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 Three Mega Trends to Watch For in 2019 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/three-mega-trends-to-watch-2019/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/three-mega-trends-to-watch-2019/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:39:55 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1533 Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons. Maybe it’s the inevitability of the rapidly evolving world we live in. But, each year, I spend a good amount of time with colleagues thinking about how the major economic, sociological, technological, and cultural trends we are experiencing will impact us, our leaders, our employees, and HR professionals […]

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future of workMaybe it’s the changing of the seasons. Maybe it’s the inevitability of the rapidly evolving world we live in. But, each year, I spend a good amount of time with colleagues thinking about how the major economic, sociological, technological, and cultural trends we are experiencing will impact us, our leaders, our employees, and HR professionals in the coming year.

We like to explore multiple topics, always looking at issues through the lens of putting people first. Through these discussions, we extend and expand the ideas until we see emerging patterns everywhere we look. The value of analogous fields is never lost in this process, as we gather innovative and nascent solutions to the problems posed by these trends in unexpected industries and contexts.

Throughout 2018, our team focused on artificial intelligence, in particular “People First” AI, hyper-personalization and its necessity in leadership, and humanizing work with breakthrough diversity and inclusion initiatives. The growing research and attention paid to these topics by organizations globally has certainly advanced our understanding of these trends and has brought new solutions to the market from Ultimate Software and others.

So, we turn now to what 2019 will bring us.

The three mega trends below are not brand-new concepts, but they will take on a critical urgency in 2019 due to a convergence of technological, economic, and socio-cultural factors.

Well-being at Work

With the dizzying pace of change and the mind-blowing exponential growth of data and technology available to us showing no signs of letting up, we are all facing new levels of overload. The impact of this overload is manifesting itself in unanticipated ways. Our emotional, social, and physical well-being at work is directly impacted by the stressors associated with overload, and organizations will struggle to help employees cope and, more importantly, thrive in such environments without a new approach. Far beyond wellness programs, organizations will have to explore creative new workspace concepts, design work with overall employee well-being in mind, and offer transformative technologies to help monitor and change employee behavior. In addition, the work of inclusion and belonging will take on even greater importance for business success. 

Preparing People for the Future of Work

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. Yet, when we bring it up and read about it, it’s generally in terms of job loss due to AI and automation, the primary drivers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The urgency in 2019 comes from the fact that, to date, we have done more talking and less doing – and action is needed before we reach a global skills crisis. HR and business leaders have done little to prepare people for the future of work by systematically and intentionally reskilling and upskilling them.

The future workforce is a blended one, with humans and machines working side by side. We cannot leave the future success of our businesses to chance, yet that is precisely what many organizations are doing by leaving reskilling entirely up to employees. We must ensure employees’ voices are heard throughout this daunting learning process, and every employee should contribute to defining their development paths, but not without guidance and support from their employers. The shift has to start with understanding a new hierarchy of needs for employees, in which we deeply understand their motivations and dreams and actively include them in their future performance development – all of which result in helping drive better performance for organizations.

Creating the Connected, Collaborative Enterprise

The third major force impacting our workplaces and workforces is the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT manifests itself differently in the workplace compared with in our private lives, with our smart lights, thermostats, and connected kitchens. At work, we have new opportunities to create a highly connected and collaborative enterprise. With the IoT at work – smart work apps that might recognize when praise is given and record it, smart meeting spaces and wearable devices that pick up on stress and stressors – we can elevate the traditional employee and manager self-service models to completely new levels (at last) and transform the Digital Employee Experience into an insightful and interactive one.

With data democratization that both fosters higher levels of trust between employees and employers while enabling people to make better and smarter decisions for the enterprise and themselves, organizational outcomes will improve. We must also be aware of and balance the ethics of capturing new kinds of interaction data and the flow of information that moves between and within the connected and collaborative enterprise in the era of boundary-less organizations. It will be crucial to ensure we respect how people work and honor their private data while helping them thrive.

While these mega trends are not entirely new to the world of work and HR, they have certainly not been addressed to the extent they need to be to ensure our people can maximize their contributions to our organizations while achieving more meaningful levels of professional and personal growth and success.

For the sake of our organizations and, above all, our people, let’s make 2019 the year that changes it all!

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Teaming with Rebuilding Together, Miami HEAT for National Week of Service https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/national-week-of-service/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/national-week-of-service/#respond Tue, 09 Oct 2018 18:01:37 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1530 Every day at Ultimate Software, we’re reminded of just how fortunate we are, not only as a company, but as people. It’s part of what drives our companywide commitment to community service, and it’s why, since our founding 28 years ago, we’ve made giving a cornerstone of Ultimate’s “People First” culture. Throughout the year, we […]

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national week of serviceEvery day at Ultimate Software, we’re reminded of just how fortunate we are, not only as a company, but as people. It’s part of what drives our companywide commitment to community service, and it’s why, since our founding 28 years ago, we’ve made giving a cornerstone of Ultimate’s “People First” culture.

Throughout the year, we partner with a variety of nonprofit organizations to support local, national, and global causes that help our communities. Most recently, we had the privilege of joining Rebuilding Together for our second annual National Week of Service.

Rebuilding Together works to improve the lives of low-income homeowners, including veterans and the elderly, who are in need of major home repairs, such as roofing and retrofitting for accessibility. The 30-year-old organization works with professionals and volunteers across the United States to provide fixes and complete other beautification projects, so these individuals and families can continue to live safely and comfortably in their homes.

This year’s National Week of Service was even more special, as we teamed up with members of the Miami HEAT basketball organization—part of our multi-year partnership with the three-time NBA champions. Together, we spent four consecutive days painting, landscaping, and gardening.

We started on Monday in South Florida with the HEAT (even team mascot Burnie got involved). Then, Ultimate employees in San Francisco and Santa Ana, California, and in Atlanta and Alpharetta, Georgia, continued volunteering throughout the week to make a difference for local homeowners.

In all, hundreds of employees from Ultimate, the Miami HEAT, and Rebuilding Together joined forces for a collaborative national week of service that helped change the lives of nine families forever. It makes us so proud to see the selfless acts of humanity and the great lengths that people are willing to go to care for others, most of whom they don’t even know and will probably never interact with again.

Selfless service results in amazing connections. There are signs of the meaningful difference made, and not just in the completed work or home restorations. Sometimes, it’s a simple smile. Other times, a joyful tear. And always, an intangible feeling.

At Ultimate, we know how fortunate we are to be where we are today. We are extremely grateful for all the people and circumstances that have impacted us over the years. And knowing that we have the opportunity to return the favor, by helping and serving others, provides a greater perspective on the work we do every day.

It’s not just about creating HR software that enables thousands of people to perform better at work. It’s about delivering a positive outlook, and a hopeful future, to those most in need.

Putting people first means recognizing the many ways, big and small, we can all help others around us. When we look out for one another, real change takes place.

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Customer Service Week 2018: Continual Innovation https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/customer-service-week-2018/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/customer-service-week-2018/#respond Thu, 04 Oct 2018 10:00:29 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1526 It is the first week of October, also known as Customer Service Week 2018! Designed to celebrate the importance of customer service as well as provide organizations with an excuse to honor service reps, Customer Service Week also serves as a reminder to seek constant improvement and innovation in service offerings. Putting Employees and Customers […]

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It is the first week of October, also known as Customer Service Week 2018! Designed to celebrate the importance of customer service as well as provide organizations with an excuse to honor service reps, Customer Service Week also serves as a reminder to seek constant improvement and innovation in service offerings.

Putting Employees and Customers First

Ultimate Software was founded 28 years ago on a “People First” philosophy, and this core principle has shaped every aspect of our organization ever since. Every employee is a member of our “Ultimate Family” and supported by a workplace environment that fosters both personal and professional development. Likewise, our Support department strives to treat every customer as a “Partner for Life,” recognizing that every interaction matters and that it’s our responsibility to provide a positive, memorable experience every time. A key aspect of this commitment to taking care of all people is striving for constant innovation in a fast-paced, constantly changing world.

Over the past decade, customer expectations have evolved, as has fierce industry competition. Customers want more personalization, interaction, responsiveness to feedback, and knowledge-capable support. At Ultimate, our goal has always been to be the undisputed leader in HCM customer experience by delivering both the best technology and the best service to our customers. While many providers focus on either product or service, we’re wholly invested in both. In fact, approximately 85% of our employees directly serve our customers in either support or development roles, with 53% in services. We are fully committed to providing industry-leading services that exceed our customer’s expectations and proactively anticipate their needs.

Award-Winning Service

Earlier this year, our customer service program was recognized by both the American Business Awards (ABA) and the National Customer Service Association (NCSA). The NCSA named us the Service Organization of the Year in the Large Business category, and we earned three Stevie Awards for customer service from the ABA. I am honored to announce that, in July, we were also presented with the Gold Award for Customer Service Department of the Year at the Silicon Valley United States (SVUS) Awards.

These recognitions highlight our team’s dedication to a people-centric services approach. I am extremely proud of our conversion to a collaborative support model, which decreased total resolution times by 60% over a 12-month period. We have also completely redesigned our Customer Service Portal (CSP), which plays a pivotal role as Ultimate’s first line of interaction with our customers. As one of the most completely iterative projects to date, we listened to the “Voice of the Customer” through focus groups, surveys, and user testing, then implemented a complete redesign of our CSP in order to provide a more self-service experience. Our new CSP has achieved a 100% adoption rate and established important new baselines in terms of an 80% increase in the portal’s ease of use, 50% increase in self-service satisfaction, and 40% increase in self-service searches.

Award-Winning Leaders

This commitment to industry-leading innovation resonates throughout our entire organization, thanks to best-in-class leaders who create best-in-class products. Our CEO, Scott Scherr, recently earned a SVUS Gold Award for Most Admired Leaders based solely on consolidated feedback from industry professionals. This was not a nominated entry. Other Most Admired Leaders award recipients included Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Larry Ellison, Melinda Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Ultimate’s Chief People Officer, Viv Maza, was also recognized with a Women in Business and the Professions World Award at the SVUS Awards ceremony based on her development and execution of Ultimate’s revolutionary Women in Leadership program, one of our companywide groups that help employees connect with one another, grow as people and professionals, and better serve our communities. Also at the SVUS Awards ceremony, our cloud suite UltiPro® was recognized with a Gold Award for Best HCM Solution for its unified structure, rich workforce insight, and people-centric design.

At the end of the day, the best companies, best teams, best products, and best services are developed by adhering to several key guidelines: Take care of people, strive for improvement, and never stop innovating.

Happy Customer Service Week 2018!

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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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Where to Find Ultimate Software, PeopleDoc at HR Tech 2018 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/where-to-find-ultimate-software-peopledoc-at-hr-tech-2018/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/where-to-find-ultimate-software-peopledoc-at-hr-tech-2018/#respond Mon, 10 Sep 2018 11:09:57 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1508 It’s that time of year! Tomorrow marks the 21st Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition, and all of us at Ultimate Software are excited to once again join the thousands of HR professionals, tech innovators, and industry experts convening in Las Vegas to explore the latest advancements in HCM and preview what’s to come. This […]

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It’s that time of year!

Tomorrow marks the 21st Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition, and all of us at Ultimate Software are excited to once again join the thousands of HR professionals, tech innovators, and industry experts convening in Las Vegas to explore the latest advancements in HCM and preview what’s to come.

This year, we’re especially thrilled to celebrate with and welcome Paris-based PeopleDoc, who joined the Ultimate family in July.

If you’re headed to HR Tech, here’s where you can expect to find Ultimate and PeopleDoc on each day of the premier conference.

 

Tuesday, September 11

Highlighting the first day of HR Tech 2018 is a panel of accomplished HR and product executives, featuring Ultimate’s VP of HCM Innovation, Cecile Alper-Leroux. Cecile and her colleagues will share their expert insights about building the business case for a new enterprise HR technology solution. Don’t miss “The Power of a Pilot Program.”

 

Wednesday, September 12
On a jam-packed day two, you’ll find Ultimate’s Senior Director of HCM Innovation, Jarik Conrad, and Bill Jensen, CEO of the Jensen Group, sharing new and amazing 21st-century stories of brave HR pioneers—and the lessons that can be learned from them. Check out “The Future of HR—Disrupting and Establishing New HR Norms in Putting People First.”

Later, Ultimate’s CTO Adam Rodgers and Yessica Cancel, COO at PACE Center for Girls, an Ultimate customer, will present “1,200% ROI Achieved with End-to-End HCM Cloud Technology” detailing PACE’s impressive results with UltiPro®.

Then, join Ultimate and PeopleDoc for a special presentation on how to “Transform the Employee Experience with ‘People First’ HR Service Delivery.” We’ll demonstrate innovative HR service delivery technology that enables organizations to provide faster, more responsive support to its people, and reduce the administrative burden on its HR and payroll teams. Space is limited, so reserve your spot for this HR Tech experience now.

HR Tech Ultimate Software and PeopleDoc demo

 

Thursday, September 13

The excitement continues on Thursday with “The Most Interesting Companies in AI for HR Tech.” John Sumser, founder and principal analyst at HRExaminer, will showcase four intelligent software products, explain how they can be deployed, provide examples of how these artificial intelligence technologies are impacting the practice of HR today, and make the connection between cutting-edge AI technology and better people and business outcomes.

But, the AI conversation doesn’t end there. Armen Berjikly, senior director of growth strategy at Ultimate, will also deliver an insightful demo titled “AI for HR: Hype, Hope, Reality.” See how Ultimate’s “People First” AI platform, Xander®, powers UltiPro to automatically understand, predict, and prescribe personalized actions from all relevant HCM data, from text to demographics.

And, PeopleDoc will participate in HR Tech’s “Awesome New Technologies” event, highlighting leading HR technology companies and their newest innovations. PeopleDoc’s live demo will show how Robotic Process Automation orchestrates complex processes across HR and non-HR systems without human intervention, saving companies significant time, reducing errors, and providing a superior employee experience.

 

Friday, September 14

On the final day of HR Tech, Cecile returns with our “Vision for HR Technology: Ultimate Software,” presenting Ultimate’s point of view of the HCM landscape, how we see HR technology as an enabler of business success, and our ideas for what the future of work will look like and how workplace technologies will evolve and advance to help create that future.

To wrap up the conference, join Jennifer Paske, HR manager at Waterstone Mortgage Corporation, an Ultimate customer, for a panel of veteran practitioners who’ve been through multiple launches of new cloud solutions. They’ll share key lessons and hard-won advice in “Setting Up and Sustaining Success in SaaS.”

 

All Week

With HR Tech’s wall-to-wall agenda, you’ll probably want to take a few minutes throughout the week just to rejuvenate and reset. Remember to visit Ultimate at Booth #1510 and PeopleDoc at Booth #2350 to say hello, learn more about our solutions, and play our new interactive HR Tech game for a chance to win some great giveaways.

If you can’t attend HR Tech, or just want to stay connected during the conference, you can always follow Ultimate on social media—including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—for live updates and continuous coverage. Remember to use #HRTechConf.

 

We’ll see you at HR Tech!

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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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Data-Based Strategies to Recognize, Reward, & Retain High-Potential Employees https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/data-based-high-potential-employees/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/data-based-high-potential-employees/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 13:38:24 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1499 Finding, retaining, and engaging top talent is consistently one of the hardest challenges organizations face. Developing high-potential employees is crucial for priming future leaders and improving organizational performance while building a culture that fosters growth from within. Having a solid pipeline of high-potential talent is also one of the best ways to ensure future competitive […]

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

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

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

Inherent Challenges Of Spotting Potential

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

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

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

The Science Of Potential

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

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

Turning Potential Into Performance

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

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

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

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

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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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LightStarters: New Design Process Improves Product, Productivity, and Customer Satisfaction https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/new-design-process-constant-innovation/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/new-design-process-constant-innovation/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 15:22:26 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1483   Inspired by a passion for constant improvement, three Ultimate Software employees are experimenting with an innovative design process at Ultimate Software. Business Analyst Gaby Antoni, User Experience Manager Marta Guerra, and Manager of Software Engineering Chris Patullo have reshaped a design framework and methodology to suit Ultimate’s unique needs and to enhance team collaboration. The […]

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Inspired by a passion for constant improvement, three Ultimate Software employees are experimenting with an innovative design process at Ultimate Software.

Business Analyst Gaby Antoni, User Experience Manager Marta Guerra, and Manager of Software Engineering Chris Patullo have reshaped a design framework and methodology to suit Ultimate’s unique needs and to enhance team collaboration.

The framework, named LightStarters, places fierce focus on customer-centric product design, reduces meetings, helps teams collaborate better, delivers a higher quality product for customers, and does it all faster and more efficiently than ever.

In other processes, product teams work on feature requirements, functionality and design. Later, developers begin building based on these feature requirements. But developers frequently raise valuable concerns or questions as they’re building, causing designers to re-evaluate and go back to the drawing board.

After researching an alternative design sprint framework approach and attending a Design Disruptors show, team members were inspired to tweak and test this process. “At first, we followed the original design sprint methodology with some modifications so we could complete the design sprint in two or three days instead of five,” Chris said.

In addition to expediting the design process, a key element to this new methodology is that all key stakeholders need to be present: Developers, QAs, Designers, BAs, PM, Engineering Managers. The session challenges participants to collaborate and achieve a consensus on the most important outcomes before any detailed planning or development begins. By the end of a LightStarters workshop, the team produces a final sketch of the best ideas with enough detail for designers to build an interactive prototype suitable to test with customers. This allows Ultimate to obtain quick validation straight from the customer before making costly commitments.

“From a team perspective, it’s super cool because everyone is engaged, shares their ideas and these ideas make it to the final solution. We also involve customers multiple times before the session takes place to understand their needs, use cases and expectations as well as after the session to validate our final solution,” said Gaby, who guides LightStarters teams through a series of activities designed to foster creative thinking and innovation.

There have been 30 LightStarters workshops to date, and many live features in UltiPro were born through these sessions. “The motivation to create LightStarters comes from the desire to share with others something that is working great for us. We want to give everyone the chance to participate in the solution process which always results in meaningful and engaging outcomes for employees, customers, and our products,” Marta said.

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