For the last two and a half years, we've been surveying our entire workforce every Friday with two or three quick questions. With this tool we can, as Greg explained, “track remote workers’ engagement and segment populations for deeper understanding of their work experience.” 

Based on the data from these surveys, we already knew that our home office workers were having a positive experience. When we had to shift our entire workforce to remote working, said Greg, “that gave us more confidence that folks working remotely would stay connected, and feel empowered and productive.”

In addition, Workday tools help us create personalized journeys for our workmates. For example, we know which people leaders are providing a remarkable experience for their teams. Using that information, we can potentially tap those leaders to share best practices, perhaps via town halls or learning modules. For people leaders who need more support, we can recommend helpful courses. Right now, they might benefit from courses on leading across locations or staying connected.

“With our Best Workday Survey, we can track remote workers’ engagement and segment populations for deeper understanding of their work experience.”

Greg Pryor Senior Vice President of Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness at Workday

Scenario Planning in a Crisis

Our leaders have been focused on employee wellbeing, and that extends to finance. Two responses during these extraordinary times had a significant financial component: In early March, Workday leaders asked Workmates to work from home, and they supported the transition with a stipend of up to $250 per employee for essentials. Employees also received a relief bonus, a one-time payment for the majority of employees—equivalent to two weeks’ pay—to help offset any unforeseen costs.

To support the expense policy, the FP&A team had to track, monitor, and forecast these new categories of expenses and develop scenario modeling for P&L and operating cash flow, explained Kinnari Desai, senior director, FP&A at Workday. Providing a quick response and accurate analysis were critical.

Workday also needed quick scenario analysis for the employee relief program. “From a finance perspective,” said Kinnari, “we needed to identify and build this financial impact into our forecast. The flexibility of our data model allowed us to do this. We created two work tags in minutes: COVID-19 emergency work from home equipment purchase and COVID-19 for all other expenses.” 

The crisis and response also altered Workday cost center plans, said Kinnari. “We needed to isolate the impact of our response at the cost center level. We could quickly react to and understand the financial impact on the P&L and on the operating cash.”

Scenario planning is important in these times. “Data is not perfect and it’s constantly changing,” Kinnari explained, “but the ability to utilize a single data model, combined with working from the same data sources, enabled us to be agile and provide a range of possible outcomes. Then we could present two or three viable scenarios to Robynne in a short amount of time and help her make decisions based on data.”

Self-service is also helping, said Kae Arima, senior director of finance at Workday. No data reconciliation is required, and that empowers the business and removes finance as the gatekeeper of data. This democratization of data helps “elevate the role of finance,” said Kae. “We can move past data collection and elevate finance to an advisor role. This also helps us get insights more quickly and make much better business decisions as we navigate the current situation.” 

Finance and HR Work Together on M&A

Even before COVID-19, the finance and HR functions relied on Workday for an effective M&A playbook. Key ingredients include ensuring seamless employee integration, measuring employee sentiment at acquired companies, and performing scenario planning to understand cash implications.

The recent Workday acquisition of Scout, announced in November 2019, brought key questions to the forefront, including what it would take to rapidly integrate new organizations and employees into existing financial tools and processes, and how teams would see new SKUs and revenues.

Workday systems enabled finance to introduce change and move quickly without needless complexity. For example, for the Scout acquisition, cost centers were added to Workday Financial Management in the middle of a plan cycle, and workmates were added to cost centers in Workday Human Capital Management in less than two months. In parallel, the team quickly created new SKUs, which were added to data structures automatically.

“Since all our systems use the same data model and data can flow through seamlessly, we have the ability to forecast and report on combined revenue and expenses from a single system, without having to manually add the data together from different sources. It shifted focus from ticking and tying data to quickly analyzing what it was telling me. I could spend time with my business partners, and help them understand the business context and the impact on numbers,” Kinnari said.

An Employee-First Culture

From an HR perspective, our own M&A activity has also yielded valuable insights on how to quickly change gears and foster a sense of belonging—especially valuable these days. Greg explained that our onboarding tool is made to accelerate and smooth employee transitions, in part by curating highly relevant, consumable content.

The Best Workday Survey “also helps Workday leaders understand how Workmates have a sense of belonging across gender, generation, geography, region, home vs. office, and more. We can understand the employee experiences of these new workers, and we can segment populations for deeper understanding.”

“In times of uncertainty, agility is the safest harbor,” Greg said. “We can see data and  react quickly. Trends in the democratization of data and the availability of data on one architecture let us augment our decisions so we can elevate the essential human skills. This is a big part of where Workday sees the future.”

Watch the full webinar here.

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