How to Fetch Employee Data from Workday by Building the Great Deku Tree Inside of Google Sheets

They say you only live once, and, with that, you may only once find yourself at a company with a video-game-centric culture. Life at Twitch creates a unique opportunity to bring the magic of gaming to your workday, even when you’re in esoteric corners of the work world such as People Analytics.

Niche notwithstanding, nearly every person in a company like ours will need an employee count or roster at some point. The experience is usually anything but delightful, ranging from:

  • Receiving an UGLY_CSV_11_21_2021 in the mail each week
  • Finding the person who stores people data informally in some spreadsheet with the names likely spelled wrong
  • Simply being told no, you don’t have access to that information.

Data requests shouldn’t have to be such a drag. I started to daydream about an oracle-type figure with all the wisdom in the company that could be queried by all who approach and provide the right information. And that’s when I knew I had to find the Triforce of Wisdom. Here’s the walkthrough:

Like all good Spreadsheet projects, this one began with a melody. Before I even decided on Zelda as a theme, I had a song stuck in my head that just felt like the kind of sound you hear when querying the ancient oracle:

I wrote my brother Jake — what song is this!? To be fair, Ocarina of Time did come out 23 years ago to the day (! yikes) and there are probably 10gb of Zelda soundtracks living in our head. We both spun our wheels a bit but eventually he came through: it was one of the first songs in the whole game! “Deku Tree”.

Choosing reaction gifs is one of my great passions in this life. I needed one that had some motion, not too much existing text, and told the right story. Both Kaepora Gaebora and the Gossip Stone felt right for the project but I couldn’t get the right source material. The Great Fairy Fountain had huge potential but…take a look at that some time, I voted it NSFW. I wanted to be inclusive by sparking joy in folks who have no idea what this game is as well as die-hards. Luckily for me a good Deku Tree gif was out there to align with the song.

I mean….so as not to offend, let me just say Googling the following was super effective:

  • Set div to full size of page
  • Typewriter effect no javascript
  • Autoplay sound in web app
  • Can’t autoplay sound in web app workarounds
  • Rounded corners css??

Best of all, when I went to remind myself how to install the rare font used in the game, I got impatient, Googled for a lookalike and found a Google Font called “Alike”. I thought I was being trolled but nope, just very lucky.

There were a million routes for the UI of this project. In my dreams, you speak or type the request and machine learning coerces them into structured queries. I think this is easier than it sounds, but the support structure wasn’t there for a one-day project.

A key requirement I had to meet was to print out the full roster. People are funny — if the wise oracle told them the exact answer to their question, at least in my experience, they’d say “Oh yeah? Prove it, tree”. This led to me build the app right into Google Sheets (more specifically the new Google Workspace Add-Ons) so that I could use the quick UI builder and also satisfy the folks who need detailed information and not just Nintendo gifs.

I’ve learned from other projects that users love these reaction gifs the first time, but don’t need the same surprise with each use. So until I get my dictation-in-Sheets going, I made the whole web-app experience optional:

While this isn’t a full tutorial, I have written previously about connecting with employer data via API and apps script. The actual mechanism here is simply to pass the user inputs as parameters to the API and return easy to use reporting from our system of record. From there, we can get exactly what we need in a couple of clicks versus a long process of searching, downloading, and reuploading into Sheets.

Integrating Workday and Sheets doesn’t have to suck — it can be a heroic journey. And back when I was a young Kokiri, my first company added a People Analytics team only when they realized they “couldn’t tell you how many people worked there”. If only they had found the Great Deku Tree!

The Product Itself!

Please reach out to let me know what you think about the project, world. And happy anniversary, OoT!

Max is a Google Developer Expert and a leader in People Tech, Analytics & Operations. Opinions are the author’s own and not those of any employer. PS: I am gearing up to launch a Sheets education site, show your interest here: https://forms.gle/1KSA9Hf8qjUeXHzf6

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Max Brawer

People Tech & Analytics leader @ Level, formerly Twitch, BuzzFeed, Google, Nielsen | Learn from Max @ bit.ly/learnpeopleanalytics