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Managers are at the heart of an organization’s success. In order to effectively lead their teams, they must be equipped with the right tools, insights, and capabilities. In this episode of the Workday Podcast, Workday Chief Product Experience Officer Jeff Gelfuso sits down with Workday Group General Manager of Office of the CHRO Aashna Kircher to discuss how Workday is investing in the manager experience. In this conversation, Gelfuso and Kircher discuss key aspects of the manager experience, including how to improve team collaboration, streamline tasks, and enhance hiring and retention.

Below are a few highlights from their conversation, edited for clarity. Be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts, and remember you can find our entire podcast catalog here.

  • “What we’ve gathered from our customers, particularly in recent years, is that managers are consistently at the forefront of the significant changes their organizations undergo. Our own research supports this observation. We publish a biannual employee experience trends report based on data from Workday Peakon. In our latest report, we found that despite being central to organizational change, managers are grappling with it. They lag nearly half a point behind employees and individual contributors in experiencing organizational change and transformation. Additionally, our report highlights that many customers still rely on a top-down approach to driving change, which adds further pressure on managers, particularly those in middle management positions.” —Aashna Kircher

  • “We’ve been heavily investing in generative AI applications across our product suite. One standout example, particularly relevant for managers, is using generative AI to recommend job descriptions when opening a job requisition as part of the hiring process. Workday AI streamlines this process, reducing it from potentially two hours to just a matter of minutes. Our AI suggests and drafts job recommendations based on key inputs and data from Workday. However, users still retain control, allowing them to edit, manage, and make the final decision on submission.”—Aashna Kircher

  • “We anticipate the tasks ahead based on managers’ past behaviors, current actions, seasonal patterns, and company initiatives. These insights guide us in tailoring the user experiences to enhance effectiveness and efficiency. It’s crucial to approach this process ethically, which is why we’re crafting AI human experience principles. These principles revolve around prioritizing users, empowering them to feel in command of their work, and enabling them to achieve beyond their previous capabilities in a more streamlined manner.”—Jeff Gelfuso

Jeff Gelfuso: As organizations navigate the future of work, the responsibility of managers has grown exponentially. Team dynamics, employee engagement, career development, business impact. Now more than ever, managers play a crucial role in the success of a company. At Workday, we understand the challenges they face, and we continually strive to simplify their work by creating intuitive and insightful experiences for managers. I'm your host, Jeff Gelfuso, Chief Product Experience Officer at Workday. And today on the Workday podcast, I'm so excited to be joined by Aashna Kircher, our GM of Talent. We're going to discuss our innovative approach to transforming the manager experience. Thanks for being here today, Aashna. Since we're talking about managers, I thought it would be great to talk about your career journey and how you progressed throughout Workday.

Aashna Kircher: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Jeff. And thanks for having me. Funny story about becoming a manager. I actually had the pleasure of becoming a manager at 22, whether or not I was ready for it. And you can imagine what it was like to be 22 and managing a bunch of other 22-year-olds. I think enough said. We probably don't need to go there. [laughter] But it's interesting, that was actually part of why I landed at Workday as well. And I landed at Workday because of my background in managing talent for so long. And I ended up in our talent product suite, and that's how I came here.

Gelfuso: Wow, that's really cool.

Kircher: Yeah, but I'm sure our listeners would love to hear a little bit about your journey too, and what you do here today.

Gelfuso: Sure. So I've had the good fortune here at Workday to lead all of our experience efforts. And it's really what I've done throughout my whole career. I'm super passionate about creating great experiences for all user types, but especially for managers. As you and I know, it can be very challenging. I feel really responsible for 1,000 people in my organization and really helping them be as successful as they can be. As a leader and a manager, it’s not always easy. Matter of fact, it can sometimes be the toughest part of my job.

Kircher: Absolutely.

Gelfuso: But it’s the part of my job I love the most, and I know you feel the same way. Okay, enough about us. We're here to talk about one of the most important users that we have at Workday: managers. Tell us a little bit.

Kircher: Oh my goodness, where to begin? Managers are so, so important to organizations. We know that they have a direct impact on employee sentiment and engagement and productivity of their teams. And we know that managers are overwhelmed and struggling to find the information that they need to get their work done. Even more important, though, what we've heard from customers, especially in the last few years, is that managers have been and continue to be at the nexus of so much of the change that their organizations are experiencing. And we actually see this in our own research. We release a biannual employee experience trends report that's actually based on all of the Peakon data that we see across our customer base. And if you remember, Peakon was a company that we acquired a few years ago and really represents Workday's foray into the employee listening and sentiment space. And in our most recent report, we saw that, despite managers being at the forefront of the change of their organizations, they're actually struggling with a lot of that change. We saw that managers lagged almost half a point behind employees and individual contributors in terms of their experience of organizational change and transformation. Our report also highlighted some challenges with most customers still using a top-down approach to driving change. And that also puts additional pressure on managers, especially that middle management layer.

Gelfuso: So how can business leaders address all these challenges for managers?

Kircher: Yeah, I mean, look, it always starts with listening. And obviously I feel very passionately about this because Peakon is within my team's remit, and employee listening is at the heart of so much that we want to do. But involving managers in that conversation is really critical for businesses to hear the feedback and be able to take action upon it. Managers, just like everybody else, want to see that their feedback is followed through. Going back to Peakon, we've got over 600 million responses across our customer base. And one of the greatest outcomes that comes from Peakon is allowing for bidirectional conversation around areas of interest. And it's anonymous, which means that the conversation is much more likely to happen. One of the coolest parts is since deploying Peakon here at Workday, we've seen over 500,000 comments alone in addition to all of the survey responses. And then that's resulted in hundreds of thousands of manager interactions and responses back to those comments. So again, really driving that feedback loop.

Gelfuso: Yeah, that's great to have that dialogue between the employee and the manager in that way. And it's really happening in real-time.

Kircher: Exactly. Can't understate the importance of that.

Gelfuso: Great.

Kircher: And then finally, providing managers with the right level of team insight and information that they need at the right time to be able to do their job is really the third leg of that stool. And as you can imagine, that's a huge place that we're spending time investing across Workday.

Gelfuso: Yeah. Listen, act, and analyze. Such great advice, Aashna. I could learn so much from you every day in my work. As you know, we're working to solve a lot of those pain points for managers.

Kircher: Absolutely.

Gelfuso: Do you want to take a few minutes just to talk a little bit about the things that we're doing to address some of those challenges?

Kircher: Sure, absolutely. One of the things we were talking about was managers spending so much time trying to find information. And one of the things that we've introduced into Workday Search is something called Smart Summaries. Smart Summaries provide that contextual information and those timely actions that managers are most likely to take when looking for information. So we're not just helping them find the information, but also helping them then take the right next step. And we're seeing great results as part of those Smart Summaries with the click through rate on those actions going up by as much as 28%.

Gelfuso: Wow.

Kircher: It's just astounding numbers.

Gelfuso: Yeah, that's excellent.

Kircher: And in ‘24 R1 [Workday’s first product release cycle in 2024], we actually introduced smart search summaries specifically for managers so that they could view team specific information and company wide insights right there at the click of a button.

Gelfuso: As managers navigate through their daily work, they have a lot of tasks that they have to do. So being able to discover that and help them do that in the most efficient way is critically important at Workday.

Kircher: I know nothing about that as a manager.

Gelfuso: Did you want to spend a few minutes talking about some of the highlights, especially some of the things that you and I actually use every day on the homepage and in a couple of other things that we've recently released?

Kircher: Yeah, sure, Jeff. Managers, really at the core, they want to serve their teams and help their teams grow, develop, and be effective in what they do. Great managers put their people and their teams first, but sometimes it can be easy to lose track of the information that they need to do that well.

Gelfuso: Never happens to us.

Kircher: No, never. And our new manager homepage on Workday provides the personalization and surfaces those timely and relevant details so that they don't have to think about it, and it's right there in front of them, and they can take action and be the great managers that they really want to be. So our new important dates section reminds managers of upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, time off, and other really important information.

Gelfuso: So helpful.

Kircher: So that they can recognize and celebrate their people. Again, something we know all managers really want to do. Our team highlights a section, provides access to the things that your managers want to do most in Workday, which, funny enough, is often just finding their people. In over 95% of searches, we saw managers were looking for their team members' profiles. And now we've been able to speed up that access and bring it right there to the forefront in the way that they want to act on it.

Gelfuso: That's so great.

Kircher: Yeah. And then lastly, by adding quick actions to the My Tasks section on that homepage, we're seeing a 30% faster navigation time and a 10% rise in actually completing the action. So again, helping them be way more productive and efficient in what they need to do.

Gelfuso: Great.

Kircher: But Jeff, one of the things that's been most revolutionizing for us and the experience we're able to provide managers in the last few years is that we haven't just been thinking about them interacting in the context of Workday. We've also been looking at where else are they doing work, and how can we bring actions to them? And you know this because you've been obviously in the middle of it for a long time, but our Workday Everywhere platform brings those actions right to the flow of work where managers are like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Gelfuso: Yeah. It's one of my favorite things that we're doing. We do know from our research that not all of our users want to come to Workday, and they really want to be right there in the collaboration and productivity platforms that they use every day. So being able to meet them right in the flow of work, just like you said, is so critically important to helping them finish their tasks and get back to what they want to do.

Kircher: Yeah, Jeff, I can't remember the last time I did an approval that wasn't through Workday Everywhere. And one of the things that we're seeing is that over 70% of managers are actually coming back to our apps through those channels because they love the engagement and they love the quickness and the efficiency of being able to get that information and execute those in-and-out tasks.

Gelfuso: That's great to hear. And those are really impressive results. We'll continue to personalize the page, not just for managers but for all users. So any of those landing surfaces where they need to get those tasks done, it'll be super efficient for them to be able to do so. Another great place or another great surface where we're doing that is the Manager Insights Hub, and you know a lot about that. And we've seen great results there. We're still doing a lot of work to bring a lot of content and capabilities together. Did you want to take a few minutes to talk about all the new things that we've delivered there on the Manager Insights Hub?

Kircher: Yeah, sure, Jeff. And it's a great story. We released something called Career Hub a couple of years ago, specifically designed for employees. And one of the great things about how we work is we talk to customers and users on a regular basis, and they immediately said, "Hey, we need something like this for managers."

Gelfuso: Exactly.

Kircher: We want to be able to support and engage those employees with the same kind of information and the same level of rich insights. And that was really the genesis of the Manager Insights Hub. And you can think about the Manager Insights Hub as sort of a one-stop shop for all things developing and supporting your team. So in it, you'll find up-to-date performance information and career information and AI-driven recommendations and actions that managers can take to support their people. And again, not to hammer home Peakon for the 100th time, [laughter] but one of the things that we added in our most recent release was actually integrations to surface Workday Peakon employee voice data on the Manager Insights Hub so that managers can see their engagement score, their top drivers, and any key comments right in the context of all of their other information so that they can triangulate their Peakon results with their suggested actions and next steps.

Gelfuso: And it's right there all in that one place?

Kircher: Exactly right.

Gelfuso: Awesome.

Kircher: And one of the other things that we added in Peakon, which is just fresh, like hot off the press, is something called Team Suggestions, where managers can actually ask their teams for input on how they can help solve and evolve their focus areas in Peakon, again, allowing them to have that joint approach to driving change on the organization, and you can imagine that that's been really, really well received.

Gelfuso: And another great place to have that two-way dialogue, right there in the Insights Hub.

Kircher: And what's so cool is to continue to watch this continued evolution. So I talked about Career Hub to Manager Insights Hub, and now, immediately, what we've heard from our customers and our users is the need to actually expand that to be a more dynamic and centralized Manager Hub. So in addition to things like performance and career, we're actually moving forward and pulling other timely, relevant, seasonal information in for managers, from staffing and hiring information and tasks to compensation to time off and so much more. So you'll see that continue to be a big focus for us.

Gelfuso: I can't wait to see that come in. So together, the homepage and the Manager's Insight Hub are great places to surface all the information that managers need. We know that managers also have to help ensure that their teams are growing and evolving in their career. So talk a little bit about how they're using skills and what we're doing to really help them grow.

Kircher: Yeah. Well, core to the Manager Insights Hub and Career Hub is our AI-driven skills foundation. And so many of the recommendations and the matches that we surface in the context of those two spaces are based on what employees have today as their skills, as well as what skills they want to continue to grow moving forward, and that really is the foundation for so much of what we drive around upskilling and reskilling employees to reach their next destination and allowing managers to help guide them there thoughtfully. And one of the other really neat things is that managers are also starting to get visibility into the skills that their organizations and businesses need to develop so that they can have that match conversation with their employees of, "Hey, you want to go here, and here are the skills you need, but these are also the critical skills that our business needs, and how do we join those things in crafting that career path?"

Gelfuso: And again, creating that dialogue that's going to be rich between the manager and the employee in a way that's really helping them both advance.

Kircher: Yeah, yeah. You can see the theme weaving through for sure. And Jeff, we actually now have over 2,000 customers that are using Skills Cloud live in production today.

Gelfuso: That's great.

Kircher: And we've seen from our early research that customers who are using Career Hub in production are actually seeing as much as 184% lift in the number of internal applications relative to those customers who aren't, and over 100% lift in the number of internal applicants that are actually converting into new internal mobility opportunities in their organizations. So just wild results.

Gelfuso: That's huge. Speaking of AI, we know it's a topic on everybody's mind right now. How are we using AI, and what types of AI, to really help empower managers and help them to do the things that they need to do, whether that's through automation or whether that's through other types of prompts and suggestions? Sorry, I'm getting into your answer now, [laughter] but I know there's so many neat things that we're doing that are really helping empower managers. Tell us a little bit about that.

Kircher: Yeah, sure, Jeff. And I was wondering how long [laughter] it would take you to ask me about AI. I know I dropped a few hints earlier. I was waiting for you to pick up on them. But I'm sure our listeners would love to hear about our investments in generative AI in particular, especially since we announced a number of use cases at our user conference last fall, Workday Rising. We've been investing heavily in generative AI applications across the product suite, but when I think about managers, one use case really rises to the top as an example, and that is using generative AI to recommend job descriptions when you're opening a job req as part of the hiring process. And I think you and I both know how painful and taxing that process has been. I've never procrastinated [laughter] on opening a job req ever in my career.

Gelfuso: Yeah. Getting there and seeing that blank page, I mean, ugh. Now, what do I need to do again?

Kircher: That's right, that's right. And Workday AI can help take that process from what we know can be as much as two hours to a matter of minutes. Our AI recommends and provides a draft of that job recommendation based on key inputs and data that we're taking from Workday. But then we still give control to the user in terms of being able to edit, manage, and make the final decision on submitting that. So we're already seeing the benefits of that from our early adopters.

Gelfuso: That's so great. And so again, you never have to start from another blank page. Using the data that we have in Workday already, you're building upon that and actually making it much more effective and efficient.

Kircher: That's right.

Gelfuso: As part of our continued investment in AI and the innovation that we believe it can drive, we recently acquired HiredScore. I know you've been very, very involved in it, and it's a super exciting space. Do you want to tell us a little bit about the leadership that they bring and the capabilities and how we see that evolving the experience for managers?

Kircher: Yeah, I'm so, so excited to talk with you about HiredScore today. And I see, particularly for managers, three real opportunities in how HiredScore is going to, together with Workday, totally shift the game. The first place that we're really going to see that impact is in directly speeding up the hiring process. As you can imagine, the combined Workday and HiredScore offering is going to really double down on streamlining and making the hiring experience more efficient. Whether that's through automation, automated notifications, simplified experiences, meeting people in the natural flow of work, we're really going to change that streamlined hiring experience. And then the second way that we're really going to see that impact for managers is in helping them find the best talent. Workday and HiredScore together will be a unique opportunity to even better match talent to opportunity. Finding the right jobs and finding the right talent to match those jobs, whether that's active candidates or passive candidates that live within a customer's talent ecosystem.

Gelfuso: And we know how important that is, especially in today's workforce.

Kircher: Absolutely. And then lastly, that impact will really be seen in helping managers upskill and develop their teams towards that next career opportunity. And you'll see that come together and really doubling down on internal mobility opportunities that allow those employees to find their next thing and be proactive about notifying them about opportunities within their organizations.

Gelfuso: And how great would it be if we can use AI to really increase internal mobility and take employees to their next step in their career?

Kircher: Yeah. Having been a high internal mobility candidate here at Workday, I can't understate the impact that that's had even on my own career.

Gelfuso: Absolutely. That's so great to hear, Aashna. What I love about it most is that we're providing real tangible value, not only to individuals and employees in helping them advance in their careers and using AI to do that, but really helping our customers and companies get real business value. We know there's a lot of conversation, sometimes a lot of hype about that, and you and I are very passionate about making sure that all those things we do, we use the technology in a way that creates great value.

Kircher: Yeah, Jeff, I am so excited about where we're continuing to head with the manager. We've made great progress, but we're going to absolutely continue that momentum. We talked a little bit about the evolution of the Manager Hub and really bringing all that rich information and ability to take action into one place. We also talked about personalizing experiences, and I think those experiences will become even more and more hyper-personalized. We're reducing friction on key transactions that managers are going through in the system, like staffing transactions. And again, really placing AI at the forefront of that where we possibly can. And I know your teams and our teams are doing so much more together too.

Gelfuso: Yeah, reducing some of those complex tasks that managers still have to do while we're using AI to help them get halfway or 80% of the way there is a huge time saver, and it really, really helps them still complete the things that they need to do within Workday. Additionally, think about how we really simplify some of the things that managers have to do, so not even just those suggestions and prompts, but as we start to think about forms that fill themselves out. And we really help them be at the center of that in control so they can look and understand that, but users are still making the decision and submitting those results in a much faster way.

Kircher: That's right.

Gelfuso: Anticipating the work that you and I, that managers have to do based on your previous behaviors, on the actions that you're taking, on seasonality, and the things that you're doing at the time in your company, are all going be great ways that we continue to anticipate the experiences that we want to serve up to users and help them be more effective and efficient in their work.

Kircher: Yeah, again, you talked about value. That's going to have such a tremendous impact and already is having such a tremendous impact on how managers think about their day-to-day experiences. And we're going to do it in the right way.

Gelfuso: That's right. And it's really important that we continue to do it in a responsible and ethical way. And so that's why we're developing AI human experience principles.

Kircher: I love that.

Gelfuso: And it's these principles, as we really think through what it means to users, it's about keeping them at the center, it's about helping them feel in control of their work, and it's helping really supercharge them in a way that they can even do more than they could and do it in a much more efficient way.

Kircher: Yeah, we definitely have to take people along on the journey with us through that.

Gelfuso: That's right. Thanks for being here and joining me today, Aashna. It's always a pleasure. I just could talk with you, gosh, for hours about experience and about the work that we're doing for customers. So it's been my pleasure. Thanks so much.

Kircher: Thanks, Jeff, for having me.

Gelfuso: Thanks to everyone for listening. I hope you enjoyed it. If you liked what you heard today, be sure to follow Workday wherever you listen to your podcasts. And remember, you can find more talks at I hope you have a great workday.

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