Automation & AI Blog

Orchestrating the Future of AI in HR: Q&A with David Somers & Athena Karp

Last month, HiredScore and Workday announced an acquisition that could redefine the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and human resources (HR) technology. This combination brings together two powerhouses in the HR tech space, merging HiredScore’s cutting-edge AI solutions with Workday’s extensive industry-leading HR and Financial software ecosystem.

To understand the motivations behind this deal and its implications for the future of HR technology, we sat down with David Somers, Chief Product Officer at Workday and Athena Karp, Founder and CEO of HiredScore (now General Manager of HiredScore at Workday) to spill the tea. Their insights reveal not just the strategic alignment between the two companies, but also a shared vision for leveraging responsible AI to address some of the most pressing challenges in today’s workforce.

Kyle: This was a deal no one in the market saw coming. What attracted you both about this partnership?

David: We’ve been tracking HiredScore for quite a while. A lot was around really good feedback from joint customers, and even my own internal product team regarding the value HiredScore was bringing to Workday products. My first discussion with Athena was the icing on the cake. We have a unique perspective on AI in the space at Workday – I think we’ve been thought leaders related to the ethical and appropriate use of AI, and we ran over on time – WAY over.

Athena: We realized how much we could do together. For us, we never built our      company for exit – it’s always been for impact. Meeting Carl, Sayan, Aneel, and David…  it was clear that it is a very entrepreneurial environment, which you don’t typically find at this scale, and it made me realize that we would actually have the opportunity to take our vision even further if we were part of Workday.    

At HiredScore, we’ve always loved problems at the intersection of efficiency and fairness, and we found those same values at Workday. With Workday, our vision is accelerated and expanded to build more impactful workforce solutions at a time when there is immense workforce disruption on the horizon and it was just too compelling to walk away from.

Kyle: There are differing opinions on this acquisition. What would you say to the people that think this is just a near-term, tactical play?

David: In all honesty, the matching and scoring wasn’t what captured our interest. It was where they may have been bringing value at first, but what really impressed us was the orchestration and the value we could bring together.

There was not a lot of overlap in our AI offerings. What HiredScore has done is extremely complementary to what Workday has done. This has a really long tail for us here at Workday. We have lots of plans even beyond the recruiting space—and in short order. 

Athena: I don’t expect that everyone will understand what we actually do. Our recruiter AI exoskeleton does a lot of what people know us for, but our ability to bring people to their highest level of performance… is that understood? Is the scale of that impact rolled out across thousands of Workday customers understood? It’s going to have a tremendous impact.

The AI industry as a whole hasn’t had quantifiable AI for HR impact stories—most of what we’ve seen so far has been an AI feature war. This is what we’ve been unique in being able to drive with our customers, and if you ask our customers about what we’re able to accomplish together and where that their plans with us are ahead, it goes WAY beyond matching and scoring. They’re dreaming so much bigger.  

David: What people don’t understand is that HiredScore does something better than anybody I’ve ever seen – including us: They’re putting AI in the hands of the end user without them even knowing it’s AI. That’s important. A lot of what I see out there is very AI-in-your-face, but at the end of the day that’s not how you get people using and getting value. HiredScore… just works. We want to leverage that across the entire spectrum of Workday. 

Athena: There will continue to be many AIs – we’re focused on building things where human and machine innovation feels native, feels natural and delivers impact for every user that leverages it in a clear, quick, and quantifiable way. We are excited to do this at a bigger scale.

Kyle: Considering HR’s approach to AI thus far, what gaps – technical, cultural, operational – do you think we should be focused on closing?

David: We’re product people. We’ve thought a lot about what is technically possible – could we do this and would it help, sure.We’ve done a lot in the skills space, and early on the issues were technical. How could we help them to stop managing the technical issues and focus more on strategy… but then we got to the cultural and operational issues. I’m seeing the same things here with AI more broadly.

Athena: Zoom out and look at enterprise technology, companies that weren’t AI specialists have been busy rolling out AI features. We’ll see consolidation of the smaller companies. The CIO, COO pushing for widespread AI everywhere… Our focus is to find the right problems that deeply impact the business if left unsolved and problems that you need an AI for HR expert in safety, in many types of data, in human plus machine collaboration, and that has measurable ROI. That’s why we developed talent orchestration.

Kyle: Innovation cycles in AI are moving faster than ever. A lot of folks are preoccupied with GenAI, but few are familiar with Orchestration. What is it and why does it matter?

Athena: Orchestration is different from rules-based automation – it gives you the power and capability to take multivariable, multi-stakeholder, multi-step problems and literally orchestrate processes in an optimized way. This lets HR move from “revolutionary RAM triggers” (which took problems we could solve with automation and stopped us from actually considering optimizing that problem – then IT departments were managing all of these threads, and you’re one update, one field change away from disaster).

Orchestration AI understands the nature of a task, the governance, the obstacles. Our clients are having these incredible lightbulb moments; they’re thinking continually about all of the things they can orchestrate.

We have big plans, we have a lot to do, and Workday understands how powerful this can be—and what clients want of both of us.

David: Athena nailed it. It ties to the first question: This is why we see HiredScore as way more than matching and scoring. What we see is a need to orchestrate all of the different problems and processes related to human capital management. AI is the tool that’s going to allow us to do it. HiredScore does that better than anyone. 

There you have it! The partnership between HiredScore and Workday marks a significant milestone in the evolution of HR technology.

By combining HiredScore’s AI prowess with Workday’s comprehensive HR ecosystem, this collaboration is set to deliver innovative solutions that address the dual objectives of efficiency and fairness in workforce management. The insights shared by David and Athena not only shed light on the strategic underpinnings of this partnership but also offer a glimpse into the future of HR technology—a future where AI plays a central role in orchestrating complex HR processes and elevating human potential to new heights.

As the industry watches this partnership unfold, it’s clear that the real winners will be the organizations and their employees, who stand to benefit from more sophisticated, fair, and efficient HR solutions.