Workday Elevate: insights and strategies on the responsible and effective use of AI


The event saw attendees taking a deep dive into the future of AI.

On 11 June, The Galleria conference and events venue in Johannesburg was the setting for Workday Elevate, themed Shaping the future of work, which attendees learned would take a blend of approaches to AI for a fruitful result.

Kicking off Workday Elevate was seasoned broadcaster and MC Gugulethu Mfuphi, bringing warmth to the room on a chilly Tuesday in Johannesburg.

Kiv Moodley, country managing director at Workday South Africa, was joined by Jonathan Randle, VP for Workday EMEA, to deliver a welcome note.

According to Jonathan, Workday Elevate is about community and learning. “Core to Workday is helping our customers through the transformation journey,” he said. Kiv echoed those sentiments, noting Workday’s 65 million users and eight billion transactions, while putting people first, transactions that are made possible by AI. And responsible AI is something Kiv is a strong advocate of.

“Workday is an innovator and is really meant for organisations that want to embrace change, and leaders who see opportunity in change as well as disruption,” Jonathan added.

Leveraging generative AI for business and beyond

With attendees feeling right at home, guest keynote speaker John Sanei hit the stage. John took the audience on a captivating journey around navigating generative AI for business and beyond.

“The future is uncertain, so we have to change the way we think – and how we think,” he said. “Move away from what you know to how you react.”

According to John, while people have updated their software, their hardware is not equipped to keep up as we evolve as humans. John also pointed out how technology is creating the zero marginal society: creating digital assets and giving them away for free.

“The marginal cost of various services has been drastically reduced by modern platforms: music streaming, such as Spotify, allows nearly free access to music; social media platforms like Instagram offer effortless sharing of countless photos; Netflix enables affordable access to movies at home; and ride-sharing apps like Uber provide convenient transportation options,” he shared.

John also spoke on generative and regenerative AI, an emerging field that focuses on developing intelligent systems that can regenerate or repair themselves, much like living organisms.

“GenAI gives you the power to create and recreate; AI can now start to reason and become sensitive to what we do as humans, and it also brings efficiencies to business, allowing us to pick up patterns to give us better offerings,” he said.

He used Khan Academy, which offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalised learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom as an example. Khan Academy has its own AI tool called Khanmigo, an AI-powered personal tutor and teaching assistant from the trusted education non-profit.

Similar to ChatGPT, but with distinct differences, Khanmigo offers engaging, focused, and effective learning for students and families. Designed with safety and learning as top priorities, Khanmigo doesn’t simply provide answers. Instead, it patiently guides learners to discover the answers themselves. Additionally, Khanmigo uniquely integrates Khan Academy’s world-class content library, covering subjects such as maths, humanities, coding, social studies, and more.

“Think about how you are preparing for the future, how much time you spend in the past, and how much time you spend thinking about the future,” John encouraged attendees.

The power of the platform

Clare Hickie, CTO: EMEA at Workday, focused on the layers that create an environment for the responsible use of AI while being agile and adaptable as an organisation.

“Responsible AI becomes very important for organisations so that they know that everything Workday does is ethical,” she noted. “As a result, Workday has a full AI team that looks at the guardrails for the organisation, and a network of champions observing how things are built – in a responsible manner.”

What impact does AI have on work itself? It’s simple, Clare responded, “AI allows you to do things faster than before by eliminating repetitive tasks.”

From a skills perspective, Clare has also observed that organisations are now moving towards a skills-based strategy, where AI can now identify the skills gaps and what skills are needed to take the organisation forward. “Look within,” she added, “as it is more expensive to hire outside of your organisation than to upskill within.”

Workday Skills Cloud is the platform or tool, Clare points out, that works through AI to identify those skills gaps. She delved even deeper into generative AI, and a new and exciting product by Workday for content generation in HR. She used the example of the large amount of time it traditionally took to create job descriptions: now those job descriptions can be created even faster.

She also spoke about Conversation AI, which includes components that capture user inputs, process and understand them, and generate meaningful responses in a natural manner. “It can help you find what you need – things like hiring data – and Workday AI can summarise that data for you,” Clare added.

“The power of the platform is what accelerates innovation through our products and eco-systems of partners,” she concluded.

In one of the breakaway sessions to conclude the insightful day, Auralia Edwards, enterprise architect at Workday, shared some statistics on AI at Workday. According to Auralia, Workday has more than 40 machine learning (ML) features currently in production, more than 3,000 customers for ML models, 58 million daily inference requests, and 5.5 billion daily ingested records.

Auralia also revealed how the CIO also benefits from AI in Workday. “By eliminating the need to manage separate AI solutions, Workday AI simplifies the IT landscape and increases efficiency. Workday AI automates manual tasks and accelerates decision-making processes, saving valuable time. With improved insights and recommendations, Workday AI can enhance the employee experience by providing personalised and relevant information, and lastly Workday AI uses AI and Machine Learning responsibly, always keeping human decision-making in mind to reduce risk,” Auralia concluded.

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