Workday Goes to Washington Part 2: Moving the Discussion Up to Capitol Hill

On Friday I posted on the Workday Blog about a meeting at the White House about opening up data to address U.S. Veterans’ unemployment, and the back story to what brought me to that meeting co-hosted by the Department of Labor and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Later in the day, we moved up to Capitol Hill to meet with the Future Caucus, a group of by-partisan lawmakers started by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) to develop “long-term solutions to issues facing America’s next generation.” These members of Congress intuitively understand technology – “I actually know how to tweet,” quipped Future Caucus participant Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) – and the power of public data. In the meeting Rep. Gabbard, herself an Iraq War veteran, told us Congress is looking for creative solutions to persistent unemployment and underemployment.

Leighanne with the Future Caucus. Photo courtesy of Heather Fluit.

Leighanne Levensaler with the Future Caucus. Photo courtesy of  the Office of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

Both the White House and Capitol Hill meetings laid groundwork for how the private and public sectors can come together to open up data sets and use big data, analytics, and machine learning approaches to address this vexing problem of veteran unemployment. And the meetings spurred a lot of important “can-we” questions that we can start tackling. For example, can we apply technologies such as natural language processing to the skills required for jobs posted by the private sector? Can we map the supply and demand of skills and competencies and tie decision-making and resource allocation to them? Can we crowd source a new, simple taxonomy for skills that improves upon the government’s current version, called O*NET, in such a way that the attributes associated with open jobs are accurate and relevant? Finally, can we convince companies to opt-in to this process, so the best HR practitioners are shaping a constantly-evolving solution?

These are some of the questions keeping me up at night, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But one thing I am sure of is that companies today, including our own customers, are missing out on a lot of the great talent that comes out of the military. Related to that, new federal rules go into effect today that require federal contractors and subcontractors to adopt benchmarks for hiring and employing veterans. In our latest Workday update we added new analytic tools to help customers monitor and comply with that law.

The discussions we’re having with federal agencies and other businesses also help fuel our thinking at Workday around where we can advance our products to address the broader skills gap issue that goes beyond U.S. veterans, and in fact encompasses all countries across the globe. We hear a lot about the “war for a talent,” but it’s really more about the difficulty of matching the right skills for specific jobs. I believe we’re just at the beginning of learning how we can analyze large data sets to address this issue, and it’s super exciting to think where this ongoing discussion and work will take us.

Meanwhile, I look to continue these fruitful discussions with agencies and lawmakers, as well as private businesses like our own, to make real progress on these efforts. Do you have ideas on this work and how we can keep moving toward outcomes?