Workday’s next mission: improve hire learning

September 29, 2015, 5:03 PM UTC
The future of your company could rest in online training.
Photograph by Getty Images

More than 1,000 companies worldwide rely on Workday’s cloud software to manage human resources concerns — everything from recruiting to tracking performance. Next fall, they can add employee training and career development to that checklist.

The application, called Workday Learning, blossomed through the course of ongoing customer conversations, according to a senior executive.

The original intention was to create an informal platform where employees could share useful videos and course materials with peers. Over time, however, Workday decided to create a comprehensive learning management system. The idea is to use information about an employee’s status, such as whether he or she is a first-time manager, to recommend specific classes or education tracks. Ongoing progress will be tracked as part of the person’s overall profile.

“This is the last major product area that Workday is not in,” said Leighanne Levensaler, senior vice president of products at Workday (WDAY) . “The market was not vibrant, people had made their investment. … But now customers are looking to replace what they have. Not because they want a prettier version of their learning management system, but because they’re struggling with how to keep people skilled. Things are changing just an incredible pace.”

Most notably, Workday Learning will compete against offerings from Oracle’s Taleo division, SAP’s SuccessFactors unit, and even (potentially) LinkedIn, which paid $1.5 billion in April to buy the online training Web site.

Corporate spending on learning and development rose 10% in 2014 to an average of $1,004 per employee. At the same time, the amount dedicated to instructor-led options declined. Given the actual talent shortages in certain industries, including high-tech, there’s every reason to believe these trends will accelerate.

“To compete in the marketplace, organizations should focus on long-term goals and ensure that employee development builds baseline proficiencies,” said Dani Johnson, vice president of learning and development for Bersin by Deloitte, in a statement. “They should also align workers with the needs of the business, training staff to meet present objectives while ensuring that the talent people is equipped to address future challenges.”

Officially speaking, the marketplace for learning management systems is estimated at $2.5 billion. Workday’s new product sets it up to compete even more directly with SuccessFactors, which has invested plenty in thi over the past two years.

Workday is talking up the new application this week at its annual customer gathering, with the intention of finding companies willing to test it—much as it did when it introduced its recruiting application. That approach helped the company win more than 70 customers for Workday Recruiting before the software was commercial available, Levensaler said. The official launch was in May 2014, and Workday recently surpassed the 300-account mark for the module.

“We hope and expect that adoption of Learning will be similar,” she said. “We really want to work with the community to develop it.” The company is already gathering feedback from the likes of athenahealth and McKee Foods.

Workday replaces your HR department:


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