Ultimate’s senior executives communicate frequently in both formal and informal venues, and their communications are open and transparent. For the last 25 years, our Chief Executive Officer and President Scott Scherr has attended and presented at nearly every team’s annual meeting and, while there, he spends one-on-one time with employees and often with their spouses and other family members as well. He sits by the pool with them, shares meals with them, and toasts their many achievements. He also communicates with every employee quarterly by e-mail, sharing financial results, noting key business achievements, and reinforcing goals and strategic direction. Our Chief Technology Officer Adam Rogers and Chief Services Officer Julie Dodd follow our CEO’s quarterly communication with a quarterly meeting that is streamed live over the Internet and ties our financial, sales, and business results to the work our people are doing daily. In addition, our Chief Operating Officer Marc Scherr, Chief People Officer Vivian Maza, and Chief Financial Officer Mitch Dauerman periodically join Scott, Adam, and Julie in flying across North America to meet with teams other than their own to talk face-to-face with UltiPeeps.
Frequent Formal and Informal Communication
CEO Scott speaks at all our quarterly and annual large department meetings, sharing details about our group achievements, objectives, financial status, customers, competitors, and game plan. He peppers his talks with inspirational messages from great historical leaders, sports figures, our customers, and our people. At evening events and parties, he casually interacts with our people, answering questions, telling stories, dancing when requested, and enjoying all the feedback he hears. His demeanor is so approachable that people feel comfortable sharing whatever is on their minds, from the health of their parents and cruises they’ve taken with their families to an idea for a new product feature or how to win more business for Ultimate.
One-on-Ones in Scott’s Office and Small-Team Meetings
CEO Scott Scherr’s demeanor is very relaxed, unassuming, and warm. Everyone is his friend, and UltiPeeps are free to walk into his office without an appointment. And they do. Often people ask him work-related questions, like how Ultimate is doing with a new large customer going live on our cloud solution or what investors are saying about Ultimate. Just as often, people ask him whether he thinks LeBron James’s choice to opt out of his Heat contract means he’s leaving Miami, what he thinks of Peyton Manning’s football season, or what team he picks to win the World Series.
CEO Communications: Building Trust and Unity of Purpose
CEO Scott Scherr meets face-to-face with some teams as often as four times a year, others twice, and every team at least once annually. To ensure he keeps everyone up to date on a more frequent basis, he sends an e-mail to all UltiPeeps quarterly and attaches a copy of the prepared remarks he and our CFO made on the most recent conference call to investors, along with a copy of our public press release on our financial results. His comments in the body of the e-mail always inspire by focusing on successes we have had together, our objectives as a company, and values like honor and respect that he discusses so frequently when he speaks to us in person. There’s even inside humor, like his saying we’ve had “the best quarter EVER”—funny because he’s been saying that in one form or another for the last 25 years every quarter and insisting it’s true every time.
Live-Streamed Meetings with Product and Services Executives: 1,600+ Participants and Open Q&A
For the last six quarters, top-line executives from Ultimate’s Product and Services departments, CTO Adam Rogers and CSO Julie Dodd, have broadcast a live-streamed event to provide UltiPeeps with a detailed, comprehensive status update in their areas of responsibility and the company’s financial performance and sales results as well. Each quarter, the event is broadcast from a different city in the United States where Ultimate has an employee presence, enabling them to present in person to a significant-sized audience. For the May 2015 event, they broadcast live from the W Atlanta–Midtown hotel in front of 500 UltiPeeps face-to-face and communicated with more than 1,600 UltiPeeps nationwide via audiovisual streaming over the Internet.
Lunch Bunch and Round-Table Discussions
We have several informal venues where our senior leaders talk directly with our front-line individual contributors. Our Senior Vice President of Internal Services, for example, has a “Lunch Bunch” get-together periodically to discuss current projects and goals and to assess how things are going for the small group of people who attend. The exchange of ideas is both informal and “safe” since managers don’t attend a Lunch Bunch. Our Chief Services Officer Julie Dodd has been having what she calls “Safe Round-Table Discussions” with individual contributors in the Services division every other month over the last couple of years, so that she can speak more informally with employees who are on the frontline with our customers. This year, our Chief Technology Officer Adam Rogers began having similar roundtable discussions with employees on his Product Development team. The roundtable-discussion format involves a small group of twelve people or fewer in the same job-family talking with the senior executive, and, because of the limited size, allows for more open communication. These round-table meetings also do not include any managers of the attendees, and so participants have ample opportunity to ask questions that they might not ask of a person writing their performance review.
Transparency on Ultimate’s Financial Details
CEO Scott shares details of Ultimate’s financial status in both large and small group discussions with our people. He is very specific about our historical performance, near-term financial objectives, long-term objectives, and more ancillary facts like how much money we have spent on stock buybacks. He also sends a quarterly email to everyone with a copy of his and our CFO’s prepared remarks to investors, so that our employees know exactly what he is sharing with them. Each time, he thanks our employees for their contribution to our success and inspires them to look forward to our next set of goals.
Transparency on Negatives
Scott is open and transparent about the many years when we lost money as a company. He explains how the economy changed and forced us to reevaluate our method of delivering our products. He shares examples of years when we lost millions of dollars annually, talks about the year 2000 when we lost more than $8 million, and explains how we decided to rewrite our products to deliver them as cloud solutions (then known as software-as-a-service) to ensure Ultimate would be stronger and less susceptible to market ups and downs. After the presentation, to the amusement of everyone, he shows a multi-media presentation that includes a picture of his head on John Travolta’s body dancing to “Staying Alive” to represent that difficult time in our history.
Transparency Throughout Our Communications
Our leaders foster transparency in our culture by speaking transparently themselves when they communicate with customers as well as our UltiPeeps. Our Chief Technology Officer Adam Rogers and our Vice President of Product Strategy and Product Development Cecile Leroux speak often about our new product directions with our people and our customers, sharing design plans and prototypes. There are no locked doors or product plans encased in silos. They are transparent about what we are developing, why, and how — and they communicate in an easy-to-understand, fun format. They share facts not always shared by technology companies, such as the precise product roadmap for the year and the exact number of customer ideas Ultimate used to create new features in the product.
Marketing, Public Relations Sharing Weekly
Our Marketing and Public Relations leaders send out e-mails to everyone in the company weekly, and often multiple times a week, sharing company news on topics such as awards the company has received, articles covering Ultimate in publications, customers who have joined Ultimate, stories about innovative ways customers use UltiPro, analyst ratings of Ultimate’s products and services, new product releases, new partnerships, and many more. Our Marketing team also gives employees easy online access to all materials relating to our products and services.
CEO Scott’s Favorite Message: Employees Come First
Our CEO Scott Scherr has been saying that “Employees come first” since he founded the company in 1990. In every presentation he makes to our people, to illustrate his philosophy, he speaks about his employees’ triangle. The triangle shows “Employees” on the foundational level, indicating they come first, our “Customers” on the next level in second place, and our “Shareholders” third on top level. This triangle is also painted on the basketball floor of our headquarters atrium as a reminder that Scott regards his people at Ultimate as his first priority.
Chief People Officer Speaking In-Person to All New Hires, Hosting Dinners, Participating in All Major Award Ceremonies
Our Chief People Officer Vivian Maza welcomes all new hires personally to Ultimate, face-to-face, during New Hire Orientation and takes them on a personal tour of Ultimate’s headquarters, in small groups to increase the personal warmth of the welcome. She also hosts the new hire dinner with CEO Scott and other executives at Capriccio’s restaurant and encourages everyone to share a story about how they came to join Ultimate…after sharing her own story first, of course. She’s always the first to laugh and create fun and intimacy.
Our sales people work virtually and get together as a large team twice per year — once at the start of a new year, the other mid-year. CEO Scott always attends these meetings, but he goes a step further — he travels to each of the regional offices on the two off-quarters of the year so he can spend small-team time with them. We call these the Steak Tours since years ago, when Scott began making these trips, they always went to a fine steak house in the evening to relax together and continue talking strategy after a long day of more structured conversation. These days they probably eat more fish, chicken, and pasta, but we still call them Steak Tours. The significance of the Steak Tours is clearly more about the consistency of Scott traveling across the country so often, making the rounds to all the virtual teams, talking with them where they live and work, than it is about the type of food they eat together.
Our COO’s Roundtable Discussions: Now Across the U.S.
Our COO Marc Scherr has been having roundtable discussions with his leadership team for years, listening to their business and personal challenges and sharing his own, reviewing key passages in books on leadership, discussing the principles together, considering how they might apply to our culture, and coming up with potential solutions. In 2014, he began taking his roundtable discussions on the road to all people at Ultimate with a manager title or above, traveling from Miami, Florida, to as far as Santa Ana, California, to meet with small groups of 16-20 people.
“Walk in Your Shoes” Program
We encourage transparency among our teams through cross-functional role experiences. We call the program “Walk in Your Shoes,” and it was introduced in 2014. The members of different departments switch roles and responsibilities with each other for a day. The goal of the program is to help our people understand the jobs and challenges of other teams, see how the structure of different teams affects their perception of projects that may affect both teams, and gain a more transparent view of how others in our company work. For our pilot program, we had several software engineers switch roles with our customer success people, and they found the experience so enlightening that we are continuing the practice.
CEO, COO, and CPO at New Hire Orientation, Sales, and Other Departmental Annual Meetings
Our CEO Scott Scherr, COO Marc Scherr, and CPO Vivian Maza make it a priority to attend New Hire Orientation, sales, and department meetings, spending both formal and informal time with everyone there. The parties routinely held after meetings give them an opportunity to talk with people personally. All our top executives are an integral part of our annual and semi-annual meetings, as well as other specialized meetings. They give presentations, listen to other leaders and individuals share their updates, and join in celebrations.
Transparent Quarterly Business Reviews
Transparency is a high-value objective at Ultimate, and to this end nearly all our departments have quarterly business review meetings. Our Information Services team conducts an all-day meeting quarterly where leaders from all sub-teams (such as Help Desk, Systems, Facilities, etc.) report on achievements, unresolved issues, barriers to success, and goals for the subsequent quarter. All people from all teams are invited, and the meeting is available by webcast to people across our company. Following the presentations, there’s a Q&A where anyone can ask questions or suggest ideas. It’s a particularly engaging discussion since there is such variety in team functions, and often the freshest ideas come from people on cross-functional teams.
Employee Portal for News, Company Policies, and Personal Info
All of our people have access to our online workforce portal, my.ultimatesoftware.com, our official communications center for keeping our people informed about company, personal, and co-worker happenings and details. We can find Company News, UltiPeeps in the News, and details on stock trading, ways to work more efficiently, individual pay and personal benefits, and links to many resources. We can find pictures and contact information for all our co-workers, reference documents on benefits and perks, videos of UltiLife, and more.