An Inside Look at Workday Learning: Reinventing How Employees Learn

Workday announced today its intent to build Workday Learning. We met with Leighanne Levensaler, senior vice president of products, and Amy Wilson, vice president of HCM products, to find out more about Workday Learning and why it will be different from the learning management systems (LMS) that exist today.

Why build Workday Learning?

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Leighanne Levensaler

Levensaler: Because today’s learning management systems are broken. They’re disconnected, impersonal, and not easy or fun to use. We deliberately chose not to acquire an LMS because customers have told us existing solutions do not meet their needs.

We are building a learning system for the future—one that offers personalized experiences, can be used from anywhere, and helps our customers build strong cultures of engagement and opportunity. This just wasn’t possible with a traditional LMS.

The timing is perfect for Workday to meet this demand. With our strong HCM and financials foundation in place, customers will be able to weave in data from those applications with Workday Learning and gain insights through our analytics capabilities. For the first time customers will be able to align learning objectives with individual, organizational, and financial goals. It will make recommendations based on an employee’s job, location, career interests, the projects they’re working on, and more. It’s going to be a truly contextual and differentiated learning experience—all in one unified system—and I’m super excited about it.

How did you kick off the product development process?

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Amy Wilson

Wilson: It was important to develop an application that aligns with the way employees want to learn. So we initiated a discovery process with our customers to uncover their learning pain points and what they want and need in a modern learning application. After meeting with 16 customers worldwide—visiting their offices, stores, and plants, and spending more than 120 hours with their people, interviewing and brainstorming—we learned quite a bit.

What struck us most is how much employees are disenchanted with LMSs. It’s difficult to find what they’re looking for, and the systems don’t recognize who they are, what they do, and where they are in their careers.

Systems on the market today are not a natural extension of an employee’s daily work; they’re admin-centric and tend to emphasize traditional compliance training for reporting. While compliance training is critical, a learning environment must also be able to take into account individuals’ interests and what they want to learn to further their careers. When employees are empowered and learning about new things that inspire them, they’re not likely to leave for other opportunities.

What else did you learn in your collaboration with customers? 

Wilson: Employees and managers at athenahealth, California College of the Arts, Cornell University, McKee Foods, and other customer organizations shared with us their requests, and there were distinct differences depending on their roles.

For example, many HR managers requested a consumer-grade user experience that recognizes individuals’ behaviors and then steers them towards better ways to learn. Technical leaders requested a variety of learning content that ties to different career development paths. Millennial employees want social features—such as the ability to rate and up-vote, or “like,” learning activities—and to learn via short educational videos and create their own content.

All managers want learning to support their growing and changing businesses, so employees are up to date in their knowledge of new technologies, processes, and products. They want to track effectiveness so they can design learning initiatives that deliver measurable returns. And everyone wants a learning system they look forward to using, and lets them learn anytime, anywhere.

Levensaler: And that’s exactly what we’re building with Workday Learning. Unique to us, it will be layered onto one unified system with Workday Human Capital Management and Workday Financial Management, so it can leverage people data and help organizations deliver the kinds of learning experiences that demonstrate proven returns that lead to business growth. It’s going to be a powerhouse combination—and very empowering for both managers and employees.