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Dublin is a central hub for HR AI development

by Marco van der Hoeven

Every single tech company is adjusting its strategy to incorporate the profound effects of rapidly developing AI, particularly generative AI, on business and society. Workday is at the forefront of this trend. It is actively pushing for global regulation, among other initiatives. Rocking Robots recently visited Workday’s European HQ in Dublin. There, a significant effort is underway to integrate AI into all aspects of its offerings.

At the Workday EMEA Headquarters in Dublin, 80% of the 2,000 employees are engaged in R&D and software development. Workday’s Dublin team is actively involved in integrating AI technologies into their product offerings. For instance, Workday Expenses has been enhanced with embedded AI capabilities for improved risk detection. This integration highlights how AI can enhance enterprise software solutions, adding value to traditional financial and HR processes by automating and streamlining complex tasks.

Part of Workday’s operations in Dublin is focused on Responsible AI governance. This initiative reflects a global effort to engage with various stakeholders, including policymakers and academic institutions, to shape the future of AI in a responsible and ethical manner. Workday’s partnership with the Technological University Dublin is part of this commitment, facilitating discussions on AI regulation and policy. The company continues to collaborate with members of the EU Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the US Congress to contribute to the AI policy dialogue, emphasizing the importance of responsible and ethical AI practices.

AI and trust

“We recognize the importance of building trust for the future of work”, says Chandler Morse, VP Public Policy at Workday. He mentions a survey involving business leaders and employees which revealed contrasting views on AI’s impact on work. The leaders were optimistic about AI, believing it can be deployed responsibly. However, there is a noticeable skepticism among workers. Despite this, workers do not fear job replacement; rather, they doubt whether leaders can effectively integrate AI.” At Workday, we view AI as a tool to augment, not replace, human workers. We recognize potential disruptions but believe AI will support workers.”

CTO Claire Hickie adds: “Augmenting human potential is key to establishing trust. We emphasize the ‘human in the loop’ approach and consider the societal impact of AI. To ensure risk mitigation, we provide transparent information to our customers about our AI practices. We also have an AI advisory board, including our chief diversity officer, chief legal officer, compliance officers, and CTO. They meet monthly to assess our AI progress.  There is already an inherent trust due to our risk-based development approach, making our employees aware of what needs to be achieved for customer delivery.”

Morse: “While we don’t rely solely on government policymakers for AI development guidance, we recognize the importance of regulatory safeguards to foster public trust in AI. We have actively engaged in global regulatory efforts, like the EU’s AI regulation. Alongside NVIDIA and Accenture, we have encouraged NIST to develop an AI framework. Though voluntary, it is a comprehensive and advanced framework. The EU is on the verge of passing the AI Act, and we are monitoring similar moves in the U.S., particularly in California, which often mirrors the EU’s approach, as seen with GDPR. Our stance is unique in the tech industry. Rather than avoiding regulation, we seek regulations we can comply with and actively contribute suggestions for effective policymaking.”

Design Studio

Workday has established its own Design Studio, staffed with over eighty people, including thirteen based in Dublin. The team focuses on both qualitative and quantitative research, engaging in customer interviews to gain a deep understanding of upcoming features and high-level insights into customer pain points. The Dublin base provides convenient access to numerous sites across Europe, facilitating observational research and interviews. The studio is designed to encourage collaboration with cross-functional teams in a creative and flexible environment.

Workday employs its own Large Language Models (LLMs) and maintains a usability lab where they observe users to understand their frustrations and reactions. After each study, the team debriefs to discuss their findings, the problems they are solving, and how to continue receiving continuous customer feedback. This process is integral in building empathy and achieving better outcomes. Seeing real users is considered a key method for fostering empathy.

Regarding the impact of AI hype on Workday’s development, it has significantly altered their dialogue and strategy. The company has been incorporating machine learning into its products for over a decade, with more than fifty use cases of machine learning functions currently integrated. The last 15 months have seen a notable shift in perception, with a broader understanding of AI’s implications on work processes and the interaction between humans and machines. Workday has adapted its platform to support these changes swiftly, impacting all its products, and thus shaping the future of work.


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