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 Discipline vs. Performance – Spotting the Differences and Finding Solutions https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/poor-performance/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/poor-performance/#comments Wed, 04 Apr 2018 13:27:15 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1298 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. Being […]

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poor performanceFrom 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.

Being able to tell misconduct apart from poor performance isn’t necessarily rocket science. But the differences often confuse managers, and that can cause missteps when they’re addressed. Managers might put someone who is late a lot on a performance improvement plan (PIP), or—as is usually the case—discipline an employee for poor performance. However, when an employee is disciplined for poor performance, he’s often left on his own to figure out what went wrong, or even left thinking he’s bound to fail. That’s not helping anyone improve.

Misconduct

Misconduct differs from poor performance. Misconduct involves intentional or negligent conduct (such as not caring enough to be on time to work), whereas poor performance is actually doing the job poorly. Being late isn’t doing the job. Lying to a manager isn’t doing the job. While it may impact the work, misconduct is separate and apart from the actual work.

Here’s a simple way to spot the difference: you may be able to train away poor performance, but you can’t train an employee to get to work on time, not lie to you, or not steal from you.

Misconduct requires discipline. Simply put, we have to discipline when employee misconduct warrants it. Managers dislike having disciplinary conversations. However, failure to discipline will result in poor morale overall and, ultimately, poor productivity and employee engagement.

Discipline for misconduct includes, in escalating order of severity: verbal warning, written warning, suspension, and termination. Except where a union has bargained otherwise, an employer gets to choose what level of discipline it will apply in a particular situation. An employee who is late four times might get a verbal warning and may get a written warning if she continues to be late. An employee who steals a truck usually gets fired. Imagine discipline issues as the concepts we learned in kindergarten—don’t hit people, clean up your messes, don’t take things that aren’t yours, tell the truth, and so on.

Poor Performance

Poor performance also looks different than misconduct. Poor performance is the inability to get a job done or done to the employer’s expectations. For performance issues, we expect that employees will get the chance to improve. Fairness also tells us that employees should get that chance.

Employers often address poor performance with a PIP, which typically has three parts: it explains why the performance is subpar; what the employee can do to improve his performance; and what tools, training, or other support the employee can expect to receive throughout the process. This is really what sets discipline apart from performance management—performance management requires the employer do something to help improve the performance.

Handling Discipline and Improving Performance

Here are just a few things managers can do to help improve performance:

  1. Coach. Managers have an opportunity to coach employees to improve performance.  Whether it is spending more time with the employee, shadowing, providing encouragement, or simply providing more hands-on training, coaching is a great way to show how to do something correctly.
  2. Assign a partner. If there is another team member who does the job well, match that individual with the employee whose performance misses the mark.  If both have a good attitude, performance will improve.
  3. Provide more training. If available, additional training on the technology used, the process, or product could improve performance.

Finally, don’t forget to check in.  Performance is not something organizations can afford to ignore.  When it is poor and improving performance, spending the extra time for a one-on-one or quick chat will go far in improving and monitoring performance.

We as HR professionals have to teach managers how to properly address an employee issue. When we treat a discipline issue as a performance issue, we take on too much. When we discipline a performance issue, we don’t give the employee the tools she needs to succeed.

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Bobsledding Couple Looks to Bring Home Gold from PyeongChang Together in Latest #UltimateTeamMoment https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/bobsledding-couple-looks-bring-home-gold-pyeongchang-together-latest-ultimateteammoment/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/bobsledding-couple-looks-bring-home-gold-pyeongchang-together-latest-ultimateteammoment/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 20:51:06 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1246 Taking teamwork to another level, bobsledding pair and married couple, Elana Meyers Taylor and Nic Taylor, are on their ways to PyeongChang, going for gold in the 2018 Winter Olympics. In today’s #UltimateTeamMoment, read how the full-time partners and part-time teammates motivate each other on and off the bobsled track, and how they both could […]

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Taking teamwork to another level, bobsledding pair and married couple, Elana Meyers Taylor and Nic Taylor, are on their ways to PyeongChang, going for gold in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In today’s #UltimateTeamMoment, read how the full-time partners and part-time teammates motivate each other on and off the bobsled track, and how they both could end up celebrating on the podium this month in South Korea.

Bobsled Teammate, Husband Nic Taylor Is Ultimate Teammate as Elana Meyers Taylor Goes for Gold, presented by Ultimate Software

By Karen PriceTEAM USA Ultimate Team Moment

Elana Meyers Taylor is set to compete in her third Olympic Games, and her career path has seen her team up with a number of talented brakemen, and drivers in her early career, who’ve helped her reach her goals.

Her ultimate teammate, both off and even sometimes on the bobsled track, however, is her husband and fellow bobsledder Nic Taylor.

Married in April 2014, the two support each other in every way as they pursue their dreams, from cheering one another on to helping stay on track with nutrition and sleep to even embarking on a road trip when a bobsled doesn’t show up on time. That’s what happened back in December when Meyers Taylor’s sled got held up in customs before the world cup in Winterberg, Germany.

“When our sled didn’t show up, he and a teammate were the ones who drove to Munich six hours one way to pick up a new sled, so it was pretty incredible of them to do that,” Meyers Taylor said. “Then they had to turn around and get back in time for training. He’s always doing little things—although that was a big thing—to make sure I have what I need. He serves as my sports psychologist, coach, therapist; he does everything for me.”

Being an elite bobsledding couple means little twists on the everyday issues that other couples face. They don’t have a house or an apartment anywhere because they’re on the go so often, which also means they don’t have the utility bills that go along with that. But they do have Airbnb’s to find and pay for along with credit card, phone, and other bills. They also have to think about cell service and internet reliability in the areas where they’ll be traveling and staying and making sure everything’s paid in case they can’t—or shouldn’t—be accessing financial information while on the road.

Then there’s meal preparation. With both of them training and racing, nutrition is critical for both, but in different ways.

“When we’re at a hotel, usually the hotel provides food, but when we’re at Airbnb’s one of us has to do the cooking,” she said. “He does most of it so I can focus on training, even though he’s training, too, and our food habits are different as well. I have to lose and he has to gain (weight), so he has to measure food and make sure I have the nutrients I need while he eats double what I need to eat and still loses weight.”

Although her focus is the women’s two-man sled, which is the Olympic event, Meyers Taylor has also had the opportunity to pilot a four-man sled with Taylor as a teammate.

After Meyers Taylor won a silver medal at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi in 2014, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) began allowing women to push four-man sleds for the first time. Since then, the two have raced together with results that this year included fourth- and fifth-place finishes at the North American Cup in Park City, Utah.

“It’s so awesome and so much fun, and one of the coolest things we’ve gotten to do,” she said of racing together. “Driving a four-man is in general amazing, but he takes care of everything with the sled so I can focus on driving the race. With him I know there are minimal things I’ll have to do as far as preparation. He takes care of it all and he knows what I need before I know I need it. With two-man you have a lot more responsibility as far as equipment goes, so it’s nice to have that break.”

When the two are away from the sleds, Meyers Taylor said, they try to minimize their shoptalk. At home, it’s the “B” word, and they have a rule about it.

“In order to bring up the ‘B’ word you have to ask permission,” she said. “Sometimes he’ll ask or I’ll ask and the answer is either, ‘No, we’re not talking about that right now,’ or sometimes it’s a yes.”

In addition to her Olympic medal, Meyers Taylor is also a two-time world champion. In short, she’s one of the best in the world at what she does. Yet one thing she was hoping for perhaps even more than making the 2018 Olympic team herself was that Taylor would make the team. Taylor, a former college track and field athlete who has pushed for pilots including the late Steven Holcomb and 2018 Olympian Codie Bascue, will travel to PyeongChang, but as a replacement athlete.

“(Trying to both make the Olympic team) is a lot of fun but it’s also hard,” Meyers Taylor said. “I want him to reach his goals sometimes more than I want to reach my own goals, and when he does or doesn’t it’s an emotional rollercoaster.

“Part of the reason I’m a driver is because I’m a bit of a control freak and in his career, there’s nothing I can do to control it. I can’t control if he’s put on the team or anything other than directly racing with him, and sometimes that’s hard. But when he does reach his goals, it’s better than anything I can do.”

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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New #UltimateTeamMoment: U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team Prepared for Success in PyeongChang https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/new-ultimateteammoment-u-s-womens-cross-country-ski-team-prepared-success-pyeongchang/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/new-ultimateteammoment-u-s-womens-cross-country-ski-team-prepared-success-pyeongchang/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 20:00:43 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1235 With the 2018 Winter Olympics here, Team USA is set to go for gold across the Games. In today’s #UltimateTeamMoment, read how the relentless and determined U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team looks to build on its worldwide success to finish on the podium in PyeongChang. Why the U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team Is a Multiple […]

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With the 2018 Winter Olympics here, Team USA is set to go for gold across the Games.

In today’s #UltimateTeamMoment, read how the relentless and determined U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team looks to build on its worldwide success to finish on the podium in PyeongChang.

Why the U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team Is a Multiple Olympic Medal Threat, presented by Ultimate Software

By Peggy Shinn

When Sophie Caldwell crossed the finish line in third place in a sprint final in Dresden, Germany, last Saturday, it was the ninth time that an American cross-country skier had finished on a world cup podium this season.

The next day, Caldwell and Ida Sargent added a tenth podium. The two Dartmouth graduates finished third in the Dresden World Cup team sprint. In 28 world cup races to date this season, the U.S. women’s cross-country skiers have finished on the podium in over a third of them.

It’s a continuation of the success that the women’s team began experiencing six years ago—and even earlier than that for the team’s long-time leader, Kikkan Randall.

Now 35 and heading to her fifth Olympic Games, Randall first stood on a world cup podium 11 years ago. And she has helped lead a growing women’s team to the front of the world cup—and world championships.

Since 2009, four different American women have won nine world championship medals—an unprecedented feat in this country. They have become the ultimate team.

Illustrating the team’s improved strength and depth, five different women have claimed world cup podiums this year. In previous years, Randall and 26-year-old Jessie Diggins claimed the bulk of the team’s best results. But now, Sadie Bjornsen, Caldwell, and Sargent have joined them. And team veteran Liz Stephen, a talented distance skier nominated to her third Olympic team, is coming into form, as is Rosie Brennan, who is headed to her first Olympics in PyeongChang.

As Randall said recently via email, “It’s been a pretty amazing season for the team, yet it feels so normal now.”

What has led to this new normal?

Talent and hard work are key, as is teamwork. In an individual sport, their strong team bond has helped lift all their individual performances.

Here’s what else is at play.

Success Breeds Success
When Sadie Bjornsen first joined the world cup tour in 2011, Randall was regularly finishing in the top three of sprint races—earning her first of three world cup sprint titles in 2012. The others hoped they could join her. But for most, it seemed like a far-off goal.

Around that time, a young phenom named Jessie Diggins joined the team, and in short order, earned a world cup podium with Randall in a team sprint. Then Diggins and Randall claimed the team sprint world title in 2013. Two years later, Diggins won her first individual world championship medal in the 10-kilometer freestyle (or skate) race, finishing second ahead of American Caitlin Gregg, who earned the bronze medal. Since then, Diggins has become a podium regular. And she won two more world championship medals in 2017.

Most recently, Diggins finished third overall in the Tour de Ski—the first time an American cross-country skier has finished on the podium in the grueling seven-day stage race. She also finished on the podium in two of the seven races (six, after bad weather canceled one).

Sophie Caldwell has claimed seven podium finishes since finishing sixth in the sprint at the 2014 Olympics—the best result to date by an American woman at the Olympic Games. She kicked off the 2018 Tour de Ski by finishing second in the Tour’s first sprint.

Liz Stephen has also had podium success in previous years, and Sargent got her first taste last year when she finished third in the sprint at the PyeongChang test event.

And Randall was back on the podium after taking maternity leave during the 2015–16 season. She earned her third world championship medal last February (bronze in the sprint), then finished third in a freestyle sprint in December, but has struggled with a stress reaction in her left foot for the past month.

This year, Sadie Bjornsen has become a podium regular as well. The 28-year-old from Washington state’s Methow Valley won a bronze medal with Diggins at the 2017 world championships. Then this season, she was the first to earn a world cup podium. She finished second in the season’s first sprint race.

“This year, for the first time, every single girl on our team goes into every weekend feeling like they could win a medal,” Bjornsen said. “It’s different than last year. I like to say that I thought I could win a medal [last year]. But it was more like I was confident Jessie was going to win a medal.”

“To have the depth on the team, to have somebody different on the podium, like in the Tour de Ski, it was Sophie and then Sadie and then me, just like boom, boom, boom, one after another,” said Diggins. “That is exactly the very best thing for a team. Everyone is feeding off each other’s successes and motivating each other and lifting each other up.”

The team makes a point of celebrating everyone’s successes, big and small, even as their successes have become regular events. All this celebrating means a lot of toasts, often twice in one weekend.

“It’s cool because everybody, despite the fact that there have been so many podiums, there’s still an equal amount of excitement that you’re sharing with each person,” said Bjornsen. “It always brings the level of our group higher when more people start doing better because they see themselves like, hey, I’m that good too.”

New Fearlessness
With the confidence that they now belong on the podium, the U.S. women are racing with fearlessness.

“You get that little bit of success and the confidence then comes, and the way you ski and see yourself in the pack changes,” noted Randall.

Sargent’s racing this year is a good example. A talented sprinter, she scored her first podium finish last February at the Olympic test event. This year, she is at the front attacking in the sprint heats.

“Everybody is putting themselves in a position where they belong at the front,” said Bjornsen. “Everyone is like these fearless fighters. They’re not afraid to try things.”

Experience Is Paying Off
Of the seven women on the A and B team, six have Olympic experience and have been competing full-time on the world cup for over five years. Randall is in her 17th year on the U.S. Ski Team, Stephen her 13th.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time, and some of us who were quite a bit younger a few years ago, like me, Sophie, and Sadie, I think that we are getting to the age where now we have quite a bit of experience, so we’re learning in the sprint rounds how to avoid accidents, how to move through the rounds, how to pace,” said Diggins.

Randall has noticed her teammates improved experience and maturity as well.

“Everybody has figured out how to make a good lifestyle and routine here in Europe,” she said. “They’re all approaching it from a super-professional level. Everyone kind of knows what works.”

New Wax Truck
Ski wax plays an important role in cross-country skiing—perhaps even more so than in alpine skiing because, except for the few downhills encountered on cross-country trails, speed is generated by human effort. The easier that skis glide over snow, the less effort that a skier must exert to go fast. And in classic skiing, kick wax is key for skiers to propel themselves forward.

Waxing is a mix of alchemy, chemistry, and a technician’s touch. And the big Nordic teams from Norway and Sweden set up giant tractor-trailer trucks that expand out and up, creating mobile labs at each race venue.

Until this year, the U.S. cross-country ski team’s wax technicians worked in small wax cabins (fashioned from cargo containers) at race venues. They trucked skis, tools, and wax to each venue, then unloaded the gear into the “cabins.”

Now, thanks to a grassroots fundraising effort, the U.S. Ski Team has its own wax truck that debuted in December 2017. And the skiers have noticed the improved wax and more collaboration between skiers, wax techs, and coaches.

“The classic waxing has taken an enormous turn for the better,” said Bjornsen, who worked hard in the off-season to hone kick wax and her technique. “It has a lot to do with our new wax truck and the ability to have the entire team work together and find the best wax possible.”

Olympic Expectations
In Sochi, Randall was a favorite to win a medal in the sprint, but she did not advance out of the quarterfinals. The team was an outside favorite to medal in the relay but finished eighth.

Going to PyeongChang, the U.S. women are medal contenders in multiple events at the Olympic Games for the first time ever.

Diggins and Stephen have both finished on world cup podiums in the skiathlon (7.5 kilometers of classic skiing, followed by 7.5 kilometers of skate skiing). Bjornsen, Caldwell, and Sargent have each had top-three finishes in sprint classic races (the sprint alternates between freestyle and classic technique at each Games). Diggins has a world championship silver medal in the 10K freestyle race, and Randall has a world cup 10K podium finish on her resume. Diggins and Randall are world champions in the team sprint (in the freestyle technique, which will be contested in PyeongChang), and multiple women on the team have earned world cup podium finishes in the event.

And the team is most hopeful for a medal in the 4×5-kilometer. They have finished second or third in several world cup relays in the past five years and have finished fourth in the relay at the past three world championships.

“Just making those teams is going to be a challenge with everyone skiing so well,” noted Randall, who still has foot pain but is back racing and hopes to return to form by the Olympics.

“It’s a really cool position to go into the Games with the idea that you can medal,” said Bjornsen. “I think medals, even individual medals, take a team in a good place. If we all go into the Games with this excitement and also some confidence and the same feeling we’ve been having the whole entire year, I think that there are a couple people on our team that will be standing on the podium for sure.”

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008. Her book, World Class: The Making of the U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team, is now available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

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U.S. Speedskaters Set World Record in Today’s #UltimateTeamMoment https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/u-s-speedskaters-set-world-record-todays-ultimateteammoment/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/u-s-speedskaters-set-world-record-todays-ultimateteammoment/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 21:18:40 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1159 For any Olympic athlete, the ultimate goal in competition is to earn a prestigious medal as you proudly represent your country. But, as the latest #UltimateTeamMoment shows, when you work together, give it your all, and keep striving for greater, you can earn much more than gold. Read how the U.S. men’s short track speedskating […]

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For any Olympic athlete, the ultimate goal in competition is to earn a prestigious medal as you proudly represent your country. But, as the latest #UltimateTeamMoment shows, when you work together, give it your all, and keep striving for greater, you can earn much more than gold.

Read how the U.S. men’s short track speedskating 5,000-meter relay team recently went above and beyond its Olympic goal, and set a world record for Team USA in Shanghai.
 

Ultimate Team Moment Leads U.S. Speedskaters to Unexpected World Record

The men’s 5,000-meter relay team set a world record for its first gold medal in four years.

By Gary R. BlockusUltimate Team Moment Men's Speedskating

Two-time Olympian J.R. Celski remembers the blur of the finish line in a frenetic race no one expected, but he wasn’t sure of the result.

The U.S. men’s short track speedskating 5,000-meter relay team made its first A final of the season at the Shanghai world cup last month, and the pace went blistering from the get-go, ending equally as frenzied.

“I made a pass on the South Korean with about a half lap to go and had the jab (at the finish line),” Celski recalled. “In a jab like that where I shoot for the line, I look over and glance to see if I win, but I had no idea this time, I was so stretched out.”

Going for its first win of the season, the relay team of Keith Carroll, Jr., Thomas Hong, and John-Henry Krueger surrounded Celski in apparent triumph, assuring him he had won.

Then came the delay.

“But the referees kept us waiting a good five to 10 minutes before the winner was called,” Celski said. “We all knew we medaled, we just didn’t know what color. And then the names came up on the board. And world record was next to it! We just freak out.”

After not making the A final in the first two world cups of the season, Team USA regrouped and shattered the word record by almost two seconds, posting a 6:29.052 with South Korea ridiculously close behind at 6:29.076.

Both times beat the previous world record of 6:30.958 set by Canada on Oct. 19, 2012, in Calgary, Alberta, and obliterated the previous American record of 6:33.363 set by Adam Callister, Carroll, Hong, and Krueger on Nov. 4, 2016, also in Calgary.

“This was our first medal of the season, our first A final,” Celski said while preparing for the final world cup of the season in Seoul, South Korea. It is also Team USA’s first gold medal in the relay since November 2013.

“It’s really hard to say we expected to win,” said Hong, 20. “In the sport of short track, there’s so much going on, so much can happen in 45 laps, there can be a lot of spills and crashes in that time. As a team, we have confidence in our ability. As a team, I can honestly say we expected to podium, but a world record, no.”

Celski, 27, who has won a pair of Olympic medals in the relay—silver in 2014 and bronze in 2010— knows what Hong’s talking about. In Sochi, teammate Chris Creveling had to leap three crashed teams to turn it into a one-on-one race against Russia.

This time out, circumstances were much different. And no one had any inkling going in that a world record would be on the table.

“World records usually don’t happen unless you’re trying for them, especially in the relay,” Celski said. “Conditions on the ice have to be good, and the pace has to be fast from the start. I actually saw the previous world record happen in Calgary, and their intentions were to break the world record.

“No records were previously broken on the rink in Shanghai, so it was surprising to see the South Koreans set that pace.”

Setting the world record took a total team effort from the Americans.

The South Koreans went hard from the gun out of Lane 1 and did their first exchange after a half lap, which is highly unusual. Team USA, skating out of Lane 4, saw what happened and didn’t want to get gapped.

“From that moment, I knew they were trying to gap the field,” Celski said. “They had a 20-meter gap on the field and everybody caught on fast. We high-tailed it and tried to chase them down with the Canadians and China.”

The field caught the leaders by the fourth exchange, but Canada and China fell in a collision and the Koreans pushed the pace again. Team USA followed exchange after exchange. And then, with two laps to go, Celski took the anchor in second place for the Americans and chased down the leader for the victory.

“To get the world record as a whole team makes this victory a little sweeter,” Krueger said.

“We’ve been working really hard and this is a long time coming,” Carroll said. “To pull it all together and have something go right feels awesome.”

But Celski said the world record wasn’t the best part—it was the effect the result had on the Olympic quota spot standings for the U.S.

“I was actually happier we were able to put to it all together, win the race, and pretty much secure qualifying five guys for the Olympics,” Celski said. “The world record is something a little extra special that went along with it.”

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Taking Care of Your People: Customer Service Week 2017 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/customer-service-week-2017/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/customer-service-week-2017/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 10:00:21 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1112 Every year in October, “Customer Service Week” serves as a platform to honor support professionals across industries. Customer service representatives are the front line of your business, expertly fielding inquiries, addressing concerns, and impacting future profitability. Studies show that it’s up to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to […]

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customer service week 2017Every year in October, “Customer Service Week” serves as a platform to honor support professionals across industries. Customer service representatives are the front line of your business, expertly fielding inquiries, addressing concerns, and impacting future profitability. Studies show that it’s up to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, and loyal customers are worth up to 10 times the amount of their initial purchase. Poor service, on the other hand, is responsible for U.S. businesses in lost sales from existing customers.

It’s clear that ensuring a positive customer experience isn’t just a marketing maxim—it’s a business imperative.

Ultimate Software’s commitment to service has always been a differentiator for us in the HCM space. We treat every week like Customer Service Week and are regularly recognized for the way our companywide “People First” philosophy drives our customer relations. Most recently, we were named the 2017 National Customer Service Association’s top Service Organization of the Year in the Large-Business Category and presented with a Silver Stevie award for “Innovation in Customer Service” and “Customer Service Department of the Year 2017.”

We hope our devotion to service inspires other companies to put people first. To that end, here are three tips for developing an award-winning customer strategy that celebrates and recognizes customers and service professionals every week of the year.

Think: Employee Satisfaction = Customer Satisfaction

Employee engagement has a significant impact on customer satisfaction. It’s intuitive: dissatisfied, unmotivated employees are much less likely to provide top-quality service than those proudly invested in their roles.

Trust that employees who are well taken care of by their companies will take great care of customers. Evaluate benefits, culture, and overall environment to identify strengths and opportunities. One of the best ways to gauge employee satisfaction is to ask for feedback, a process that’s now easier than ever thanks to advanced sentiment-analysis technology.

Keep in mind that your company’s customer experience will likely improve when a service-minded culture stems from the top. In fact, Forrester’s 2016 “Five Secrets of Customer-Obsessed Cultures” report found that companies with extraordinary customer service often had leaders who frequently conveyed service-oriented values to employees.

Finally, remember that recognition and feeling valued are key drivers of engagement. Periodically recognize top employees, particularly those in sometimes-thankless service roles. To celebrate Customer Service Week, for example, Ultimate is awarding our own Customer Support Heroes with prizes and week-long celebrations complete with free food and fun, inflatable obstacle courses.

Always Be Available to Solve Problems Quickly

Whether offering proactive support, resolving critical issues, or providing ongoing guidance as a trusted resource, it’s crucial to be available to your customers when they need you—whenever that may be.

Resources such as 24/7 phone support, Web-based chat, and self-service portals are key. First-response time and problem-resolution time are equally important, and customers expect adequate support as soon as they have an issue.

Lastly, consider reevaluating service models, which may be outdated. At Ultimate, we implemented an innovative collaborative support service model in 2016 that reduced customer resolution time by 60%.

Remember: Success Comes from Communication, Collaboration with Customers

I can’t stress this enough: establish and prioritize relationships with your customers.

When customers invest their time, trust, and money with you, I feel strongly that at least one person in your organization should know them on a personal basis. The ability to call a dedicated rep who remembers your name and your company goes a long way towards creating a positive customer experience. Everyone wants to feel like they are valued and respected, and established relationships help make this happen.

At Ultimate, every customer is assigned an Executive Relationship Manager as well as a dedicated account manager to walk through every step of the launch. Customers enjoy the industry’s most comprehensive (and personalized!) set of services and training at no additional cost. We believe these extraordinary services help us sustain our 97% customer retention rate.

Finally, in addition to personalized service and relationships, successful organizations understand that customers are key influencers, providing rich insights on ways to improve the product, enhance user experience (UX), and optimize satisfaction. At Ultimate, we frequently hold customer experience focus groups, where we explore the platform one-on-one with our customers. As a result of these and other UX tests, we implemented more than 30 new features in UltiPro this year, incorporating more than 80 customer ideas.

Providing consistent, high-quality customer service should always be a top priority for your organization. Remember: Your customers are your business!

Happy Customer Service Week!

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Firing an Employee: What to Do When it Has to be Done https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/firing-an-employee/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/firing-an-employee/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 10:00:57 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1058 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. No […]

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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.

No one really enjoys firing an employee. It’s a tough decision for any employer—who has invested time, money, and a great deal of energy—to let a person go and move on. But even if it’s not easy, it’s sometimes necessary.

I offer, then, a few pieces of advice to consider when firing an employee.

Employee Resentmentfiring an employee

Have you ever been the employee working diligently on a project, only to grow frustrated because your colleague isn’t pulling their weight? Ever see another employee engage in activities that hinder workplace productivity? We likely all have. In each of those situations, firing an employee might be the best option to ensure engagement and morale among your other employees remains positive.

Allowing misbehavers and poor performers to stay ignores accountability and everyone else. Other employees deserve everyone to be held to an equal, fair standard. Ignoring a problem because you’re afraid to let someone go is a mistake. It’s important to address a situation as soon as possible, whether through dismissal, a lateral move, or another effective action that resolves the issue.

The Opportunity to Resign

Sometimes, employers like to give employees the opportunity to resign, so the employee can say they resigned rather than being terminated. While this is empathetic of the employer, I see two flaws in doing this. For one, it’s not the truth. Employees (and employers, for that matter) should be held accountable for their actions.

Second, letting an individual resign might actually work against the now-former employee. If an employee resigns, they may be ineligible to collect unemployment or training support from unemployment agencies. I’m a big proponent of giving people the opportunity to receive unemployment when they can.

Mid-Week Terminations

Is there an “ideal” day to fire someone? I believe it’s Wednesday.

When you fire an employee on a Friday, the remaining team goes home for the weekend concerned about their jobs. They might be concerned about how they fit in at the company, or their own job security. You may have terminated a popular employee, who they will miss. The adjustment is unsettling. Dismiss someone on Monday, and those worries could impact morale for entire week (or longer).

If you act on a Wednesday, however, there are two more days for the team to ask you questions and get reassurance. By the following Monday, things have most likely settled down, and the dismissal has probably become a distant memory for many.

Dismissing an employee isn’t fun. But, on occasion, you have to do it. So, consider this advice when you have to take action. Because ignoring the situation will likely lead to bigger problems—and that’s not good for anyone.

Kate Bischoff is an energetic and enthusiastic human resources professional, employment/labor law attorney, and technology aficionado. She loves HR and wants to make companies better – not just compliant. To read more from Kate, find her HR-related posts here: http://www.ultimatesoftware.com/blog/author/katebischoff/

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We’re All Biased, But We Can Get Better https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/implicit-biases/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/implicit-biases/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 12:09:52 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1043 Like many people, I do all I can every day to value people for their character and contributions, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, age, gender, national origin, cultural heritage, sexual orientation, disability, and size or shape. But, probably like many of you, I still have work to do to truly know and be aware of […]

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Like many people, I do all I can every day to value people for their character and contributions, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, age, gender, national origin, cultural heritage, sexual orientation, disability, and size or shape.

implicit biasesBut, probably like many of you, I still have work to do to truly know and be aware of my implicit biases—the stereotypes that affect my assumptions and actions in an unconscious way. As a longstanding champion of diversity and inclusion, I realize we are probably better at the diversity part than inclusion, which is much harder—after all, eradicating implicit biases to make all employees feel they belong and are valued equally is incredibly tricky and important.

With diversity, companies can tally up their triumphs, citing the percentages of different types of people they employ. Inclusion, on the other hand, is less tangible, but even more important in creating a great workplace culture. If people sense that others are judging them because they are “different,” this adversely affects their freedom of expression, ability to collaborate, and overall work engagement and productivity. In short, people begin to second-guess themselves.

Implicit bias is not full-out racism, sexism, or any of the other bad –isms. We all are susceptible to rash judgments that have no basis in truth. They’re hardwired into our DNA. We do our best to ignore them, but they’re frustratingly resilient, coloring our decisions in ways we may not even realize.

This point came home to me in a recent discussion with a colleague, Jarik Conrad. Jarik is a deep thinker and eloquent speaker, who is African-American. He’s got firsthand experience being on the other end of implicit bias and far worse prejudices. He also has the wisdom and a great sense of humor to recognize his own implicit biases. Growing up in East St. Louis in a largely African-American community, Jarik was a basketball standout. “If two kids came up to us on the court wanting to join us in a game and one was black and the other white, we’d always choose the black kid since white boys can’t jump,” he told me laughing. “Then, I played basketball in college and realized white boys really can jump.”

Jarik tells this story on the speaking circuit and it always gets its share of laughs. Then he explains what it has been like to be a talented, articulate, smart person in a black body. “It’s the first thing anybody ever recognizes about me,” he said. “The same thing happens to other people, based on their gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on. Our intelligence, skill sets, humor, work ethic, and other productive personal aspects take a back seat.”

Deborah Dagit knows the feeling. A former chief diversity officer, Deb is a little person. In 2013, she opened her own diversity-consulting business because she was “plain fed up,” she said, with people not seeing her as she truly is. “When I interacted with an employee who’d never met a little person before, they couldn’t get through the shock and awe of the experience,” she said. “It just made the day exhausting to have to educate others about what it is like to be a little person.”

Why are we all so bewildered by others’ differences? Jarik has studied the phenomenon. “The brain has a default mechanism that recognizes someone different as a potential predator or adversary, which sets in motion our `flight or fight’ response,” he explained. “When our brains are not aware of others’ differences, we experience an implicit expectation that they are just like us.”

This makes great sense, but it does not let us off the hook when it comes to doing what is necessary to train our brains accordingly. “The only way to teach our brains not to experience implicit biases is to spend significant time with others who are different from ourselves,” Jarik said.

Deb agreed. “Spending time in conversation and engaged in projects and tasks with groups of people who are different helps many people become more comfortable with each other’s differences,” she said. “But you need a regular diet of such diversity-immersion experiences. It’s not a `one and done’ thing to authentically appreciate and cherish each other’s differences.”

These are excellent strategies. Another is to continually gauge how your diverse workforce actually feels about their work experiences, with special attention paid to their supervision by managers and team leaders. We turned this idea into an opportunity to help organizations via Ultimate Software’s UltiPro Perception™ solution, leveraging advanced natural language processing and machine learning technology to really listen to and understand employees.

Most organizations rely on the annual (and massive) employee engagement survey to take the pulse of employees, but by the time the findings are produced, the results are dated. At Ultimate, we’ve developed a timelier and smarter way to understand people’s emotions—soliciting employees’ open-ended feedback on their work interactions via regular and easy-to-complete feedback. Powered by Xander™, our underlying “People First” artificial technology platform, UltiPro can tease out specific cultural themes, as well as deterrents and recommendations, for immediate action. Even good managers can lack communications skills. The problem is they don’t always know it.

As Deb and Jarik would agree, self-knowledge is crucial to creating a work environment that is authentically inclusive. Now that I better understand my own implicit biases and their origins, I plan to spend more time with people who appear different, training my brain to appreciate others’ extraordinariness as extraordinary, because at the end of the day, that’s what has always driven me… people, amazing people.

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Predictions for 2017: Serving People with Emerging HR Technologies https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-technologies-serving-people/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-technologies-serving-people/#comments Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:00:49 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=893 Thriving in our rapidly changing and increasingly disrupted modern business environment will require organizations to both recognize major cultural shifts (see my blog post about Workforce Fluidity) while taking advantage of incredible new technologies. In this post, I explore a few of the potentially most impactful emerging and maturing technologies that are gaining traction in […]

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Thriving in our rapidly changing and increasingly disrupted modern business environment will require organizations to both recognize major cultural shifts (see my blog post about Workforce Fluidity) while taking advantage of incredible new technologies.

In this post, I explore a few of the potentially most impactful emerging and maturing technologies that are gaining traction in the realm of HR and will transform how HR and business leaders serve employees in 2017 and the coming years. Note that, regardless of the technology, putting people first is a must in 2017, as your people grow increasingly comfortable explicitly telling you, their employers, about their expectations of working within your organizations.

Augmented Intelligence, Human-Machine Interfaces, and Ambient HR Enter the Scene

People-first, people-centered, inter-connected technology that augments us. 

I’m not a huge fan of the newest buzzword, AI (Artificial Intelligence). It has negative connotations, evoking the deadly HAL or marginally useful benevolent robots, as well as the idea that insights from AI are somehow “artificial” or less than true. I prefer the more apt “augmented intelligence,” which is simply technology that mimics (not replaces) human cognitive processes, augmenting and extending human thought processing capabilities in terms of speed and volume data crunching, even avoiding putting humans in harm’s way.

“Ambient HR” refers to a future in which the ability of HR professionals to listen to the voice of employees (VoE) is increased by using distributed data collection touch points (think Google or Amazon Dots). These future technologies will help us advance beyond today’s latest “text-to-meaning” advanced natural language processing and machine-learning algorithms to uncover not only what employees are saying, but also how they feel about topics such as people practices, work environment, and leadership. In essence, allowing HR and managers to be in more than one place at a time, learning about the sentiment and “health of the organization” through distributed data-collection interfaces that capture human interactions with each other and with their surroundings.

The aggregation of cognitive-capable distributed technology will transform HR from traditional, mechanical systems of management that rely on people to selectively provide feedback in the industrial economy to an even smarter, augmented, context-aware human ecosystem.

The true benefits of these technologies will become most apparent in its ability to extend what a human could realistically do, hear, and process. We will literally be able to be in more than one place at a time, gathering input about how people feel and measuring the emotional health of your team—something a single leader could not possibly physically accomplish! This actual (albeit virtual) contact, and the ensuing insight, is invaluable for workers who crave more frequent and open communication.

Today’s workers want their leaders and organizations to hear their concerns, be open to more communication in the context of their work, and provide greater purpose and meaning in their work. (Refer to our 2016 research for more on this topic.) Such smart technologies as augmented intelligence and distributed technology that extends beyond mobile in the cloud have unleashed extraordinary possibilities for people at work.

The Configurability Imperative Serves All People

Nimble, flexible solutions that support the way people really work.

People are increasingly rejecting the traditional binary constructs of self-identification and a new vernacular is taking hold in the popular culture that is making its way into the workplace. This makes system configurability an absolute must for modern organizations, who must accommodate new definitions of how employees identify themselves so people can be true to themselves at work, as they are in their lives outside of work.

Also, as teamwork replaces “command and control” workforce structures, new work paradigms are emerging that center on more fluid notions of work, jobs, and the people who perform them. Being able to come together as a working group, having the organization acknowledge that grouping, and even being able to reassemble the same combination of successful colleagues, becomes a work imperative beyond simply tagging an individual’s work-group affiliations for identification.

Finally, gig economy employees will make up more than 40 percent of the workforce by 2020. These workers will have more flexible and virtual work schedules—a necessity in a global workspace with 24/7 connectivity—and fill short-term assignments. Preparing organizations will require new, more extensible systems of helping manage people and work, bringing together knowledge of people and work systems—long silos of information in different technology solutions.

The Rise of Virtual and Augmented Reality Experiences

A “day in the life” gets real.

Wouldn’t we all love a crystal ball that we could look into to see what we are getting ourselves into? That is quickly becoming a reality—actually, a virtual reality.

Less than five years ago, virtual reality experiences were prohibitively expensive for organizations, other than gaming companies that could commercialize the experiences on a big scale. Today, creating a virtual reality experience is not only affordable for organizations (school districts are beginning to use virtual reality experiences to help elementary school children explore different careers), but it is an excellent way to connect with more tech-savvy candidates who want to be certain they are joining an organization that values technology (a recent study we conducted with  The Center for Generational Kinetics showed a third of U.S. workers would quit a job if their company used legacy technology).

If virtual reality changes how we see the entire world around us, augmented reality can change how we interact with it, blending reality and virtual reality seamlessly. Job candidates could be encouraged to see themselves in “their new office” while exchanging texts with future co-workers they are connected with on LinkedIn…all before they have accepted the job, helping to cement the deal.

So, why not share a virtually real “day in the life” of the work experience you offer your employees?! It could make all the difference in getting that key person to join your team.

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USA Softball Wins World Championship in Latest #UltimateTeamMoment https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/team-usa-softball-wins-world-championship-latest-ultimateteammoment/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/team-usa-softball-wins-world-championship-latest-ultimateteammoment/#respond Wed, 10 Aug 2016 13:01:09 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=652 When great teams work together, achieving greatness takes many forms. For the USA Softball women’s national team, it means capturing its 10th world championship title. Discover the team’s inspirational story below, and follow #UltimateTeamMoment all summer from Rio for more great stories of teamwork and triumph, brought to you by Team USA and Ultimate Software. […]

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When great teams work together, achieving greatness takes many forms. For the USA Softball women’s national team, it means capturing its 10th world championship title.

Discover the team’s inspirational story below, and follow #UltimateTeamMoment all summer from Rio for more great stories of teamwork and triumph, brought to you by Team USA and Ultimate Software.Ultimate-Team-Moment-1200x1200-softball


Culture of Success Breeds U.S. Softball Team’s 10th World Title

 

Team USA beat rival Japan last week to win its first world title since 2010.
By Karen Price
Red Line Editorial
Winning a world championship is never easy, even for a powerhouse such as the USA Softball women’s national team.

Despite nine world championship titles, heading into this summer’s Women’s World Softball Championship in Surrey, British Columbia, the No. 2-ranked U.S. women hadn’t tasted victory since 2010. They lost in the gold-medal game to Japan in 2012 and again in 2014 before defeating them twice in 24 hours at the end of July to claim their 10th world championship title.

“This year it felt like it was a combination of everything because we all got along really well right from the beginning of the first practice,” catcher Amanda Chidester said. “Everyone just clicked, and everyone playing wanted to be there.”

Team USA finished the tournament with a .436 batting average and outscored opponents 83-10 while hitting 19 home runs and totaling 80 RBIs. The pitching staff had an ERA of 1.19, allowing just eight earned runs the entire tournament.

Janie Takeda said she remembers leaning over to one of her teammates on the bench during the semifinal game and saying, “We look so good right now.”

“Everyone was hitting, one to nine, and playing defense really well,” Takeda said. “We’ve also been pitching by committee a lot this year, which has been really awesome. Our pitchers have been taking chunks of the game and dominating whatever they’re given, and that’s huge, especially in softball.

“In baseball, you’re used to that, but in softball you see a lot more pitchers throw complete games. All our pitchers accepted their roles and just dominated.”

It was that sense of everyone not only knowing but also embracing her role that helped make Team USA the ultimate team this year, Chidester said.

Toward the end of the tournament, the lineup was essentially set, she said, but even those who started the games on the bench, such as Takeda, gave the team so much energy simply with the level of support they offered.

“Maybe I’d catch one game, then Aubree (Munro) would catch another and we were both all in,” she said. “One of the girls, (catcher) Paige Halstead, from UCLA, ended up being an alternate at the last minute. She had no idea she was going to be an alternate but she got our pitchers ready every single game and never complained once. Everybody found their role and you didn’t hear, ‘I should be playing,’ or, ‘There’s no reason I should be an alternate.’ Everyone just bought in.

“I’ve been on so many teams and I can honestly say the only team I’ve ever been on like that was when I won two state championships in high school.”

Disappointment over lack of playing time would be natural, if not expected, given that the members of Team USA have always played such important starting roles throughout their high school and college careers. The desire to be in the game at its most critical moment is something all elite athletes possess. It’s that drive that helps them reach the top of their sport.

Yet Chidester and Takeda both gave credit to coach Ken Erickson and his staff for putting together a roster that wasn’t just the 18 best athletes, but also the 18 best personalities to work together as a team.

“Obviously I wanted to be on the field, but (starters) Jazmyn Jackson, Haylie McCleney, and Michelle Moultrie were doing so awesome, why wouldn’t I buy into (my role)?” Takeda said. “All the coaches do a great job of reminding you of the bigger picture; that it doesn’t mean you’re not good at softball or they don’t need you. You have a key role being ready at any time, supporting your teammates and not throwing a fit. There were a few of us who didn’t get a lot of playing time, but the coaches help build the culture and the veterans help build the culture that it doesn’t matter who’s out there. All that matters is that the team gets it done, and that was the genuine feeling across the board.”

Team USA adds its 10th world title to an impressive array of accomplishments. The team has also won eight World Cup of Softball titles and the national team is one of just two women’s sports to capture three straight gold medals in the Olympic Games since 1996. Baseball and softball both were dropped from the Olympic program following the 2008 Games, where the women’s team lost to Japan in the gold-medal game.

Having been part of the team that lost to Japan in each of the past two world championships, this year’s victory was particularly sweet, Chidester said. Even better was the fact that the team kept working to improve as the tournament went on.

“Everyone strived to get better for the team, and that was huge,” Chidester said. “Everyone was accountable for their position and their roles and we just took off and got better every single game.”

 

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Be(ing) the Best https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/being-the-best/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/being-the-best/#respond Tue, 17 Mar 2015 12:33:24 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=212 Vivian Maza Chief People Officer Ultimate Software Last week, Fortune released its 18th annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” listing, in partnership with Great Place to Work®. Feedback from employees and companies themselves determines ranking. Through the Trust Index© Employee Survey, accounting for two-thirds, employees rate their organization on job satisfaction, camaraderie among colleagues, […]

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Vivian Maza

Vivian Maza
Chief People Officer
Ultimate Software

Last week, Fortune released its 18th annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” listing, in partnership with Great Place to Work®.

Feedback from employees and companies themselves determines ranking. Through the Trust Index© Employee Survey, accounting for two-thirds, employees rate their organization on job satisfaction, camaraderie among colleagues, and management’s credibility. In the Culture Audit©, companies self-report on subjects such as compensation, benefits, and recognition programs.

What does it take to be the Best? It’s about putting people first.

This goes beyond offering a competitive benefits package. It’s about creating a company culture that cultivates trust, respect, and an overall sense of value among all members of your organization.
Being the BestIt’s when a supervisor spends time getting to know her colleague and his passions away from the desk. While chatting over lunch, she learns of his involvement with a local charity. Soon, your company supports his contributions — by matching a donation or providing extra PTO so he can spend time giving back.

After a charitable day away, he returns to work with a renewed sense of purpose. He’s made a difference in the community. You’ve made a difference in his life.

Showing your people you genuinely care about them doesn’t have to cost much more than your time and some thought. It can be as simple as an employee-recognition program, with meaningful reminders that they’re doing a great job.

New research finds 43% of Millennials want feedback every week — but they’re not the only ones who appreciate acknowledgment. And while we’re on the subject, never discount the value of a hand-written “Thank You” note, especially in the Digital Age. Kudos keep employees happy, engaged, and motivated.

There’s a simple theme at work here: Give back to your employees by all means and they’ll reciprocate in myriad ways. Take care of your people, and they’ll take care of you — and your customers.

And if you’re still worried about the financials of investing in your workforce, don’t be. Putting people first pays off.

According to Great Place to Work, publicly traded Best Companies perform almost twice as well as major stock indices and provide nearly three times the market return. Moreover, because their employees are more engaged and less likely to leave, Best Companies also save substantial money, given the high costs associated with constant turnover.

The benefits of being on Fortune‘s Best Companies list are as plentiful as the ways.

What are you doing to be the Best?

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Ultimate Software is proud and honored to be ranked in the top 25 on Fortune‘s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list four years in a row.

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