Workday Rising Daily: Welcome to Workday Rising

Welcome to the Workday Rising Daily! Every day this week, we’ll deliver stories and photos that showcase what’s happening this year at Workday Rising in Orlando.

On Monday we hosted the Executive Symposium at Workday Rising, where business leaders gathered to hear from top thought leaders on such issues as gaining insights from artificial intelligence (AI), building trust within organizations, thinking differently about the world and its myriad geopolitical issues, and creating opportunities for all.

We also hosted individual summits for the healthcare, financial services, and retail and hospitality industries, where customers from these industries gathered to learn from one another, Workday experts, and our consulting partners.

Finally, we capped off the day with the Welcome Keynote featuring Workday’s Chano Fernandez, co-president, and Robynne Sisco, co-president and chief financial officer.

“We’re gathered here as a community to learn, collaborate, and have fun,” said Sisco.

Below are some of the highlights from Monday.

Executive Symposium at Workday Rising: How AI Makes Prediction Cheaper

Ajay Agrawal, professor of innovation and strategic management at the University of Toronto and co-author of “Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence,” started by explaining how economists see the world. He said that most people ask how a new technology works, and usually get excited about how they can use it. 

“The economist strips away all the fun and strips away all the technology to a single question: What does this reduce the cost of? A way of rethinking AI is to think of it as a cost in the drop of prediction. AI makes prediction cheap.”

He said whenever something becomes cheaper, we use more of it, and eventually we’ll start applying the power of cheaper prediction to surprising areas. “We always thought of photography as a chemical process, but we were eventually able to apply arithmetic to make photography cheaper,” he explained. 

He told the assembled business leaders that wherever a company now uses predictive analytics is where they should consider launching AI. Agrawal said this is because the company already has a clear view of its data and a clear idea of the business problem it’s trying to solve. 

Ajay Agrawal

Healthcare Summit: We’re Better Together

At Monday’s Healthcare Summit, attendees gathered to connect, share stories, collaborate, and learn from others in the industry. 

Throughout the day we heard from a number of customers, including Adventist HealthCare, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Christiana Care Health System, and Sanford Healthcare. Customers had an opportunity to connect on innovation efforts, managing regulatory changes, and change management strategy, amongst others. 

Bon Secours Mercy Health’s Joe Gage, chief human resources officer, and Dan Hurry, chief supply chain officer, provided insights on how they’ve connected people, processes, technology, and innovation in their organization. They discussed the power of collaboration and how full integration within an organization requires constantly reinforcing the “why” behind decision making.

We also celebrated this year’s Healthcare Innovation Award Winners. Customers were selected due to pioneering the use of new Workday products or features, collaborating in the community, or driving significant innovation. Recognitions included: 

  • Digital Transformation Award: Intermountain Healthcare
  • Trailblazer Award: University of Minnesota Physicians
  • Collaboration Champion Award: John Muir Health
  • Process Innovation Award: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Healthcare Summit

Executive Symposium at Workday Rising: The Future of Jobs

Maria Flynn, president and CEO of Jobs for the Future, said there are two broad trends experts are seeing in the workforce: record-low unemployment on the one hand, but widening inequality on the other. 

For instance, there are more than 30 million workers who don’t even have a high school diploma, and more and more people say they don’t expect to make as much money as their parents. 

Carrie Varoquiers, vice president, global impact, and president, Workday Foundation, asked Flynn if she thought AI would create a more equitable future for all workers.

“As Ajay [Agrawal] said, we’re only in the first inning. I think we’re still at batting practice. But I’m really encouraged by some of the startups that are looking beyond the traditional hiring signals,” Flynn responded.

Varoquiers then asked her if the audience left with one key takeaway, what should it be?

“Think about the power and the influence that employers have around these issues. And, I encourage you to wield that as much as you can,” Flynn said.

Financial Services Industry Summit: Focus on Talent

The future finance workforce is going to do more than crunch numbers, and that’s going to have a big impact on the financial services industry, according to Thomas R. Freas, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, who spoke Monday during the Financial Services Industry Summit at Workday Rising. 

Advances in digital technology is requiring a whole different set of skills, said Freas. Finance leaders need talent that gets excited about making change, can manage human and computer interfaces, and can convey information through storytelling.

“Everything I’ve touched on here really culminates in a lot of talent implications,” Freas said during the “Financial Services Digital Transformation 2025” presentation. “It’s interesting and daunting and scary at the same time.”

The summit also featured a panel of Workday customers in the financial services industry who shared how Workday fits in with their digital transformation strategies. 

Executive Symposium at Workday Rising: The Three Components of Trust

“I don’t think there’s been a time when trust has been anywhere near as important as it is today in the world.”

So observed Frances Frei, professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School. Trust, and rebuilding trust, is central to Frei’s research, and a common focus area when she consults executives, including those who are looking to improve diversity and inclusion within their companies. 

Frei shared the three components of trust: authenticity, logic, and empathy. Without those three things, you can’t build trust. She broke it down like this:

  • Authenticity: “Do I get the sense that it’s the real you speaking? We are super good as a species at sniffing out whether someone is wobbly on their authenticity.”
  • Logic. “Do I have faith in where you’re taking us, and are you comfortable enough to be transparent about where you’re taking us as a leader?”
  • Empathy: “Are you in it just for you, or are you in it for me?”

She said every leader is wobbly in at least one of those areas, and focusing on improving those “wobbles” will lead to more trusting relationships with customers, colleagues, and employees.

Frei also talked about how organizations tend to focus on diversity, but not enough on inclusion. Only when we are truly inclusive can we benefit from others’ differences.

“Diversity without inclusion is a treadmill of exhaustion,” she said. On the other hand, “if you’re inclusive, that will beget diversity,” as it will attract more diverse people to your organization.

An inclusive environment has to be safe, she said. “Despite whatever differences we represent, we have to feel welcome. And the real explosion, the real progress occurs when we celebrate our differences.”

Retail and Hospitality Summit

The Retail and Hospitality Summit kicked off with a fireside chat with DeRetta Rhodes, senior vice president of human resources at the Atlanta Braves, and Emma Holland, senior director of technology and operations at Fast Retailing. The two shared insights on how to build a great company culture. 

The answer? It starts with your employees. 

Rhodes emphasized the importance of creating an innovative and exciting employee experience. This includes deploying technologies that promote engagement across generations. It also includes changing business models to accommodate the benefits of the new technologies, which shifts the dynamic of how employees interact with HR.

Hillary Tantillo, director of HR services at Wegmans, and Neil Jensen, vice president of HCM product strategy at Workday, took the stage next to discuss how leaders can empower their frontline workers. By delivering a digital experience, companies can create better ways for people to work. Wegmans uses simple, self-service digital tools that allows them to invest in their employees and plan for the future, all while staying true to their small family feel. We can only succeed if we take care of our people,” said Tantillo.

Next, Hari Dorai, vice president of HR systems and analytics at PVH Corp., spoke about how HR leaders can use people analytics to drive greater business value. By marrying business and HR, companies can use human data to build attrition models and retirement prediction models, and measure leadership program effectiveness to determine things like which management programs to implement and benefit offerings to enhance. “Data-driven information is interesting; data-driven action is invaluable,” said Dorai.

The day concluded with a session on how to develop a robust ROI framework in HR. Sherry Vidal-Brown, CHRO at G6 Hospitality, shared key questions that every HR leader should ask themselves when creating the framework, including:

  • What the key pain points are for the business.
  • How the technology will alleviate those pain points.
  • Which tool would work best for our environment.
  • What improvements can we expect once implemented.

This allows HR leaders to better define the business ROI metrics, create a best functional-fit analysis, and evaluate vendors to partner with for execution. 

Executive Symposium at Workday Rising: The Changing Face of Geopolitics

How do you view the world? “You need to see in stereo,” foreign policy expert Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO, New America, told a gathering of CFOs. 

Slaughter held up two different ways of seeing the world. She contrasted the “chessboard”—the long-held view that nation-states are the only actors on the world stage, where every move takes place in a giant strategic game—with the “web,” where many different groups can have influence and drive change working through formal and informal networks. To navigate a changing world, CFOs need to look at world events through both lenses.

“Imagine a map of the world at night,” Slaughter told CFOs, where you can’t see borders but you see where people live and travel laid out as brighter spots in the darkness. Networks range from mayors and governors to non-governmental organizations and philanthropies, companies, universities, and faith-based groups. By learning to engage through different organizations, Slaughter said that some of the world’s greatest challenges can be seen from a different angle, leading to new solutions. And in a global business context, working through both the chessboard and the web is increasingly required.

Chano Fernandez and Robynne Sisco on Day One at Workday Rising