Ultimate Software's Blog https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com Thoughts on Putting People First in the Workplace Fri, 19 Oct 2018 17:28:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 An Easier Way to Have a Tough Conversation https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/managers-tough-conversations/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/managers-tough-conversations/#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2018 19:28:53 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1520 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. Managers […]

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managers tough conversationsFrom time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

Managers are often in tough spots. They are required to complete projects while managing their people well. Because people are people, complete with mistakes, errors, and sometimes even naivety, employees can put managers in situations where difficult conversations have to occur. Whether it’s someone isn’t doing her job, creating problems for coworkers or customers, or not even showing up for work, these difficult conversations can cause our overworked managers anxiety. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article found that two-thirds of managers are uncomfortable with these conversations due to the anxiety of how the employee will react. We, in HR, can do something about that.

We can equip managers with both support and a checklist. The support means coaching them through prep work for the chat. Offer advice on what to say and how to say it. Tell them, “You’ve got this” and, “I’m here if you need me.” These words of comfort are important.

As for the checklist, here’s how to help managers prepare for those tough conversations:

  • Plan. Prepare a script. I recommend managers draft an email with some bullet points with the main message or a full script of what they need to convey to the employee. If a manager doesn’t plan, it’s possible that the conversation will veer into uncharted waters and the manager may miss the clear messaging she wanted to discuss.
  • Consult. Consult with HR, another manager, and/or the manager’s manager. Soliciting feedback about misconduct or poor performance can help improve the messaging or alter the manager’s wording to make the message even more clear, less emotional, or less harsh.
  • Take a beat. Yes, performance and discipline should be addressed as soon as possible, but a discussion should not happen in the heat of the moment or in anger. Managers need a beat to breathe, plan, and consult. It’s okay, and even preferred, when the manager’s own emotion could hinder the discussion. Just don’t let the beat last longer than one business day.
  • Schedule. This is a short, in-person meeting—usually less than 15 minutes. There should not be a long list of things the manager needs to cover. Bogging it down with other subjects reduces the importance of the poor performance or discipline part of the discussion, so these issues should be the only topic of conversation, from the manager’s perspective. Plus, if a manager adds other topics, the employee may not remember the most important points.
  • Anticipate. Usually a manager knows if an employee will cry, become defensive, and/or get angry. Ponder this when planning what could happen. Managers should have tissues ready, let HR know they’re having the conversation, or plan to have someone with them if they have concerns about the employee’s reaction. Select this person carefully—s/he should not be a coworker of the employee. It’s best if it’s someone from HR.
  • Prepare for surprise. Sometimes, a manager won’t be able to anticipate how the employee reacts. If the employee starts lodging complaints, the manager needs to know how to refocus the discussion. Managers will need to hear a complaint, but then remind the employee that they’re there to talk about a performance or discipline issue. Managers should report the complaint immediately after the meeting, so HR or upper management can take action.
  • Document. Managers can use their preparation bullet points or script to recap, adding notes on how the meeting actually went. The employee doesn’t have to sign off on the documentation, but should know of the document’s existence.

Tough conversations aren’t what most, if any, managers look forward to in their day-to-day work. However, sometimes they still need to take place. With a little preparation, and even help from HR, we can make tough conversations a bit easier for everyone.

 

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Women in Technology: United We Stand https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/women-in-tech/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/women-in-tech/#respond Thu, 06 Sep 2018 10:00:11 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1503 It’s conference season and at Ultimate Software, we are excited that preparations for our participation in the HR Technology Conference & Expo and the Grace Hopper Celebration—the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, produced by AnitaB.org—are in full swing. I am honored to be part of the Women in Technology track at HR Tech again […]

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women in techIt’s conference season and at Ultimate Software, we are excited that preparations for our participation in the HR Technology Conference & Expo and the Grace Hopper Celebration—the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, produced by AnitaB.org—are in full swing. I am honored to be part of the Women in Technology track at HR Tech again this year, and to be working with so many dedicated women and men who are committed to elevating the role of women in tech. All this activity gives me an opportunity to share some thoughts on the state of women in technology in a broader context.  Being a woman in today’s male-dominated technology industry (with persistently inequitable salaries, limited leadership opportunities, and all-too-frequent harassment) can be an exhausting challenge. I find myself reflecting on how women come to be leaders in their organizations—and on the barriers that keep them from doing so. Despite many of my peers in the tech sector sharing our stories and readily offering sponsorship and advice to other women through informal and more formal programs like Ultimate Software’s Women in Leadership program, we have work to do.

The statistics on this subject paint a vivid—and troubling—picture of these barriers. While women make up 46.8 percent of the American workforce, fewer than five percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. According to McKinsey & Company, women are 18 percent less likely than men to get promoted to management positions. This percentage drops even further for women of color and women in tech: as of 2015, the proportions of Black and Latina women in computing occupations were 3 and 1 percent, respectively.

Even though these numbers have been widely circulated in HR circles, I continue to come across corporate annual reports that feature a variety of diverse employees on the cover page. The subtext of this imagery, inferring that the organization behind the report champions diversity and inclusion, could not be more clearly at odds with the difficult reality the above statistics reveal. How do the distressing stories and statistics on women in tech (and in business as a whole) keep coming at a fever pace, when virtually every company today claims D&I as an important issue or initiative?

Interestingly, many companies appear to be downplaying their D&I initiatives of late, according to a recent report by software provider Atlassian. The report chalks up the backpedaling to what it calls ‘diversity fatigue’. A key factor in this inactivity is an over-focus on increasing diversity statistics, instead of creating truly inclusive workplaces, the report concludes.

“People are tired of talking about diversity and inclusion, frustrated by talk not turning into impactful action, and overwhelmed by the number of issues to address and the scope of what must change,” the report states. “While respondents continue to say that they care about diversity and inclusion, action declined across the board.”

As a woman whose work involves helping companies design superior experiences for employees to achieve purposeful and productive jobs, I am committed to finding ways to break down the barriers that keep women from rising to the ranks of tech industry leadership. This task will not be easy, but I do have a few suggestions:

  • An employer that offers competitive compensation packages and great benefits to all new employees, does not always have a truly diverse and inclusive work culture.
  • Enviable diversity statistics are positive but don’t mean the company is also inclusive. Ask the recruitment officer for evidence of inclusion—real examples demonstrating that the contributions of all people are valued and that women and other under-represented groups are staying.
  • Ask for promotion statistics across different job types and demographics. If they can’t offer up the goods when asked, proceed with caution.

Companies that hope to weaken the glass ceiling must make inclusion more than a priority, it must become the fabric of their business’ success. They must take bold action now to promote women and men of all ethnic and racial backgrounds at similar rates, ensure that incidences of discrimination are met with real consequences, and create simple and confidential processes to empower their people to report evidence of unfair treatment and harassment.

What’s in it for businesses that take these steps? That’s easy. They will become employers of choice, successful companies composed of workforces that are the envy of their competitors. They will foster within their organizations the sense of disarming comfort that I experienced when I first went to the Grace Hopper Celebration—and realized I was not a minority in the tech ranks. Now is the time for all companies to turn the statistics around and reap the benefits of truly diverse and inclusive leadership… because at the end of the day, putting all people first is the key to business success.

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Employee Engagement in the Augmented Age https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-augmented-age/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-augmented-age/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 13:08:58 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1494 Fretting about the security of your job because of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? In our marvelous age of cognitive computing technologies, the good news is that people will perform less boring and repetitive manual tasks. The bad news is that individuals may lose their jobs as a consequence. The widening knowledge of human displacement by […]

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cognitive computing employee engagementFretting about the security of your job because of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? In our marvelous age of cognitive computing technologies, the good news is that people will perform less boring and repetitive manual tasks. The bad news is that individuals may lose their jobs as a consequence.

The widening knowledge of human displacement by robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, augmented intelligence, natural language processing, and image-recognition tools is sending shivers across some workplaces. Not just administrative, entry-level, or task-based roles are at risk of being replaced by robots; business professions like accountants, loan officers, and insurance underwriters also are vulnerable.

One cannot blame companies for deploying technologies that make their organizations and operations more efficient and competitive, executing work at much greater speed, consistency, and quality. Since the Industrial Age, anytime a new technology is introduced, there are always labor implications. The difference now is the breadth and scope of potential job displacement and wide-scale awareness of its imminence—even if this is many years in the future.

Businesses avow that their investments in cognitive computing will free up people to provide them with more interesting, value-added work. There is much truth in this. A case in point is Finance, where RPA is being widely deployed to perform account reconciliations and journal entries. Rather than crunch the numbers, accountants are now liberated to make sense of them for strategic decision-making purposes—certainly more interesting work.

While not the dystopian picture that some critics of robotics paint, the truth is that, over time, some jobs will disappear. People know this: According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans (67%) predict that, within 50 years, robots and computers will do much of the work they currently perform.

Since we’re human beings, we like to think the worst won’t happen to us. The Pew survey underscores this quirk of human nature, noting that 80% of the respondents believe their own jobs to be safe. Obviously, there is a disconnect here.

Since my passion is workplace transformation and its impact on human beings, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a future in which bots of one form or another are ubiquitous in the workplace. How might this affect employee engagement as we move forward?

My work entails helping companies create work experiences that enable all people to find and engage in productive jobs and meaningful careers. If people are worried about retaining their jobs—even many years in the future—how can they possibly perform their roles today with passion and diligence?

To delve further into this subject, I reached out to Jeremy Scrivens, whose life’s work has involved liberating people to be all they can be at work. Jeremy is a respected work futurist and collaboration catalyst. He’s the director of The Emotional Economy At Work augmented again in Western Australia, where he focuses on guiding organizations and teams to create exceptional collaboration capabilities through a highly engaged workforce.

Jeremy is highly tuned in to the emotional qualities of people in their work. “The problem with work today,” he told me, “is that people who have been the operators of processes since the Industrial Age are suddenly dispensable. If people are going to be displaced to some extent by robots in future, why they need to work at all must be reappraised.”

Cognitive computing technology, Jeremy believes, is not just a way to free people from being cogs in a machine—it is also an opportunity for companies to liberate people to make deeper connections, augmenting our abilities to be more fully human at work. It requires businesses to start with a fresh sheet of paper that accepts that certain tools are now available to humans that were not available before. The question then becomes: How can a business reimagine itself to provide meaningful and consequential responsibilities to people for them to make the world a better place?

For one thing, Jeremy advocates that companies replace their current organizational paradigms of flat, hierarchically structured work responsibilities with collaborative engagements in which everyone co-innovates a shared future. This is the work he does in his projects for companies and governments. In all cases, he creates a physical “appreciative inquiry summit” and a virtual “social room.” Both call for bringing together people in open discussions.

I am a huge fan of involving people more directly in these changes by having a say in their reskilling, future roles, and work—something we don’t do enough of today in corporate America. As Jeremy explains, “The future of work must begin and end with the restoration of the individual.”

Jeremy recently put his concept of open discussions to collaborate and create the future of work on behalf of Acivico, a Birmingham, England-based provider of design, construction, facilities cleaning, and catering services. The company wanted its next chapter to be one of greater collaboration and social good. “You can’t innovate without collaboration,” Jeremy explained.

Recognizing that social good and business success in today’s Digital Age can easily co-exist and are preferable to many younger workers, Acivico’s CEO at the time, Trevor Haynes, asked Jeremy to work with a core team of employees to create a social room. This room would serve as a virtual meeting place for people in the company and the local community to engage more personally with one another through social media. A social native himself, Jeremy first connected with Haynes (who continues to serve on Acivico’s board) via Twitter.

The collaborations gave rise to #ACIVICommunity, a Birmingham Social Room hosted by Acivico. People who participate in the social room have the opportunity to engage in social-good projects and collaborations across Birmingham. “They can use the platform to initiate or follow social-good projects they believe in,” said Jeremy. “These projects are open to the community to join with Acivico employees to enable more social good and business to be done at scale.”

One example is to leverage the social room to collaborate on solutions to the city’s homeless crisis, providing every homeless person with daily sleeping accommodations and meals. Other examples include working with local businesses to create job opportunities for ex-offenders who struggle to get second chances, and engaging schools and students to become more involved in social activities. Certainly, the latter would assist the early development of the next generation of community and business leaders. The possibilities are inspiring and endless.

What does all this have to do with robots? In the new Augmented Age, the efforts of a single person or organization can reach far beyond what we could imagine in the past and can transform the experience of people for the better—as in the case of the people of Birmingham, who through social collaboration and the assistance of local business, are reimagining a more connected and positive future benefitting both business and society. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to create such an organization, one driven by people sharing their respective brilliance to create a better world for all.

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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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A Culture of Real Inclusion https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/diversity-inclusion-work/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/diversity-inclusion-work/#comments Thu, 21 Jun 2018 10:00:45 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1464 Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has hit the mainstream and moved beyond the realm of HR of late, in part due to many highly publicized cases highlighting the persistence of inequities in the workplace. In fact, D&I is increasingly becoming a component of companies’ employee-recruitment and customer-branding strategies. Businesses promote their D&I statistics to candidates in […]

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diversity & inclusionDiversity and inclusion (D&I) has hit the mainstream and moved beyond the realm of HR of late, in part due to many highly publicized cases highlighting the persistence of inequities in the workplace. In fact, D&I is increasingly becoming a component of companies’ employee-recruitment and customer-branding strategies. Businesses promote their D&I statistics to candidates in online recruiting solutions, noting the percentages of employed women, African-Americans, Hispanics, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented employee groups, while those organizations that do not must answer to candidates who want to know how diverse their potential workplaces are. Progress has been made.

The problem is that these statistics focus on diversity, which is fairly easy to tally up. Inclusion, on the other hand, is harder to measure and prove, yet is just as important a component of D&I. One without the other is only half-baked.

A workforce of diverse individuals can show that a company is committed to creating a well-balanced team or has an openness to people’s differences. Inclusion—the feeling of belonging that comes about when employees are treated equitably and are free to bring their authentic selves to work—indicates the company welcomes their ideas, perspectives, and opinions.

Tremendous business opportunities are available to companies that value the contributions of all employees, whether they’re gay or straight, black or white, American or foreign by birth. The more extensive the diversity of people in an organization, the greater the possibility of generating unique ideas and innovating.

While diversity is valuable to the business, due to government regulations and the social conscience of business leaders, many workforces have become diversified. Energy now must be put into creating cultures of inclusion.

These thoughts were top of mind during a recent lunch discussion I enjoyed with a colleague I deeply admire, Viv Maza, Ultimate’s chief people officer. Viv has been the heart of the company since its inception in 1990, when the workforce consisted of four people in two cubicles and not the 4,300+ employees we have today. While inclusion is a buzzword today, Viv has always been using the word—long before she was part of Ultimate’s founding team.

Viv agreed with me that diversity and inclusion are two different things, yet many companies tend to lump them together, believing a diverse workforce is an inclusive one.

“Inclusivity is one of our core principles at Ultimate,” said Viv. “Since day one, my job has been to take care of all our people, regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. This is deeply embedded in my DNA and defines who I am.”

As the mother of two gay children, Viv has a personal connection to the need for all individuals, LGBTQ employees in particular, to be fully themselves at work as they are in life. “When someone comes out as gay, telling their parents or their employer, they’re so nervous,” she said. “I recall this one employee who came out to me. I told him that being openly gay didn’t change the dynamic of the special person he was. I wanted him to be as comfortable with himself as I was with him.”

Viv pointed out that the company has many other talented and gifted employees who are gay, but not all of them are out. “The decision to come out, of course, is up to them, but I can promise them that this is a safe place of belonging for all our amazing people,” she said. “We value each and every person’s contributions, regardless of their differences. In fact, we cherish their differences.”

Viv’s feelings about inclusion extend to other aspects of personal self-identification. She recalled a job interview with a young woman last year that mentioned her previous employer had fired her because she had purple-colored hair. “I told her purple hair looks amazing and if that is how she defines herself, bring it on,” said Viv. “Twenty years ago, we might have questioned her choice. But this is a new age in which things that weren’t acceptable at work are now seen as liberating. Work cultures used to be so conformist. Today, they’re dynamic, and that’s a good thing.”

Viv’s point resonated with me. I’ve come to see corporate culture not as a fixed set of standards, but as a living, breathing, and evolving entity. When a new person joins a team, the culture of the group changes and expands, enriched by the new person’s experiences and perspectives. If the individual feels he or she has to conform to the dynamics of the team, the group suffers the loss of the person’s unique viewpoint. The new employee might feel uncomfortable expressing a novel thought or a different opinion without fear of embarrassment or, worse, humiliation and eventual exclusion. Yet, all it takes is one extraordinary idea to upend the status quo and move the business forward.

We’ve always prioritized and valued our remarkable culture at Ultimate. We all know that an optimal culture reflects an organization’s strengths and reinforces its brand, reputation, and ability to attract the best people and deliver industry-leading solutions and support. But what exactly is an “optimal” culture?

One way to find out is by assessing the reality of an organization’s culture today, as well as where the organization’s culture might go in the future depending on key decisions and strategies. I refer to this as “Culture Casting,” and it has three components, the first of which is to take an honest appraisal of the current culture—casting a bright spotlight on it.

The second component is to identify the culture’s “cast of characters”—the different people within the organization—to understand what drives them and what impact they have on the culture. Are they detractors or promoters? And the third component is to project and communicate a vision of the ideal culture the organization wants to have in future. It is particularly important to include employees in the vision of the future to ensure the discussion is authentic and realistic, and addresses perception gaps between leaders and employees.

What does this have to do with inclusion? Certainly, by knowing each person, their perspectives, and their perceptions in a scalable fashion, the organization can ensure their contributions are accorded equitable weight and value, with respect to what is most important to the organization itself. Without this understanding, inequities and biases come into play and can erode inclusivity in a culture.

As we finished our lunch, Viv commented about a future in which every employee feels their unique selves are making a difference in their shared journey to designing innovative solutions and providing meaningful service. “Labels are meaningless,” said Viv. “What’s crucial is to create an environment where people feel safe and supported to be who they are.”

We are beyond fortunate to have her as our Chief People Officer!

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The Business Case for UltiPro Perception at SPS Companies, Inc. https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/drivers-of-employee-engagement/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/drivers-of-employee-engagement/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 10:00:01 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1451 by Corey Kephart, VP of HR, SPS Companies, Inc. At SPS, we have thrived for 80 years by maximizing value in our business and by investing in our people. When we selected UltiPro for our human capital management in 2016, we found a platform that would do both—help us save costs and increase productivity, and […]

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by Corey Kephart, VP of HR, SPS Companies, Inc.

drivers of employee engagementAt SPS, we have thrived for 80 years by maximizing value in our business and by investing in our people. When we selected UltiPro for our human capital management in 2016, we found a platform that would do both—help us save costs and increase productivity, and elevate our employees’ work experience.

When I discovered UltiPro Perception in 2017, I saw endless opportunities to harness value from the tool and drive transformational change in our organization. The business case for UltiPro Perception is clear: if we can understand the drivers of employee engagement, we can make the right investments to boost engagement, and these investments will lead to better business results. I was excited to get started, and we launched UltiPro Perception in about two weeks.

To date, we have used UltiPro Perception to power surveys on almost 20 topics, such as benefits, engagement, and leadership development, through more than 30 surveys overall. Our ability to receive instant feedback through the solution has helped our leaders take action quickly, and be responsive to the needs of our employees.

Beyond the ability to impact organizational performance, my favorite part of UltiPro Perception has been the positive response and genuine enthusiasm from decision makers at SPS, from the chairman and the CEO, down to the senior managers that oversee our different facilities. They often describe the UltiPro Perception reports as the best resource they have ever seen from an HR department, and I take great pride in the ability to provide this level of value.

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The Employee Experience Imperative: Q&A with David Johnson https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-experience-imperative/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-experience-imperative/#respond Thu, 31 May 2018 12:19:31 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1445 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. Earlier […]

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From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

employee experienceEarlier this year, David Johnson, principal analyst for Forrester, joined Cecile Alper-Leroux, Ultimate’s VP of human capital management innovation, for a comprehensive webcast detailing some of the disruptive trends reshaping the future of work. Today on the blog, he’s offering a deep dive into one of the most significant issues facing employers today — the employee experience — including common pitfalls and suggestions backed by the most up-to-date analyst research.

1. How does employee engagement/employee experience have an impact on business success?

In Forrester’s view, the engagement is an outcome of the employee experience. And employee experience is a combination of what each employee brings with them to work each day (emotions, perceptions, motivations, etc.) and what they experience while there. Our research has identified four outcomes of a better employee experience that significantly improve business results, including financial performance and growth.

  • Better work performance. A 2016 IBM study showed that 96% of employees in the top quartile of employee experience report high levels of work performance, as opposed to 73% for employees in the bottom quartile. Positive employee experience leads to higher job performance and productivity. Several other studies prove the links between EX and objective performance measures as well.
  • Higher discretionary effort. The IBM study also showed that 95% of employees reporting a positive experience with their company say they engage in activities that are beneficial to their organization but aren’t necessarily part of their job. The number drops to 55% for employees reporting a poor employee experience. And discretionary effort makes the difference between typical and extraordinary business results. An academic study summarized in the Harvard Business Review found that when employees are willing to go beyond their formal roles and engage in “extra-role behaviors,” companies are more efficient and effective.
  • Lower employee turnover. The factors that affect employee turnover vary by industry and job role, but excessive workload is a top culprit across the board. Conversely, several studies show that when employers pay close attention to employee workload and help employees balance the demands of their jobs with key resources such as technology and training, they can sharply reduce burnout and employee turnover. When Starbucks rolled out mobile ordering, it analyzed how the initiative affected employee workload. Starbucks enjoys an annual employee turnover of only 65%, in an industry that averages 150% to 400%. Industry data pegs the cost of replacing store employees at 16% of annual pay, so the company saves $3,000 for every employee it retains. With 162,000 store employees, every 1% increase in retention saves the company $1.7 million.
  • Improved customer experience. Dell found that the customer Net Promoter Score (NPS) was twice as high for experiences delivered by highly engaged employees.* Similarly, a 2016 Yale study with a large rental car company showed that employee engagement has a positive and statistically significant effect on NPS: “Going from low employee engagement to high employee engagement will increase the likelihood of a customer being highly satisfied by 2.5 percentage points.” In addition, the study found that satisfied customers are more likely to keep doing business with the company and that employee engagement programs should focus on building customer centricity.

2. How is employee experience linked to customer experience?

As far back as the service-profit chain theory in 1994, firms have understood that happier employees correlate with happier customers — and happier shareholders. Research by Aon Hewitt reveals a statistical correlation between employee engagement and revenue growth: a 5% improvement in employee engagement leads to a 3% increase in revenue. And many firms, like Maersk Line and Mercedes-Benz, quantify the impact of engaged employees on their own customer experience (CX) delivery and business outcomes and use the insights to guide investments in technology.

And there are many other studies that show these links. Insights from Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) prove that, with few exceptions, CX leaders outperform CX laggards in revenue growth because customers find it more effective, easy, and enjoyable to do business with them. Studies show that that this is most likely to happen when employees feel that they can get their work done, their companies do a good job of facilitating their success, and they have a strong personal connection to their work.

3. What are the key factors that drive employee engagement?

Recent studies show that the single most important factor in a positive employee experience is employees’ ability to make progress, every day, toward the work that they believe is most important. There are many reasons for this, but from a psychological perspective, it’s tied to safety. It’s also tied strongly to intrinsic motivation, which stems from the love of the work itself, and not necessarily pay or benefits. Adequate pay and good benefits matter, of course, but they are not the source of engagement. Intrinsic motivation is, and that is driven most by being able to make daily progress toward it.

Most companies fail by not thinking about the employee experience at the daily journey level. Thus, they’re not aware of what’s inhibiting their ability to make progress. If they’re not aware of those factors, it’s difficult to target them for improvement. This is why it’s so important for companies to be listening carefully to their employees about what they are experiencing and what they need to be successful. Gathering employee feedback, interpreting it correctly, and taking it seriously is vital.

4.Why do many employee engagement initiatives fail?

Part of the problem is that HR often leads efforts to improve employee engagement without the help of key groups like tech leaders, who significantly influence the tools and resources that help employees be more engaged (or not). Studies find that:

  • Employers usually analyze engagement at only the organizational level. Researchers now distinguish between organizational engagement and job engagement because people often report feeling engaged with their companies but not with their daily work. In other words, employees can be happy with the company but still not productive because something is wrong at the job level. Accordingly, employee engagement efforts that focus only on the organization as a whole will fall short.
  • Companies don’t listen to employees or remove obstacles. In a Medallia Institute survey of 1,000 frontline employees, 78% report that their leaders claim customer experience as a top priority, but nearly 60% feel that their ideas for improving customer satisfaction often go unheard. And fewer than half believe they can count on leadership to remove obstacles to delighting customers. Net-net: Employees are frustrated by work environments where they feel prevented from doing more to deliver better CX. For example, call center employees who are measured on call resolution times will feel more stress if the applications they rely on are running slowly.
  • Employees don’t believe that their employers appreciate their work. A recent study conducted by the Cicero Group asked 9,600 people on six continents what one thing their employer could do to help them do great work. The top response (37%) was “recognize me.” That insight about the importance of recognition inspired B2B accounting services firm Crowe Horwath to create a new program called Pay It Forward on top of its existing client experience survey process. Now, employees mentioned by name in client surveys get an automated alert to highlight which other colleagues, particularly behind the scenes, contributed to good client experience. In the year after Crowe Horwath implemented Pay It Forward, it recognized 50% more employees for their efforts in delivering an exceptional client experience. Unfortunately, too few firms provide this type of consistent recognition to employees.
  • Leaders recognize the problem but don’t think they can solve it. Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Report 2015 offers another reason for persistently low engagement scores: Most business and HR leaders believe that they lack the capabilities to meet the challenge of engaging employees. This skills gap is even more alarming because executives cite culture and engagement as two of the most important challenges facing their organizations.What can HR and business leaders do to improve employee experience and foster employee engagement in their organizations? 

5. What can HR and business leaders do to improve employee experience and foster employee engagement in their organizations?

In Forrester’s view, the most important thing they can do is become more attuned to the factors that affect employees’ daily journeys. That requires gathering a lot more feedback from employees not only through surveys and discussions but also through structured exercises like employee journey mapping. These exercises can help them find not just obvious factors but also systemic factors outside of any employee’s individual control, like how the wrong metrics may have unintended consequences that make it harder for employees to succeed in their daily work.

This level of attunement requires not only listening but also building powers of analysis to strip away the noise and accurately identify the most important factor.

6. What tools and methods can HR and business leaders use to establish an employee experience benchmark and continue to improve?

The timing for this is excellent, as vendors are now able to use technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to analyze employee feedback from surveys, voice of the employee program interviews, and even email and verbal communications to gain more insight into how employees perceive their organizations and what can be done to improve their experience with their organizations.

But even without advanced AI and NLP technologies, gathering employee feedback through surveys, interviews, and journey mapping exercises — and using it to improve employees’ experience in their daily journeys — will pay significant dividends.

 

* Net Promoter and NPS are registered service marks, and Net Promoter Score is a service mark, of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

Sources:

“The Employee Experience Imperative” Forrester report, December 15, 2017.

“Engineer Your Technology Environment To Improve Employee Productivity And Flow” Forrester report, December 15, 2017.

 

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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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World Poetry Day the UltiWay https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/world-poetry-day/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/world-poetry-day/#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2018 10:00:29 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1263 Today is World Poetry Day. To celebrate with a poem—why, there’s no better way! So in an effort to quench your poetic thirst, let Ultimate Software present: An Ode to Putting People First You’ve got a great product, an all-star team All’s well for a while, then you start to lose steam You check the […]

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world poetry dayToday is World Poetry Day. To celebrate with a poem—why, there’s no better way!

So in an effort to quench your poetic thirst, let Ultimate Software present:

An Ode to Putting People First

You’ve got a great product, an all-star team
All’s well for a while, then you start to lose steam
You check the numbers, there’s a problem with retention
Your most important asset, your people, need more attention

There’s trouble with your culture, frustration seems to brew
You sent an engagement survey last year, what more can you do?
To truly make a difference, take the path better traversed
Adopt Ultimate’s core principle. Put your people first.

You like how that sounds, onboard with the theme
But still a little unsure, “What does it all mean?”
It’s focusing on employees, far beyond the paycheck
It’s cultural transformation, with help from HR tech.

Sentiment analysis, BI, artificial intelligence
Our solutions are both innovative and elegant
Xander™ powers our platform, so the AI’s immersed
And it all comes together to put people first.

But did you know most people regret their HCM purchase?
It’s not product functionality; they’re disappointed with service.
That’s why we’re always available, meaning 24/7
To improve your experience and answer your questions.

Our personalized approach goes beyond software support
To help you optimize solutions and design your reports
We solve problems proactively, eliminate strife,
You’re more than a customer. You’re our “Partner for Life.”

It’s never too late to adopt a new perspective
Happier employees, better bottom lines, “Now that’s effective!”
For over 25 years, it’s been the Ultimate way
Respect and care for all; everyone, every day.

We’ve made the commitment, and so can you—
To achieve great success, put people first in all you do.

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Thanking All of the People Who Make Ultimate Great https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/people-make-ultimate-great/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/people-make-ultimate-great/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:08:55 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1251 Maybe I’m biased, but I have the greatest job in the world. As Ultimate Software’s Chief People Officer, I have the daily privilege of caring for our employees, spending quality time with our teams, and ensuring our programs and companywide culture continue to serve our people. Ask any one of my colleagues on Ultimate’s leadership […]

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Maybe I’m biased, but I have the greatest job in the world. As Ultimate Software’s Chief People Officer, I have the daily privilege of caring for our employees, spending quality time with our teams, and ensuring our programs and companywide culture continue to serve our people.

Ask any one of my colleagues on Ultimate’s leadership team, and you’ll hear the same sentiments. We are incredibly grateful for the thoughtful notes, emails, and tweets we receive from our employees, each expressing their heartfelt thanks and appreciation for Ultimate.

But, we aren’t the ones who deserve the credit—it’s our people.

The more than 4,200 employees who work tirelessly every day to make Ultimate one of the Best Companies to Work For.

Who do whatever it takes to personally serve our customers, and who don’t quit until a question has been answered or a solution has been provided.

Who treat every coworker with the greatest respect, trust, and care, recognizing the critical role each person plays in Ultimate’s success, and appreciating the unique views and experiences every individual brings to our company.

Who believe in our “People First” mission, exemplify our core values, and protect our culture to see that everyone is supported, every day. That everyone has the resources they need to grow as professionals, and to thrive as people.

Who pay it forward by serving our 4,100-plus customers, and countless others in our local communities.

Who we never take for granted, and feel extremely proud and fortunate to call members of our Ultimate family.

For the past 28 years, no matter what challenge we’ve faced or what achievement we’ve celebrated, there’s been one constant at Ultimate: people.

We remain committed to providing the absolute best workplace for our employees—with 100%-paid healthcare premiums, unlimited PTO, and company equity.

We are 100% focused on delivering the most innovative HCM technology, and the industry’s most comprehensive support to our customers—from our portfolio of advanced AI technologies, Xander, to our new UltiPro Connect integration hub.

It’s always been, and always will be, about people. And, at Ultimate, we have the greatest people in the world.

Below is a sampling of the amazing tweets we’ve recently received from our employees. On behalf of the entire Ultimate leadership team, we Thank YOU, our people. Not just on Employee Appreciation Day, but every day.

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