Rising Stars: Training
Rolled out in 2014, Rising Stars is our learning and development program for 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.
“I am already feeling the UltiLove. I have learned about the company culture and realize that this is more like a family than a company. I have truly felt like a part of this family, and it is due to the great company culture and the team that designed the Rising Star program.”
David Behar, Then a Rising Star, now a Customer Success Professional
Engineering New Hire Training: People Focus
New hire training for engineers involves significant people interaction on the first day — tours, face-to-face introductions to both peer engineers and team leaders, as well as private meetings with development executives — since understanding who the people are in the organization is critical to being able to collaborate on a team and cross-functionally as we routinely do in creating our solutions. We reinforce these face-to-face introductions in a more structured and comprehensive way in our virtual learning environment. Here they can view videos of team leaders describing their team’s function and can access an organizational chart that expands into drill-down views of lower-level charts — with pictures of each person and role descriptions. New hires are also given a blank, interactive organizational chart in the virtual portal that they can complete themselves to reflect key people they will be working with and reporting to.
Engineering New Hire Training: Technology Learning Paths
New hires learn the technology and product aspects of their jobs by shadowing experienced engineers, working with mentors, and exploring the educational tools available in our engineering learning portal. After a portal orientation from our PDIS onboarding manager, they can self-direct their own education by selecting various learning paths. All learning paths contain common organizational overviews, then focus on role-specific knowledge and skills. For example, a new test engineer follows the Software Testing Engineer path, while a new analyst completes Product Analyst, and on through paths that cover product management, user experience, database administration, and engineering talent. Each path delivers information in easily digestible, sequential learning items. The Testing Methodology Bundle, for example, begins with a video overview of Ultimate’s testing methodologies provided by a lead software test architect. Other items include: Testing Categories and Levels, Testing Techniques, and Automated Testing. More than 140 learning items are available, with new content in constant production.
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.
“Having both Marc and Vivian at the dinner was really nice. It was like mingling with the stars because I see them both as stars—shining brightly for the rest of us to follow.”
Patti Southwell, Director, Accounts Receivable
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.
“This gift of self-development and team building reminds me of how blessed I am to be part of the Ultimate family.”
Ann Devera, Client Relationships, Global West
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.
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.
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.
Learning from Experts: Onsite and Offsite
Ultimate invests in ongoing knowledge-transfer for both non-managers and managers by providing each department a budget for attending learning workshops and conferences of their choice. Our engineers routinely attend such conferences as ACM/ICEE, Agile, Better Software, Cognos, ISSTA, MongoDB, Lean Kanban, QCon, Selenium, StarWest, TDWI World, and more. Our own Software Test Architect Tariq King is speaking at StarWest 2014 on the topic of “Functional Testing with Domain-Specific Languages” and, with Software Engineer Gabriel Nunez, also from Ultimate, at ISSTA 2014 where they will showcase a proprietary testing toolset called Legend. Our people attend many other conferences and workshops as well, for example, Atlassian, Business Analyst, Cloud Identity, and Talent Management.
Personal Development: Wellness, Fitness, & Stress Reduction
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 — traveling to all of our offices and having many of our headquarters’ classes webcast. 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.
“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.
Subsidizing Individual Learning Choices
Ultimate subsidizes several types of learning for individual employees. For college or university course work, including Master’s and doctoral study, Ultimate reimburses employees $5,250 per year. Ultimate also funds certain kinds of professional training that enhance an employee’s ability to perform in a particular role. For example, Ultimate pays 100% for Certified Payroll Professional [CPP] and/or Professional Human Resources [PHR] certification training for our Customer Service people. Other kinds of individual training choices are funded through department budgets for training.
UltiLab: Working with the Latest Technologies
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.
TechSTARS Internship Program
Learn more about Ultimate Software’s TechSTARS Internship Program.