Many UltiPeeps see their work at Ultimate Software as a calling, an opportunity to “do the right thing” in business and in life. The products our people build and the services they provide help companies of all sizes transform their people management processes. In so doing, we improve the lives of many thousands of business people in the United States and globally. All UltiPeeps in all departments contribute to the exceptional customer experience we deliver, as our leaders so frequently tell us. Many of our people say that Ultimate’s leaders have given them the confidence to achieve far more than they themselves ever imagined they could, and that’s because Ultimate inspires people to stretch their boundaries and lauds their innovations.
Recognizing the Essentialness of Every UltiPeep
Each individual at Ultimate is the "i" in Ultimate. Each of us believes in our essentialness to the business because it is the omnipresent cornerstone message of our company. It is embodied in every image of our company logo and echoed in our custom email signatures where we include an image of ourselves as the "i" in the Ultimate logo. Our essentialness is also the topic of our favorite video, "The People Business: 'I am the I' in Ultimate Software."
Our CEO's Mantra on the Importance of Our Work
Since he founded the company 25 years ago, our CEO Scott Scherr has repeated that it’s our employees who make our products and services great, and so it’s our employees who make our customers happy. He continues to give credit to our people in every presentation he makes to employee groups, and he attends nearly every all-team meeting held at Ultimate. To him, the message is never old or overused. To illustrate his philosophy of how our employees impact our business, he uses a triangle that shows “Employees” on the foundational level, indicating they are the power base, and our “Customers” on the next level, supported by our people. Our “Shareholders” come last. When presenting to our teams, he often punctuates his message by pulling out a note from one of our employees or customers and reads it, word for word, to bring home to us all the reality that each and every person is significant to him and to the business.
Our CEO’s #5 ranking on Glassdoor's 2015 Highest Rated CEO's list is further proof of how much he inspires all of us with his leadership since, like the Great Place to Work® survey, this ranking is based upon employee responses.
Values and Quotes That Inspire Us
One of our CEO Scott Scherr’s favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson: “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” He shares this quote with us nearly every time he speaks to a group, and it is posted on the wall of our atrium and entrance at headquarters.
In an acceptance speech when Ultimate was named #1 on the Great Place to Work’s list of medium companies in 2009, our CEO adapted Johnson’s idea for business when he said, “The true measure of a company is how they treat their lowest-paid employee.” Scott’s statement is reflective of his behavior and has inspired all of us for years to emulate him and treat all people at Ultimate with equal respect and care.
Probably the most frequent quote we hear from Scott is: “Do the right thing.” It’s such a simple guiding principle, yet powerful because it inspires us to consider moral implications as well as business ones when we are faced with complex challenges.
Customer Testimonials as Frequent Reminders
Weekly Emails on Customer Successes/Employee Involvement
To underscore the impact our people are having on our customers’ business success, our Public Relations team sends emails weekly and sometimes more often. The emails focus on outstanding customer successes that we share publicly and call out the names of individual UltiPeeps or teams who contributed to bringing a customer to Ultimate or helped the organization reach specific business goals. Reading about our customers’ successes and seeing how they are improving their businesses, their competitive edge, and their people management processes is very inspiring to our people, so we communicate on these topics regularly.
Quarterly Win Celebrations
We recognize and celebrate the achievements of our Customer Success Managers and Executive Relationship Managers (CSMs and ERMs) through a quarterly newsletter called “Quarterly Win Celebrations,” that is emailed to the division. As a company, our goals are to build loyal, long-term customer relationships, and this newsletter recognizes our front-line, customer-serving people who forge those relationships to help our customers achieve great things. Each newsletter spotlights several customers that have presented Ultimate with unusually challenging situations and details how specific UltiPeeps turned the stated issues into opportunities, provided resolutions, and ultimately transformed our relationship with the customer into a strong partnership. Sixty-one UltiPeeps were commended for their superior performance in our Q1 2015 Quarterly Win Celebration newsletter alone. It is hugely inspiring for the CSMs and ERMs who worked a customer case to see their work featured as an exemplary model and equally inspiring for UltiPeeps reading the case studies to learn the precise tactics and strategies their co-workers used to re-engage our customers. A win-win for all of us at Ultimate.
Subsidized Trips for Face-to-Face Interaction with Our Customers
Ultimate encourages employees to build close, long-term relationships with our customers since meaningful communication gives us insight into their ongoing needs and contributes to achieving the goals of our “Partners for Life” program with customers. To facilitate deeper, face-to-face customer interaction, Ultimate pays for the travel, room accommodations, and most meals for many of our front-line, customer-facing employees to attend our annual customer conference called Connections in Las Vegas, even if they are not working the logistics of the event. Our employees know how much their contributions to our business are valued when they are invited to attend and enjoy educational speakers and entertainers like Michael Bublé, Magic Johnson, and Simon Sinek. The bonds our employees form with customers in this environment are hugely motivating and productive on both sides.
New Impact Expo
Our Impact Expo is every team’s opportunity to showcase work they have completed and to highlight one specific feature, capability, or initiative the team believes has had the biggest impact on our customers, colleagues, or business partners. This program was initiated in our Product Development and Information Services areas to give our people a platform for demonstrating to a wider audience the tangible business impact of the work they do.
For this very open, highly visible, and non-threatening venue, we encourage people who are the doers, not the team leads, to present their work to Ultimate’s leaders and their co-workers in a trade-show, exposition-type environment. They answer two key questions:
- What is your team’s impact on our business? (This is a general overview of the team’s responsibilities and ideally includes metrics or data points that illustrate a clear case of the team’s overall impact to the business.) and
- What was your team’s impact this past quarter? (This is the opportunity to showcase a particular feature delivered recently and to articulate the impact to our customers that is expected or documented. Again, it is desirable to define impact in terms of metrics, if possible.)
Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) & Town Hall Meeting Format
On a quarterly basis, our technology services people have an off-site meeting where they present accomplishments for the previous quarter and plans for the next quarter. Since senior leaders from other areas of the company typically attend, the presenters enjoy a visibility and recognition for achievement that is gratifying and inspires them to continue excelling. When leaders from other departments present, they see how their work impacts the whole organization.
At times, instead of standard PowerPoint presentations, our teams use a Town Hall Meeting format where the audience members can ask any questions they want or offer suggestions. Recently, our TechSpot/UltiHome team opened up their project, UltiHome, as a Town Hall Meeting. UltiHome is an organically developed online site where our UltiPeeps share news, event calendars, pictures, learning paths, interest groups, classifieds, and more.
Relating Employee Work to Company Goals, Successes
In order to share notable company achievements and tie employee work to our corporate goals on a more timely and frequent basis, we have expanded our annual, off-site, departmental all-team meetings by holding virtual meetings via streaming media to very large, geographically dispersed audiences. We still have the in-person meetings, but we now leverage the Internet and new audio-visual technologies to reach more people more often, and thereby inspire our people more routinely. We have had six of these quarterly audio-visual events. The most recent event was attended by 1,600+ UltiPeeps and had a live “Question and Answer” session following the presentation.
Inspiring Our People with Frequent Recognition
At Ultimate, part of inspiring people to do their best, even beyond their own expectations, is recognizing them for sharing new ideas, going the extra mile, making a customer particularly happy, or forging new directions in processes. We have many platforms for recognizing our UltiPeeps’ achievements and rewarding them. For many, the recognition is far more important than any tangible reward or trophy they receive. See all the venues we have for listening to our employees’ ideas in Listening and all the daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual awards Ultimate has in Thanking.
Sharing Lessons from Pair Shadowing
Our Business Analyst (BA) people primarily work on a specific area of our product in a silo-type approach, focusing on such areas as Payroll, Human Resources, Benefits, Recruiting, or Onboarding so that they have deep expertise. However, they have recently expanded their skill sets by using a Pair Shadowing approach where they learn from one another by spending time with a BA in an area other than their own. What is so inspiring about this form of learning is that, after each shadowing session, they share what they learned from the person they paired with online in a central blog area we call Confluence. Leaders and co-workers alike can see the new ideas and techniques that specific people are using. It is a very special way for individuals to receive recognition for their innovative approaches since the blogs on these pairing sessions are very enthusiastic.
Wall Honoring UltiPeeps' Community Service
Donating time and money to those less fortunate is an important part of life at Ultimate. To honor what our people have done and given, as individuals, teams, and larger groups, we have a wall called “Making a Difference…the Ultimate Way” that displays commemorative plaques, letters, and awards.
Awards and Statues Representing UltiPeeps' Achievements and Strength as Team
Our atrium at headquarters is a tribute to our employees’ achievements. It is here that Ultimate displays business awards our various teams have won, plaques with names of our MVPs and long-tenured employees, and a statue that represents the concept of showing respect and honor as a team.
Opening our work environment to inspirational learning and sharing encourages employees to think of work as a meaningful life experience rather than just a job. Many teams routinely share non-work-related inspirations with each other. One team, for example, uses an online Chatter group through Salesforce to share a weekly inspiration, where they post inspirational messages in the form of quotes, stories, videos, or images and encourage discussion. A recently shared video illustrated concepts like “Love has no gender,” “Love has no religion,” and “Love has no disability” through images of kissing, hugging, and dancing skeletons: watch video. The inspiration may be as simple as Babe Ruth’s quote: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” The idea is simply to encourage UltiPeeps to inspire their co-workers by sharing what inspires them.
Our Talented People Inspiring One Another
There is so much talent at Ultimate that our people are literally inspired by one another’s abilities. People commonly talk about the genius or brilliance of the people on their teams. Many say they came to work at Ultimate because of the exceptional people that they would have the opportunity to work beside. Our people inspire one another to stretch their thinking, to go beyond their own expectations. People with diverse skills in a safe environment inspire each other to go for the untried, newest, most novel solution.
Inspiration from Team Giving
All of our teams are involved in charitable causes, but one of the most inspirational practices we have is working on a charitable cause together at team meetings. Our Services Programs & Operations, Strategic Projects, and Knowledge Services teams have a history of serving a local charity in the city where they meet. In July of this year, they held their annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, and collected items for toiletry kits and snack packs from all of Ultimate’s offices for Orlando’s Ronald McDonald House. As part of their meeting agenda, they will assemble the items collected into packages for the charity.
Inspiration on Walls: Reflection of Our Tradition of Learning from Great Leaders
At Ultimate, we have messages on the walls throughout our offices that reflect the values that inspire us. Many are values that our people have collaborated to determine together as highest in priority, like our Trust and Integrity circle. Others have simply grown out of the tradition at Ultimate that our CEO started by sharing inspirational books with us, books with quotes from great leaders in history.