Ultimate nurtures our employees’ talents by developing their professional and personal growth in a variety of ways. For professional development, Ultimate offers onsite and off-site subsidized learning for degrees and job-related knowledge, individual career-development plans, personalized training options, mentoring, leadership courses for managers and non-managers, relationship training, whole-brain thinking, hands-on experience with new technologies and devices, and in-depth training on people-management functional areas, such as payroll, benefits, and talent management. For personal development, Ultimate offers mindfulness meditation for stress relief, education on nutrition and weight loss, strategy sessions for stopping smoking, and 120+ online, self-paced courses on topics such as time management, collaborating, influencing, and innovating. To further expand the boundaries of personal growth, Ultimate encourages employee-generated interests and, as a consequence, we have many interest groups, ranging from disc-golf enthusiasts and Hacky Sack players to cooks who exchange recipes and audiophiles who share ideas for better audio listening. Beyond these innumerable opportunities, possibly the most impactful contributor to employee development at Ultimate is the day-to-day learning that comes from working in a challenging, innovative environment with exceptionally bright, well-rounded associates.
Blended Learning Approach
At Ultimate, we use a blended learning approach because we believe one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to employee training and development. By providing diverse avenues for learning, we believe we shorten the learning cycle by replicating how people have historically learned on the job─acquiring knowledge through diverse work experiences and interaction with co-workers who have diverse styles. Like everything we do at Ultimate, the objective is to treat people as individuals and offer them options.
Mentoring: Relationship Learning
Many of our most influential leaders at Ultimate have evolved from strong mentoring relationships. While we have internal blogs where our Millennials exchange information with their peers and various interest groups that share knowledge, our stand-out UltiPeeps from all generations identify mentoring as the number-one factor in their professional growth. Succession planning is a high priority at Ultimate, and, as a result, our executive team advocates for mentoring routinely. Still, mentoring takes many different forms here rather than being centrally defined from above. Department and team leaders have the flexibility to design the parameters of their mentoring plans to align with the job functions they oversee and with their day-to-day operating styles. For nearly all, one-to-one mentoring is a universal practice and formally incorporated into new-hire training programs and ongoing team leadership. Consistently scheduled meetings, open lines of communication, clear definition and tracking of goals, and feedback on performance are all part of the process. Beyond that, leaders have the autonomy to design approaches most appropriate for their areas.
Promoting from Within: A Tradition
Ultimate has a long history of promoting from within. One hundred percent of the 11 people in our top-line leadership positions were promoted from within, and this trend continues within our departments. In 2014 alone, 9 percent of our employees were promoted into new roles.
Rising Stars: Entry-Level Training
Rising Stars is our learning and development program for entry-level people who will be in customer-facing roles. Since we believe in giving our customers first-class service, we are committed to providing our Rising Stars a comprehensive knowledge of our products, services, and internal systems before they move into those roles. The program lasts 14 weeks, and all Rising Stars are assigned an onboarding specialist when they arrive as well as a mentor who assists in the strategy, design, and implementation of their specific path to completing what we call their “Journey to the Ultimate World Series.” Rising Stars participate in structured group learning, shadowing of more senior people, individual job-path study, and many team-building exercises such as UltiJeopardy, UltiPictionary, Build a Tower, and Create a Skit. Along the way, they are given written skill assessments as well as soft-skill evaluations.
Voyager: Self-Paced, Online Training
To supplement structured new-hire classes and mentoring, we have comprehensive learning materials available for all new and current employees in Product Development and Information Services through Voyager, an online, self-paced learning environment. Voyager provides both focused, personalized pathways for technical learning and exploratory, culture-acclimation content that is useful for all new hires and more. For personalized learning, new hires are assigned one of 26 learning paths to acquire detailed knowledge about their new role, leaders in their area of responsibility, and relevant technologies, tools, and resources. In-person mentoring and support are also provided to amplify the online experience. For generic learning, there are three key areas: Online Learning Library, UltiSpeak Glossary, and UltiLife. The Online Learning Library familiarizes new hires with Ultimate’s organizational structure, processes, products, technology methodologies, development tools, and domain content, and gives them the opportunity to take a deeper dive into all of these areas by watching videos, PowerPoint presentations, and quick tours. The UltiSpeak Glossary includes an extensive list of frequently used terms and acronyms, while UltiLife provides details and links to sports teams to join, wellness resources, unique perks, communities of interest, scheduled community-work events, UltiService Days policy, awards, spot bonuses, and advisory board members and events. They also have links to technology services they can request, knowledge sharing events they can attend (such as Lunch and Learns), and a library of video presentations depicting developers, who won recognition at our 48 Hours innovation event, explaining their concepts in detail.
"My Choice" Annual Learning Allowance
In addition to companywide allocations for each employee to take career development courses, employees in PDIS are given $200 to spend on educational books they want to read or technologies they want to experiment with and keep. Technologies typically chosen are an upgraded keyboard, newly released mouse, noise-cancelling headphones, and wireless speakers. If the item the person wants is more expensive than $200, they can use the $200 toward the more-expensive item of their choice.
Services: Training Bundles and More
Like PDIS, our Services division provides opportunities for continuous online learning in addition to periodic, structured, onsite, and offsite educational events. They have an Online Learning Library that introduces new hires to leaders of our Services organization, with a video message from each, as well as a wealth of materials on our UltiPro product suite and essential domain-centric knowledge on topics such as payroll. Similar to PDIS’s Learning Paths, Services has 20 distinct Training Bundles for specific service roles. These Training Bundles include recommended courses, videos, recorded webcasts, and eLearning modules tailored to prepare employees for new service roles. Employees can also access Rising Stars materials, monthly calendars showing scheduled training events, PowerTips newsletters, and links to helpful learning resources.
UltiUniversity: Online Learning for All Employees
UltiUniversity is a virtual learning portal available to all our employees for learning — based upon their own goals, at their convenience, or on a manager’s recommendation. The site offers videos, web tours, search tools, links to courses, and calendars with schedules of virtual and onsite event classes — all designed to make training easy to acquire. In addition to courses that focus on the functional areas of our products, there are management and leadership courses on topics such as how to build your leadership influence, motivate your employees, communicate vision, and more.
For our regular, full-time employees who want to pursue continuing education for degrees and certifications, Ultimate will reimburse up to $5,250 per year for tuition, books, and fees. Ultimate does not require employees to make a commitment to stay with the company for a specific set period after the coursework, but does require that the courses of study relate to the employee’s present position or enhance the employee’s potential for advancement to another career path or position available at Ultimate.
UltiManager 101 eCourse
We have an online training course for new hires joining us as managers and newly promoted people to the manager role. It’s a concise overview of what managers need to know and where to find it. Topics covered include: introducing key people on our People team, reviewing our core values and culture of inclusion as well as how to handle job openings, transfers, promotions, new hires, time off requests, performance goal-setting, terminations, business and travel expenses, and sensitive issues such as sexual harassment. We follow this course with an in-depth LeadUS workshop specifically for manager titles and above. Discussed below.
Leadership Development: LeadUS
Introduced in 2014, our two-day leadership development program called LeadUS is for all people at Ultimate with a title of manager or above, and is an important priority for our top-level executive team. Our COO Marc Scherr is crossing the country to introduce the program to all managers in all of our offices. Each class size is small, from 16 to 20 people, to keep the interaction intimate and personal, and consequently there are many classes. Prior to the first day, there is a cocktail party that includes all managers currently in the region who have previously taken the class and the new managers participating in the course.
Marc opens the first day with a discussion around leadership strategies, beginning with why it is important to have a “Culture of Trust” that is synonymous with what he calls “People Leadership” and evolving into how we can all become better leaders. Much of Marc’s thinking is grounded in his idea that “Innovation can only happen in an Environment of Trust.” He sits with our participants in a round-table format rather than presenting from a podium, and encourages interactive feedback as they move through ideas of great leaders and thinkers from diverse disciplines, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Stephen Covey, Colin Powell, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dean Smith. Marc shares challenges he has experienced as a leader over the course of his career and listens to participants share theirs. In a more informal setting that evening, they extend their leadership discussion at a dinner for only the current session’s participants. The remainder of the LeadUS event involves a number of other speakers, team exercises, and personal assessments. Whenever logistically possible, our CEO and/or CPO spend time with the participants in the closing hour and join the after-party.
Leadership Training for Non-Managers
Some teams offer leadership training for non-managers using the principles of 10Rule and other leadership approaches such as those in Dr. Henry Cloud’s Boundaries for Leaders. With the 10Rule training, participants take a personality assessment prior to the event and then talk with coaches at the event, participate in team exercises, and design a personal career development plan.
Soft-Skill, Non-Product Training for Non-Managers
Introduced in 2014, all our employees have online access to 7 customer relationship management courses. Since we believe that ALL of our people can interact with our customers at some point in time, all have access to training modules on best practices for customer communication and relationship-building. In addition, all of our people who have customer-facing roles take a two-day Consultative Partnering course when they join us, even when they are experienced, to polish their customer relationship skills.
“Whole Brain” Training for Managers and Non-Managers
With the goal to build trust, rapport, and respect among people, we have three certified trainers in the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) methodology. We offer a 3-day course to our managers on how to identify and manage different thinking styles, and we offer 4-hour courses like Start Thinking and Team Interaction to all new hires, based upon the same methodology.
Consultative Training for Our Service People
All new service people joining us at Ultimate take consultative training prior to orientation, whether they are experienced service people or not. Our course is a highly interactive one that emphasizes team building, communication skills, and conflict resolution.
Through our UltiUniversity mobile learning offerings, our people can learn while traveling, review available courses, and sign up for virtual or onsite classes. Our learning portal is available in both smartphone and tablet formats. It is one more way that we are adapting to the learning styles of our people.
Hands-On with the Latest Technologies: UltiLab and TechSpot
We at Ultimate are always looking for and testing the latest in technology to ensure that what we develop is the most current for our customers. At the same time, our engineers are gaining invaluable experience as they program using the latest programming and testing tools. One example of our approach is the UltiLab that we have for testing and experimenting with a variety of mobile devices. We also have a TechSpot, where employees can get immediate, face-to-face help with technical issues or questions, and they can experience new devices firsthand by test driving them in a setup similar to retail stores like Best Buy. TechSpot is manned 8 hours a day during the work week by technology experts and technicians.
Mindfulness: Meditation Sessions for Stress Relief
Ultimate has begun offering Mindfulness sessions periodically onsite at our Weston and Atlanta offices to teach employees how to bring their awareness to the present moment in a way that is compassionate, non-reactive, and non-judgmental, with the overall objectives to relieve stress, increase performance, sleep better, and promote a sense of well-being. The 90-minute sessions are held weekly over a 6-week period, with a 4 and a 1/2 hour mindfulness retreat at the end of the course to reinforce the techniques learned. Ultimate offers Mindful Leadership Training for our managers and human resources professionals to encourage a combination of personal awareness and relationship skills that inspire others to realize their potential.
Free Virgin Pulse Max Activity Tracker and $300 Per Year
To encourage healthy living, Ultimate partnered with Virgin to give all interested employees a free Virgin Pulse Max Activity Tracker and incentivized employees by offering $300 annually to anyone reaching their goals. The wearable Virgin Pulse device tracks steps, progress, calories burned, distance, and Active Minutes.
Wellness, Nutrition, and Motivational Challenges
Ultimate offers wellness, fitness, and other types of personal development learning routinely. Our Wellness Coach gives onsite classes on juicing, losing weight, exercising, reducing stress, and more — travelling to all of our offices and having many of our classes streamed or webcast from headquarters. She leads pre-race workouts and runs when we have corporate run events. She also conducts Wellness Lunch & Learns on topics such as detoxification, blood microscopy, organic eating, and anti-aging. Often we bring in outside experts like Baptist Hospital to talk about stress reduction and Perfectore Posture to talk about the benefits of good posture. In addition to being available for one-on-one consultations, she also leads UltiPeeps in our quarterly Lifestyle UltiChallenge that encourages healthy living and our Weight Loss Club that meets monthly. Cash prizes are available for some challenge activities. Her calendar of events is readily available in headquarters’ elevators and online.
Interest Groups to Foster Fitness, Work-Life Balance, & Togetherness
In addition to organized sports teams, Ultimate has a number of interest groups that foster physical exercise, mental relaxation, and self-realization. We have fitness groups organized around cycling, motorcycling, scuba diving, yoga, tennis, table tennis, volleyball, martial arts, Hacky Sack, weightlifting, and even multi-sport enthusiasts. For those who prefer to self-actualize through mental stimulation rather than physical exercise, we have groups like photography, book club, recipe exchange, dog lovers, board gamers, MoMs (Moms of Multiples that actually includes Dads as well), UltiBabies, poker, car enthusiasts, PlayStation® gaming, YouTubers, and the PC Master Race. UltiPeeps originally from other countries have also spawned groups like Colombians @ Ultimate and Venezuelans @ Ultimate. A couple of our largest and most active interest groups are PrideUS, a group focused on our gay community, and Women in Leadership.
"Lunch and Learn" Sessions
Ultimate holds “Lunch and Learn” sessions where knowledge on both professional and personal growth topics is shared over lunch. Professional sessions include such topics as Domain-Driven Design, Security, and SaaS Architecture. Personal-growth sessions cover such topics as Back Pain and Ergonomics. Speakers can be internal experts from Ultimate or professionals outside of Ultimate. All Lunch and Learns are videotaped and posted online for UltiPeeps who missed the sessions or work virtually.