Ultimate Software's Blog https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com Thoughts on Putting People First in the Workplace Wed, 12 Sep 2018 16:27:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Data-Based Strategies to Recognize, Reward, & Retain High-Potential Employees https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/data-based-high-potential-employees/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/data-based-high-potential-employees/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 13:38:24 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1499 This blog post originally appeared on Forbes. Finding, retaining, and engaging top talent is consistently one of the hardest challenges organizations face. Developing high-potential employees is crucial for priming future leaders and improving organizational performance while building a culture that fosters growth from within. Having a solid pipeline of high-potential talent is also one of […]

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high-potential employeesThis blog post originally appeared on Forbes.

Finding, retaining, and engaging top talent is consistently one of the hardest challenges organizations face. Developing high-potential employees is crucial for priming future leaders and improving organizational performance while building a culture that fosters growth from within. Having a solid pipeline of high-potential talent is also one of the best ways to ensure future competitive advantage through intentional, strategic and proactive (rather than reactive) succession planning.

Additionally, not knowing who your top performers are — and whether you’re at risk of losing them — is a significant liability. Statistically, high-potential employees are 91% more valuable to businesses than their peers, and losing one of them can cost up to 3.5x their annual salary, in addition to lost productivity and institutional knowledge. Yet according to UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, while 56% of companies utilize a formal process to identify high-potential employees, nearly half of these were unsatisfied with their current talent pool.

Clearly, there’s a strong business case for optimizing the potential of your people. With the right strategy and tools, identifying and developing both current and future high-potential employees becomes data-driven and highly effective. You’ll be rewarded with engaged, committed and productive employees, better business outcomes,and a strategic succession plan.

Inherent Challenges Of Spotting Potential

So, how do we recognize high-potential employees? It’s perhaps the most difficult aspect of leadership development – and the stakes are high. By promoting the wrong people, we lose valuable individual contributors to management roles and risk losing other top performers to competitors. There’s also substantial risk to team engagement and morale.

I don’t suggest using personality analysis as a primary predictor of employees’ future success, due to the innate difficulty of judging someone else’s inner workings. Rely on manager nominees and performance reviews to determine future value is also inherently flawed due to personal bias or political networking. Finally, current performance isn’t always a trustworthy indicator of future potential – studies suggest only 30% of high performers are actually high-potential employees, and a full 90% of high performers have difficulty adjusting to higher levels of responsibility.

So, if high performance, personality, and manager recommendations aren’t quality indicators, what’s left?

The Science Of Potential

Thanks to Big Data and tech innovation, today’s leaders possess detailed profiles for each employee, including job and salary history, goals and achievements, performance reviews, departmentwide recognition, learning-module completion, advanced certifications, previous actions and outcomes, and so much more. By coupling this people data with statistically accurate algorithms, advanced human capital management (HCM) tools analyze millions of data points to pinpoint employees exhibiting performance and/or leadership potential. This incredible ability to spot not only current top performers, but also those most likely to succeed with strategic development, is truly game-changing. Organizations can build succession plans, consider future compensation or professional development and decide which top performers are worth investing in long term. It’s the kind of insight leaders dreamt about 20 years ago.

These advanced systems can also leverage data to identify and predict engagement and retention, allowing leaders to strategically focus on retaining these high-value employees. Managers can be alerted automatically if an employee falls below a specific benchmark, suggest new challenges or training opportunities, or offer promotions or compensation increases. Everybody wins: managers benefit from improved employee effectiveness, engagement and retention, and employees enjoy increased recognition and opportunities to positively influence their career trajectories.

Turning Potential Into Performance

Once you’ve identified your high-potential employees, it’s important to strategically develop them. High-potential employees usually know they’re out-performing their peers, so it’s crucial to begin the development process before their motivation wanes and they begin looking for outside opportunities. However, it’s important to remember that these individuals have potential: they’re often not yet ready to jump into leadership roles.

In my experience, there are a few best practices for developing your high potentials into successful and highly effective leaders:

    • Create specialized leadership tracks. This can include anything from education or certifications to multi-disciplinary programs across departments and divisions. I also recommend offering unlimited learning opportunities for high-potential employees, if possible. Most high-potential employees will be excited about continuous skill growth and recognize that the investment signals confidence in their long-term value to the company.
    • Keep a pulse on how they feel. Cognitive assessment and sentiment analysis can analyze exactly how your high-potential employees truly feel about their roles, their motivations, and their expectations. These advanced pulse surveys leverage machine learning and natural language processing to analyze open-ended text and identify themes, emotions, and red flags.
    • Offer mentorship and coaching. Most of the great leaders I know credit at least part of their success to a devoted mentor or coach who guided them through their careers. Leadership is rife with potholes and detours, and the ability to learn from someone else’s mistakes (or, even better, their successes) is truly invaluable. Consider establishing formal mentorship or coaching programs to help employees establish solid connections.

Leadership, both good and bad, plays a fundamental role in organizational effectiveness, success, and morale. Developing a succession program that effectively identifies and develops top talent into a steady pipeline of senior leadership is critical to success. If you’re one of the many organizations whose succession strategy leaves something to be desired, consider the impact emerging technology can have on the long-term quality and effectiveness of your people, and your business.

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How to Improve C-Suite Visibility by Linking Engagement to Business Outcomes https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/linking-engagement-metrics-business-outcomes/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/linking-engagement-metrics-business-outcomes/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 10:00:23 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1490 Proper data collection and analysis play a crucial role in today’s organizations, guiding decision makers through difficult decisions and directing overall corporate strategy. Considering human capital typically accounts for anywhere between 50-80% of variable costs within companies, HR departments often face intense pressure to optimize their talent strategies and prove that their efforts improve the […]

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employee engagement business outcomesProper data collection and analysis play a crucial role in today’s organizations, guiding decision makers through difficult decisions and directing overall corporate strategy. Considering human capital typically accounts for anywhere between 50-80% of variable costs within companies, HR departments often face intense pressure to optimize their talent strategies and prove that their efforts improve the bottom line. In order for HR teams to become truly strategic partners, they must learn to directly link their own metrics with key business outcomes.

Fortunately, it’s become commonly accepted that employee engagement and performance have a significant impact on corporate health and success. Organizations with highly engaged employees consistently out-perform the market, and understanding how to optimize and reward productive, satisfied employees leads to a tremendous competitive advantage in today’s highly competitive labor market.

And after nearly 20 years of studying employee engagement, the results are unambiguous: it’s clear that the best way to measure how employees feel about their work is simply to ask them, in their own words. This seemingly simple solution, however, is anything but—unstructured data adds another layer of complications. The process of normalizing and analyzing massive amounts of free-text data typically either demands exhaustive internal resources or expensive external consultants. Either way, by the time the results are available, they’re often no longer relevant, much less tied to immediate business outcomes.

Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) has proven to be the key to making unstructured data both understandable and useful, which is especially pertinent considering it represents an estimated 80% of all organizational data. And this has certainly proven true in the employee survey space, where advanced sentiment analysis tools like Perception by Ultimate Softwareleverage natural language processing (NLP) to decipher free-text responses with better-than-human accuracy. The most incredible aspect of this technology is that it’s capable of not only understanding what employees are saying, but also how they actually feel, discerning between more than 100 different emotions.

In real time.

Feedback can be filtered and analyzed to determine engagement and satisfaction levels throughout various teams, departments, or even geographic locations. It’s easy to drill down if you see any red flags or, alternatively, to reward leaders whose teams are particularly satisfied and engaged.

But when it comes to overall business strategy, the real power of these insights comes not from isolated metrics but from linking engagement metrics with other critical indicators and analyzing the underlying connection. By coupling Perception with a unified human capital solution like UltiPro®, you can combine engagement results with relevant people data such as performance, retention, and compensation. In this way, the connection between employee engagement and the key business metrics your C-suite cares about, such as performance or revenue per employee, is no longer theoretical. It’s factual.

By creating a powerful and compelling story around your engagement data, you can demonstrate the real business value behind your proposed changes. Ultimately, HR leaders who can logically and concisely demonstrate the connection between talent and business metrics are better positioned to gain buy-in from key decision makers and drive meaningful changes in their organizations.

When positioned appropriately, the data will speak for itself.

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Solidifying a Competitive Advantage with Engagement Benchmarking https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-benchmarking/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-benchmarking/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 19:14:16 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1394 As our exposure to Big Data progresses exponentially, analytics and BI are playing an increasing role in overall corporate strategy. Few departments are exempt from regularly analyzing and reporting metrics to the C-suite, and long-term tracking of this data is invaluable. Comparing quarterly and year-over-year success is certainly insightful, but most organizations have the ability […]

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employee engagement benchmarkingAs our exposure to Big Data progresses exponentially, analytics and BI are playing an increasing role in overall corporate strategy. Few departments are exempt from regularly analyzing and reporting metrics to the C-suite, and long-term tracking of this data is invaluable.

Comparing quarterly and year-over-year success is certainly insightful, but most organizations have the ability to take this one step further. Benchmarking enables companies to compare organizational metrics with their peers and competitors, confirming strengths and opportunities for improvement. It’s a strategic, dynamic tool that bolsters continuous improvement within the organization.

Many businesses already use benchmarking to analyze their learning and development (L&D) spending, recruiting, and organizational design, but far fewer are actively measuring and benchmarking their employee engagement scores. Considering talent is typically the most expensive line in the budget, this is a missed opportunity to potentially cut costs and increase productivity.

Today’s labor market is highly competitive, and there’s a heightened focus on employee satisfaction and engagement. Unfortunately, organizations often don’t realize they have a talent problem until they aggressively track talent metrics and compare them with their industry peers. A retail establishment with 40% turnover is about average, but for a professional services firm, this figure would be a major red flag.

But while retention and turnover statistics provide a solid understanding of who’s leaving your workforce, they don’t address the greater issue—why.

Enter sentiment analysis. By initiating regular, Natural Language Processing (NLP) powered employee surveys, business leaders can get into the heads and hearts of their employees to learn how they truly feel about work and flag potential problems before they negatively impact the workforce.

Of course, this data is even more insightful when weighed against industry benchmarks. We’re inundated with articles bemoaning America’s employee-engagement problem, but do business leaders know how to feel about 55% engagement? Does industry play a role? What about geographic location?

At Ultimate, we’ve partnered with Mercer | Sirota, one of the world’s preeminent talent consulting and analytics firms with more than 50 years of HCM and talent strategy expertise, to provide our customers with robust global benchmark data from nearly six million individual data points. This partnership allows our customers to gain invaluable insight into how their engagement and satisfaction scores compare with other world-class organizations, and provides additional guidance in terms of identifying the right actions to improve culture, retention, and performance.

Ultimate’s customers can select from more than 130 questions within UltiPro Perception® to compare their own employees’ ratings with Mercer | Sirota’s employee engagement and satisfaction benchmark data—all at no extra cost. Mercer | Sirota’s normative database represents more than five years of information, and organizations even have the ability to filter data by country or industry.

Developing leading-edge technology that empowers people has been Ultimate’s mission since our inception. This partnership with Mercer | Sirota further helps our customers accurately identify strategies that can improve their employee experience while establishing (and maintaining) a competitive advantage.

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How AI is Making Managers More Human https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ai-people-management-hcm/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ai-people-management-hcm/#comments Fri, 26 Jan 2018 21:38:30 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1227 Note: This article from Adam Rogers originally appeared on Forbes. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been around for decades, but its capabilities, interest, and funding has skyrocketed in recent years. Machine learning functionalities are disrupting nearly every industry and our everyday lives, from self-driving cars to Facebook’s facial recognition. According to CB Insights, funding for […]

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Note: This article from Adam Rogers originally appeared on Forbes.

ai hcmArtificial intelligence (AI) technology has been around for decades, but its capabilities, interest, and funding has skyrocketed in recent years. Machine learning functionalities are disrupting nearly every industry and our everyday lives, from self-driving cars to Facebook’s facial recognition. According to CB Insights, funding for AI startups reached a record high of $5 billion in 2016. Further disruption is almost guaranteed as the exponential acceleration of AI technology continues.

This rapid progression is driven by advanced machine learning, systems that continuously consume and apply knowledge to improve accuracy and analysis. AI has already proven its potential for expediency and efficiency, completely redefining the way we live, work, and relate to each other. The prospect of AI actually improving human-to-human interaction, especially within the business environment, is particularly intriguing.

Human innovation paired with technological development is a powerful force. I’ve had a front-row seat to what that can accomplish in the HCM space, where technology has evolved from simply performing basic HR processes, to predicting future outcomes, to fundamentally restructuring how employers manage their people. Smart technologies powered by machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and distributed data-collection interfaces are poised to completely transform the workplace for HR leaders.

Big Data Fosters Understanding

Running a business requires a substantial amount of data.

The term “Big Data” broadly refers to the staggering volume of information available at any given time. Today’s technology can digest these data mines with superhuman capacity and speed, applying advanced mathematical algorithms to find patterns, trends, and outliers. This insight can transform how managers approach everything from turnover to overtime, and provides an opportunity for leaders to better understand their teams and how to strengthen them.

Automation plays an important role in the data consumption process and is responsible for unparalleled advancements in convenience and productivity. Complex administrative functions have often plagued employers, particularly in HR, and these solutions alleviate the potential for human error while dramatically increasing completion speed. What used to take dozens (if not hundreds) of hours of human analysis is now achieved almost instantaneously.

This laid the groundwork for the game-changing power of prediction. Today’s leading HCM solutions leverage Big Data to forecast everything from performance success to flight risk, and these self-taught systems are incredibly accurate, extremely adaptive, and constantly learning. Rather than simply reporting on past trends, they predict future ones, empowering leaders to drive continuous improvement within their organizations.

Consider retention, for example. Turnover is a top priority for today’s leaders, as it can contribute to increased business errors, negatively impact culture, and cost up to twice an employee’s annual salary, according to Deloitte’s Josh Bersin. By automatically processing and analyzing a wealth of HCM data, predictive AI tools can identify the employees most at risk of leaving and alert their managers to proactively address the situation—before it’s too late.

This brings us to the next frontier for disruption: prescriptive analytics. Once again building on past innovations, prescriptive systems pull from predictive functions to suggest specific, personalized actions at key decision points. These AI-based recommendations can make managers better leaders, applying unbiased data to solve difficult decisions. The prescriptive functions can inform not only who to talk to and why, but how, based on what’s worked well in similar situations. Using the above example, the manager of a high-risk employee may be encouraged to take their employee to lunch, thank them for their continued contributions, and initiate a conversation about their career goals and aspirations. The additional support helps leaders coach and engage their people, leading to improved business outcomes, but the process also relies on the innate human traits of intuition, empathy, and kindness. It’s symbiotic, people-first AI.

Leveraging the Voice of the Employee

According to a 2016 study by The Center for Generational Kinetics, the best way for leaders to improve retention is listening to and addressing employee concerns. This seems basic, but it’s actually quite difficult to scale listening to the voice of the employee (VoE). Organizations have traditionally relied on annual performance reviews to accomplish this goal, but once-a-year discussions don’t always suffice (especially when tied to salary negotiations).

Employee satisfaction surveys are another alternative, but poorly designed (or executed) surveys won’t deliver impactful results. The most effective surveys offer a mix of qualitative and quantitative prompts, but these take significant manpower to analyze.

Fortunately, recent AI developments are solving this dilemma and improving employee-manager relations in the process.

Speaking Our Language

Despite the remarkable advancements AI has made in learning and prediction, users are often frustrated by its failure to understand the true meaning of words. Google Translate can instantly convert text from one language to another, and even basic Web-based chatbots can provide reasonable responses to basic queries. But until recently, these systems relied on literal translations and interpretations. Human language is incredibly complicated, brimming with context and subtleties, making it challenging for machines to decipher.

Enter natural language processing (NLP). This technology has improved incredibly quickly, and NLP solutions are learning to think and speak like humans. It’s the difference between a French 101 student and a native Parisian — the AI is actually speaking our language, not translating it. Machines can now discern emotion recognizing differences between sadness, anger, even sarcasm. It’s a breakthrough with incredible implications.

There are many potential opportunities to leverage NLP in the workplace, such as advanced customer service bots or email summarization software, but employee surveys are an obvious start. By applying NLP and machine learning algorithms to open-ended, text-based surveys, leaders receive feedback on what their employees are saying as well as how they’re actually feeling. Managers can keep a pulse on their team’s health and use these metrics to arrange one-on-one conversations, evaluate opportunities to increase satisfaction, and drive organizational change.

Improving Human Connection

Truly understanding how people are doing their jobs, what they care about, and what inspires them can improve nearly every aspect of the employee experience. Developments in automation, analytics, and NLP are making these insights possible and fostering authentic connection and understanding between managers and their employees.

In this way, AI has accomplished perhaps the last thing we expected: it’s making managing more human.

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The Power of API Integration and HCM: Less Time Managing, More Time Strategizing https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/api-integration-and-hcm/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/api-integration-and-hcm/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:00:19 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1146 As an HR practitioner, you may not be intimately familiar with how application programming interfaces (APIs) work, but you’re certainly interacting with them. The information shared between applications is how you can find a restaurant on Facebook and immediately get directions through another application, such as Google Maps, or read its recent reviews on Yelp. […]

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api integration and hcmAs an HR practitioner, you may not be intimately familiar with how application programming interfaces (APIs) work, but you’re certainly interacting with them. The information shared between applications is how you can find a restaurant on Facebook and immediately get directions through another application, such as Google Maps, or read its recent reviews on Yelp. Well-developed APIs increase convenience, save time, and maximize what’s possible when compared with a single application’s capacity. They completely transform our app experience and are cornerstones of popular consumer technology.

API Integration and HCM

Most organizations use multiple products as part of their HCM strategy. UltiPro is a unified solution encompassing everything from human resources to payroll to talent management, but our customers frequently need to exchange data with external systems they use to operate their businesses. APIs present the perfect opportunity to streamline this process, and I’m thrilled to announce the release of UltiPro Connect, our new integration ecosystem that empowers our customers and partners to tailor their UltiPro experiences to meet their evolving business needs.

Essentially, UltiPro Connect is engineered to simplify, standardize, and automate UltiPro integrations with third-party solutions or services. The benefits extend for our partners, who can easily build integrations between their solutions and UltiPro, as well as our customers, who can browse pre-existing integrations or build one themselves. Data flows freely (and securely) between UltiPro and other connected API systems.

The result? You spend less time managing shared information on disparate systems, and more time leveraging that information to support your strategic initiatives.

How it Works

Like everything else in life, for API integration and HCM, quality matters. The development process and architectural framework used will dictate how easy to use and effective these integrative solutions are.

We announced UltiPro Connect during HR Tech last month, and for its initial rollout, we are focused on helping our partners develop the best app-to-app integrations possible. With access to sample code, comprehensive articles, fully functional sandboxes, and our API Explorer (which enables developers to actually interact with the APIs instead of viewing static documents), our partners have everything they need to create, test, and tailor their API integrations before releasing them on the UltiPro Connect marketplace. As part of our constant commitment to quality, Ultimate will review and test each API integration before publishing it for customer use.

Access to UltiPro Connect is free for customers and enables them to browse, research, and filter the partner apps and services to find ones that best accommodate their business needs. Alternatively, customers can easily build their own custom integrations, drawing from the extensive information, simplified framework, and established community support available.

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New AI Tools Key to Improving Engagement https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ai-key-improving-employee-engagement/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/ai-key-improving-employee-engagement/#respond Wed, 30 Aug 2017 10:00:14 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1085 Employee engagement has been a hot topic for years, and its influence continues to make headlines. Gallup has been tracking U.S. engagement since 2000, and countless studies over the past 17 years have verified the tremendous impact engagement can have on corporate success. The most recent “State of the American Workplace” report found that high […]

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employee engagementEmployee engagement has been a hot topic for years, and its influence continues to make headlines. Gallup has been tracking U.S. engagement since 2000, and countless studies over the past 17 years have verified the tremendous impact engagement can have on corporate success. The most recent “State of the American Workplace” report found that high engagement levels are directly associated with lower turnover, absenteeism, and even workplace theft, as well as higher productivity, profitability, and sales. All these factors significantly impact the bottom line, so it’s no surprise that 85% of executives rated engagement as an important or very important priority for their companies.

What’s concerning, then, is the consistent lack of improvement in engagement statistics. In 2016, 34% of U.S. employees were engaged—compared with 31.7% in 2015, 29.3% in 2013, and 30.7% in 2011. In fact, Gallup’s U.S. employee engagement rate has remained relatively stagnant since it first began tracking these metrics, despite substantial corporate investment. Why the disconnect?

Unfortunately, many engagement initiatives have been unfocused and ineffective. It’s not uncommon for executives to roll out one-time surveys or a new workplace perk and feel like they’ve done their part for engagement that year. Even more thorough and thoughtful programs can focus merely on measuring engagement without offering tangible tactics to improve it, which provides insight but doesn’t enhance outcomes. In order for engagement programs to be truly productive, they need to be ongoing, data-driven, and capable of providing actionable feedback leading to lasting change.

For years, any attempts at developing this feedback loop were cumbersome and prohibitively time-intensive. But today’s new tech tools are changing that.

Through advances in artificial intelligence, HR leaders are now able to easily pinpoint their disengaged or flight-risk employees and leverage historical data to discern which leadership actions will have the greatest impact. The predictive and prescriptive functionalities of today’s leading HCM solutions have far-reaching implications for everything from performance to succession management, but the potential to improve engagement is particularly exciting simply because engagement influences so many other key HR metrics.

And since one of the most effective ways of tracking corporate engagement is through direct employee feedback, new developments in natural language processing (NLP) are game-changing, empowering leaders to easily deploy pulse surveys that can accurately and succinctly convey employee sentiment. These surveys can be scaled across entire organizations or targeted to specific workforce demographics, distributed at regular intervals, or triggered by certain events.

Armed with real-time data reflecting the most pressing issues for their people, executives can actively measure the impact of specific engagement initiatives and leverage predictive capabilities to decisively inform next steps. Essentially, today’s emerging AI tools enable leaders to have a powerful, strategic, and measurable impact on their engagement metrics—and nearly everything else in the process.

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Why “Best in Tech” Workplaces are Built on Innovation https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/best-place-to-work-in-it/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/best-place-to-work-in-it/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 09:04:29 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1022 Anyone familiar with Ultimate Software knows that our core mantra is “People First.” From our employees to our customers to their employees, everything we do is focused on caring for people. And it makes an impact. We’re honored to frequently rank on a variety of “best workplace” lists, including being named Fortune’s #7 Best Company […]

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Anyone familiar with Ultimate Software knows that our core mantra is “People First.” From our employees to our customers to their employees, everything we do is focused on caring for people. And it makes an impact. We’re honored to frequently rank on a variety of “best workplace” lists, including being named Fortune’s #7 Best Company to Work For in 2017, and the #1 Best Large Workplace in Technology the past two years. Today, I’m proud to announce another accolade: Computerworld magazine has named us the #1 Best Place to Work in IT among midsize tech companies.

Computerworld Magazine Best Place to Work in ITThere are several fundamental beliefs that set US apart. We believe in helping our employees—and their families—stay healthy by covering 100% of their healthcare premiums, including medical, dental, and vision. We believe in nurturing our people’s futures by offering a 401(k) retirement plan with a 40% company match on every dollar, with no cap. And we believe in trust, communication, and flexibility to accommodate life. These core values enable our employees, our culture, and our company to thrive. I believe any company, in any industry, would benefit from taking care of people the way we do.

But as a technology company that specializes in human capital management (HCM), there are other unique factors to consider. Constant industry upheavals are standard, along with steep competition for top talent, constant innovation, and growing market share. Technological advances are occurring faster than ever, and companies must keep ahead to remain successful. Developments in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and an ever-growing gig workforce are forcing HCM software providers to grow and adapt. Fortunately, at Ultimate, we’ve learned that the same techniques that encourage our employees’ innovation also help foster an exciting and unique culture contributing to overall happiness and satisfaction.

Here are some ways we bolster creativity, driving the creation of our award-winning products, services, and culture.

48 Hours

We once asked, “What can be done in 48 hours?” and learned, with the right people, more than we could have imagined. Twice a year, we run a highly anticipated coding event called “48 Hours.” Developers spend two consecutive days brainstorming and actualizing ideas enhancing UltiPro’s features and functionality. Sometimes, they even work on ideas completely unrelated to their current projects and roadmaps. Fueled by copious amounts of coffee and energized by the exciting (and competitive!) atmosphere, our developers thrive on the challenge and complete freedom to invent new solutions. This is a great testing and proving ground for our development staff to showcase new technologies. Several times, these projects have enhanced our current roadmap or provided such an increase in value to our clients, we added it directly into the UltiPro solution.

Leverage Advanced Technology

We invest in our employees by providing the best technology possible. We even have our own in-house tech support team complete with onsite TechSpots, where employees can take their devices for tune-ups and troubleshooting. Our innovative UltiLab features a variety of the latest products and technologies for employees to program, test, and experiment with. By experimenting with the latest and greatest platforms and technologies, our people are continuously inspired to create innovative solutions that help people solve problems.

Continuing Knowledge Transfer

Another way Ultimate promotes innovation is by providing each department a budget for attending employees’ choice of learning workshops and conferences. Agile, ISSTA, Lean Kanban, SHRM, QCon, and others are all frequently attended by our employees—and it’s common to find our people leading conference sessions and workshops. Developers are highly encouraged to take development courses, and teams have even created customized learning paths specific to their needs on various platforms.

Professional Development

We continually invest in ongoing learning opportunities for our employees, a passion that is now being offered to our customers through UltiPro Learning. In addition to Ultimate offering tuition reimbursement and covering costs associated with certificate training, our internal learning portal encourages all employees to improve their current skill sets and potentially grow into new roles. The site offers videos, Web tours, and courses employees can select to achieve their personal goals. Employees are also encouraged to take ownership of their own learning and growth as they advance in their careers.

Developing Leaders

Our comprehensive LeadUS program was created to develop all managers and potential managers into world-class leaders. Drawing on Ultimate’s leadership principles, skill-, trust-, and team-building sessions prepare the next generation of Ultimate’s leaders for success, while cultivating creativity and innovation among our people. Three separate learning tracks are available, from aspiring managers to senior executives.

In my experience, one of the best aspects of working at a technology company is the camaraderie and hunger for continual improvement. By fostering a culture of innovation, we’re not only supporting our employees’ individual careers, but developing a workforce that runs on inspiration and ingenuity. We’ve built an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and challenged—a workplace that’s definitively the “best in tech.”

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Four Employee Training Trends to Keep on Your Radar https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-training-trends-2017/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-training-trends-2017/#comments Wed, 31 May 2017 10:00:13 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1011 Technological innovation is occurring at breakneck speeds, and our world—and successful businesses—are transforming just as fast. Technical skills, such as computer literacy and basic coding, are often prerequisites even for service and administrative positions—and for good reason. Companies unable to keep pace with the digital revolution risk becoming obsolete, and employees must continue honing their […]

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Technological innovation is occurring at breakneck speeds, and our world—and successful businesses—are transforming just as fast. Technical skills, such as computer literacy and basic coding, are often prerequisites even for service and administrative positions—and for good reason. Companies unable to keep pace with the digital revolution risk becoming obsolete, and employees must continue honing their talents to remain competitive in their careers.

These realities have led to higher values being placed on professional development. In fact, seven out of 10 people surveyed said that employee training and learning opportunities had influenced their decision to either stay with or leave a company. Considering the growing costs attributed to lack of engagement and attrition, companies can certainly benefit from giving employees every reason to stay.

Employers are recognizing the importance of employee development as an investment both in their people and the organization. But it’s important to differentiate between training for training’s sake and providing thoughtful, essential learning and tools for development. Too often, organizations invest in sub-par solutions that prove neither productive nor interesting for employees. In fact, it’s estimated that ineffective training costs $13.5M per year, per 1,000 employees. Organizations can save a significant amount of time and money with a learning solution that incorporates modern employee training trends, resulting in a better supported, more satisfied workforce.

With a changing workforce comes evolving expectations about career development. Here are four employee training trends to keep on your radar:

    • employee training trendsEnsuring quality over quantity. Far too often, employee training courses are encumbered with unimportant information. In addition to simply frustrating your employees, this makes it less likely they’ll retain critical info. Establish the most important goals for each course, and limit any information that doesn’t directly support that goal. Configure your solution to meet your unique business needs and deploy a personalized training academy tailored to meet them.
    • Focusing on engagement. Developing interesting and engaging content is the best way to keep your employees’ attention and ensure content is fully retained. Some learning platforms even offer social and collaborative tools, including badges and gamification. Employees can follow their own progress and that of their teams through online leaderboards, communities, and newsfeeds.
    • Providing convenience and flexibility. Back in 2015, Microsoft made headlines with the proclamation that the average human’s attention span had become shorter than that of a goldfish. Today’s workers crave consumable, bite-sized, on-demand content, easily accessible through a variety of devices. Mobile app capabilities are ideal, providing immediate access to content whether an employee is on the road, in the field, or in their pajamas.
    • Tracking accountability and results. Strategic learning platforms seamlessly track and report employee progress through powerful reporting dashboards. Customizable quizzes can even be deployed at various stages with the click of a button. In addition to tracking engagement and progress, consider incorporating advanced organizational surveys to collect real-time data revealing how your employees feel about their professional development opportunities. With these results, and a better understanding of your people, you can take meaningful action to implement the most effective programs to help boost engagement and retention.

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Ask Adam: Creating a Positive Employee Experience https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/positive-employee-experience/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/positive-employee-experience/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 10:00:13 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=974 “Employee experience” has become a standard HR buzzword, and today’s executives are increasingly recognizing and prioritizing its influence. In January, Forbes published “The Employee Experience Is the Future of Work,” and we now know that “ee experience” is the #1 driver of employment outcomes. Unfortunately, measuring—even defining—the drivers of positive employee experience can be tumultuous, […]

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“Employee experience” has become a standard HR buzzword, and today’s executives are increasingly recognizing and prioritizing its influence. In January, Forbes published “The Employee Experience Is the Future of Work,” and we now know that “ee experience” is the #1 driver of employment outcomes. Unfortunately, measuring—even defining—the drivers of positive employee experience can be tumultuous, primarily driven by a lack of data outlining exactly what contributes to employee happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

As an HCM technology company defined by our “People First” philosophy, pinpointing the key factors facilitating a great employee experience was necessary both for our own development and to add value for our customers. We partnered with the Center for Generational Kinetics to conduct a comprehensive study of U.S. working adults and found that two-way trust, nurtured through open and ongoing communication, was critical for a positive employee experience. Other important factors included organizational culture, professional development opportunities, innovative technology, promptly addressing concerns, and safety—both physical and emotional.

We recently presented these results in a webcast, and received so many great questions that I didn’t have time to answer them all. Here are a few of the most common questions, along with my suggestions. If you have any other questions about our research or the employee experience, please let me know in the comments below!

Q: How can I determine how employees feel?

A: Just ask them—and often. Today’s workforce values inclusion, coaching, and ongoing feedback. Instead of relying solely on formal performance management processes, which are certainly useful but have a slew of limitations, modern organizations are beginning to implement more frequent, informal positive employee experiencecheck-ins and pulse surveys. On-demand surveys allow you to gauge how your employees are actually feeling in real time, particularly when your solution uses advanced sentiment analysis technology to accurately dissect open-ended text. Armed with substantial data about the health of your organization, you’re empowered to quickly address areas of concern and dramatically increase positive employee experience.­

Q: How do you build trust?

A: At its core, trust is based around communication, transparency, and action. The goal is to develop managers into better people leaders who are in tune with their teams and empowered to take ownership of engagement. Technological solutions can provide structured and proactive coaching support, including practical suggestions for taking the most effective action.

Q: What investments should my company make to create a positive employee experience?

A: Fortunately, you don’t need to dismantle your entire organization to improve the employee experience for your people. Little things can make a big difference—but it’s crucial to invest in both career development and modern technology. Providing ongoing learning opportunities to your employees will challenge and motivate them while improving overall satisfaction. Employees are also heavily impacted by the tools they use to get their jobs done, as well as those they use to access their pay and benefits information. Even I was shocked by our research results regarding technology in the workplace—one in three employees said they would consider leaving their jobs because of outdated technology.

Implementing these strategies will help positively influence all manners of the employee experience, including fostering ongoing communication, providing career clarity, and—most important of all—building trust between your organization and your employees.

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How Big Data and Analytics are Shaping the Future of HCM https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/big-data-prescriptive-analytics/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/big-data-prescriptive-analytics/#comments Thu, 06 Apr 2017 10:00:56 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=945 We’re officially in Q2 of 2017, and it’s clear that some of the same industry-leading trends that having been influencing HR for years have continued to advance and will remain hot topics for the foreseeable future. Big Data and its natural counterpart, analytics, showed the potential to impact nearly every aspect of HCM–and recent advancements […]

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We’re officially in Q2 of 2017, and it’s clear that some of the same industry-leading trends that having been influencing HR for years have continued to advance and will remain hot topics for the foreseeable future. Big Data and its natural counterpart, analytics, showed the potential to impact nearly every aspect of HCM–and recent advancements have made them increasingly instrumental for today’s HR and business leaders.

Leveraging Yesterday’s Data to Change Tomorrow

Big Data provides a staggering wealth of quantitative information, often mined from millions of complex data points to shed light onto patterns, trends and outliers that can significantly affect organizations. Because of Big Data’s sheer enormity, advanced analytics are necessary to glean any usable insights from these massive collections, and current technology is capable of much more than simply detecting organizational trends (although this alone is quite valuable, too).

prescriptive analyticsToday’s analytical HCM solutions can predict everything from performance success to retention risk, using unbiased mathematical algorithms to forecast future scenarios with tremendous accuracy. What’s more, the development of prescriptive analytics takes predictive measures one step farther, offering fact-based, real-time suggestions at key decision points to assist employers in making their most crucial leadership decisions. These prescriptive analytics solutions are part of a new generation of insight-driven tools that enable organizations to easily harness the power of Big Data and gain a competitive edge for the future.

HR leaders and executives are empowered to proactively plan for and protect against obstacles, instead of responding retroactively. American Fidelity Assurance Company, for example, benefited significantly from implementing UltiPro’s data-driven predictive analytics, and an in-house curriculum that guides managers through step-by-step strategies to motivate high-risk, high-performing employees. In addition to improving retention, American Fidelity was able to concentrate on developing their high-potential and top-performing individuals and increase engagement among employees (and management) as a result.

The People Factor

As human resources professionals, it’s important not to forget the human aspect. Let’s face it: people can be complicated and unpredictable. While data analysis has come incredibly far in its evolution from real-time to predictive to prescriptive, a common criticism of Big Data is its inability to recognize the emotions and motivations behind why people acted the way that they did.

Understanding what inspires employees and what they care about most is a crucial aspect of building a workplace that values, engages, and retains its people. Annual performance reviews and exit/stay surveys simply aren’t effective enough at recognizing the actual employee experience. That’s why I’m extremely excited about new sentiment-analysis technology, which combines natural language processing (NLP) and machine-learning algorithms to interpret and analyze comprehensive open-ended surveys and reveal underlying employee emotions. These surveys, which can be sent out at regular intervals and completed on both desktop and mobile devices, reveal not only what your employees are saying, but also the underlying emotions they’re feeling. Here’s a glimpse of how it works:

Using prescriptive analytics and sentiment analysis means that today’s leaders can review both quantitative and qualitative data to understand past trends and future developments. Even better, they’re supported by real-time, actionable insights to improve every aspect of the employee experience while pinpointing future high performers and flight risks. Big Data and analytics may be the same buzzwords we’ve been using for years, but they’re anything but yesterday’s news.

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