HR Technology – Ultimate Software's Blog https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com Thoughts on Putting People First in the Workplace Sat, 16 Dec 2017 11:00:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 The Reengineering of the Workforce https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/reengineering-workforce-fluidity/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/reengineering-workforce-fluidity/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 14:03:44 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1156 The transformation of the workplace—relinquishing many of the entrenched work and leadership structures that many companies and HR leaders hold dear, such as org charts and hierarchical management roles, in favor of promoting more fluid ways of people working—is a sea change that, unfortunately, has not gained widespread momentum. Many companies understand the value of […]

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workforce fluidityThe transformation of the workplace—relinquishing many of the entrenched work and leadership structures that many companies and HR leaders hold dear, such as org charts and hierarchical management roles, in favor of promoting more fluid ways of people working—is a sea change that, unfortunately, has not gained widespread momentum. Many companies understand the value of workforce fluidity, but they struggle in their resolve to make it happen.

Workforce fluidity is an all-encompassing term I coined to describe job fluidity, organizational fluidity, and identity fluidity. Job fluidity describes a workforce where people are not tied to or identified by a specific job description; rather, they flow among initiatives and supervisors to maximize their contributions. Organizational fluidity accepts the reality of how work gets done these days, generally through collaborative efforts with diverse minds and skills coming together. And identity fluidity encourages new levels of self-definition and expression, with the knowledge that feeling safe in our authentic uniqueness will foster innovative ideas.

These tenets of workplace transformation stand in sharp contrast to yesteryear’s rigid organizational structures, regimented ways of working, and uniform definitions of what constitutes a leader. Certainly, those ways made perfect sense in the post-Industrial Age, when small shops gave way to large, unwieldy business organizations with a need to control the labor force. The use of divisions, departments, and jobs based on a person’s specific expertise ensured that work was appropriately doled out, supervised, and completed.

The problem with this static structure today is that it clashes with the dynamism of the global business environment and the current needs of people in the workforce. Thanks to distributed technology advancements, today’s business is conducted in real time. Layers of management and delegation authority slow down the required speed and flexibility of work.

At the same time, employees are increasingly being asked to participate in different projects and other initiatives under different supervisors. Titles and job roles seem almost superfluous in this multi-skilled, multi-task setting. Yet, most companies are still stuck with org charts, trying to shoehorn these modern workforce realities into an inflexible hierarchy.

Why is this the case, and how can HR become more nimble and lead the necessary change? According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey of more than 10,000 business and HR leaders from 140 countries, 88% of respondents say building the organization of the future is an important or very important issue; yet, only 11% understand how to do it. To get a better sense of why this is the case, I reached out to Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Josh began by recounting his own workforce trajectory. “When I joined the workforce out of college in the late 1970s, I was given a job description and title and told how much I would earn,” he recalled. “My boss told me what to do and wrote up my performance appraisal at the end of the year. The goal was to stick around and get a promotion to buy a house, have kids, and retire in comfort. This workforce concept was based on the old industrial-scale model, which is now a disadvantage for companies, as it slows them down from reacting quickly.”

Josh’s view is affirmed by Deloitte’s survey. Only 14% of respondents believe the traditional hierarchical model involving jobs based on a person’s expertise in a specific area is effective. “It’s pretty clear to me that just about everything in organizational management needs to be reengineered,” Josh said. “The ways that work gets done are fundamentally changing, with leading companies moving to a more agile, collaborative, and flexible way of working. Instead of a hierarchy, there is more of a network organizational structure.”

When asked for an example of this work type in action, Josh pointed to the now-common practice of forming a team of people from across the organization to take on a specific project. “People are collaborating with others who are not from their business area, lending their unique expertise and experiences to the task at hand,” he said. “They jump on and off such projects on a routine basis. Yet, in the background, there still is the hierarchical work structure that has little to do with reality.” I wholeheartedly agree and would add that, as a result, people’s work is often evaluated by someone who isn’t seeing the whole picture, also removed from reality.

Today’s new ways of working are good for companies, increasing employees’ sense of purpose, engagement with their work responsibilities, overall productivity, and personal happiness. People feel more in control of their lives. Hopping from one initiative to another also puts them in close proximity to others who have different talents, increasing everyone’s range of skills.

Best of all, people are able to coalesce around what is most important in business—serving the customer. “Instead of focusing on efficiently executing the same task over and over, employees are empowered to make the customer happier,” Josh said.

What will it take for more companies to let the sea change happen? The first step is to realize that workforce fluidity is already underway. The digital transformation of business is a powerful undercurrent tugging the organization toward more fluid ways of working.

Once this reality is accepted, business leaders can make the most of it, and HR agility can truly take hold, ushering in a more fluid, inspiring, and modern workplace. Some of Josh’s suggestions for navigating this shift include creating mission-oriented project teams composed of individuals from marketing, sales, customer experience, and other functions, and empowering them to make decisions that benefit customers. To that, I would add the need for empathy—the capacity to sense how people around you in the workplace feel about their work.

True leadership entails the ability to unite people in a shared purpose. Work that is personally fulfilling will always be a motivational force that creates organizational health and success.

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What is the Best Way to Lead? https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/great-leadership/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/great-leadership/#comments Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:48:40 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1126 What are the traits of great leadership for the future of work? It’s a question I am often asked by audience members during my varied speaking engagements. It’s a great question, since leadership—like everything else in today’s blistering pace of change—must be dynamic. Leaders must evolve as employees do, to direct organizations that operate and […]

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leadershipWhat are the traits of great leadership for the future of work? It’s a question I am often asked by audience members during my varied speaking engagements. It’s a great question, since leadership—like everything else in today’s blistering pace of change—must be dynamic.

Leaders must evolve as employees do, to direct organizations that operate and are managed differently. I’m referring to the movement in many companies toward project-based teamwork involving both full-time and non-permanent employees, tasks performed on a mobile “anywhere” basis, and the positive trend toward employee inclusiveness, in which each person’s self-defined uniqueness is seen as the asset it is. (See my related post, Are You Ready for True Workforce Fluidity?) Certainly, this is not your grandfather’s business to lead.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, companies were often run with military precision. During World War II, 10 high-ranking management theorists were recruited by the U.S. Air Force to enhance operations. When the war ended, Ford Motor Company snapped them up. They inserted the military’s “org charts” into Ford’s structure, creating divisions, departments, and jobs based on a person’s specific expertise. This ensured work was appropriately doled out, supervised, and completed. Other companies soon incorporated similar structures across the industrialized world.

As one might imagine, leaders of these businesses were akin to military generals. They commanded the organization from the boardroom, rather than the war room. This structure was right (for the times) and proved its merit. American companies quickly became the best in the world. And then the Internet, smartphones, the cloud, cognitive computing, and the Internet of Things burgeoned to seriously change things—democratizing decision-making and communications.

So what is today’s definition of “great leadership”? To draw a clearer picture, I turned to the source of the last century’s business leadership model—the military. I asked Lieutenant General George Flynn, now retired, for his perspective on the subject.

Lt. Gen. Flynn enjoyed a distinguished career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration and the Commanding General of the Combat Development Command in Quantico, Virginia. He is an advisor to Ultimate Software and many other corporations, and is a brilliant resource on leadership strategy.

You may know Lt. Gen. Flynn as the inspiration for a book by the best-selling author Simon Sinek. Sinek had interviewed him to learn more about the Marine Corps’ style of leadership. He boiled it down to these three words—“Officers eat last.” Sinek was so taken with the response he named his book after it (Leaders Eat Last). I recently sat down with George to ask what he meant by his comment.

“It’s really pretty simple,” he said. “If you treat your team as the most important resource in your organization, they become committed to you and the purpose of the organization. It shows your respect and the fact that you care so much about them that they deserve only the best. And that includes eating first, beginning with the most junior officer and ending with the most senior officer.”

He added, “That’s the ‘cost of leadership,’ as I explained it to Simon.”

This leadership philosophy seems at odds with today’s corporate guidance. Few CEOs know the names of employees other than their direct reports. Many of them eat with other senior executives in a separate part of the company cafeteria and have large offices away from the rest of their employees. Certainly, this is not an “officers eat last” approach. Rather, it suggests rank—people separated based on their perceived value and contributions to the success of the organization. There is a shift happening in some companies where CEOs are forgoing offices for shared office space, and the impact is significant for employees. As George put it, “Whoever is leading must form trusted relationships with those being led.”

Our discussion moved on to today’s millennial workers. George commented that this generation of employees tends to demand more from its leaders. “They want to know the ‘why’ before they buy into the project,” he explained. “When they believe in the value of what needs to be done, they’re very giving of their time and effort. They’ll go the extra mile if they understand the purpose behind the tasks and believe in that purpose.”

Without this understanding, millennials (really all employees) are more likely to search for new employment. To keep them, leaders must ensure they have meaningful work that leads to the development of new skills. “Millennials need to be trained and empowered to take risks on behalf of the organization, to progress in their careers,” George said. How can today’s business leaders, particularly those at the helm of large, far-flung organizations, ensure full buy-in from the “troops”? George responded that there are specific times on any given day when a leader can demonstrate valued leadership. “We call them ‘defining moments,’” he said. “The moments differ, but examples include how the person makes a difficult decision or handles a mistake. Word of mouth quickly spreads to form an opinion about the leader.”

These opinions are the basis for following the leader. “In my experience, I’ve come across three levels of leadership,” said George. “The first is when people follow you because you’ve been given the authority to control them. The second is they follow you because they trust you and will, therefore, take risks for you. The third level is they follow you because they believe in you and your mission. At that level, they’ll make personal sacrifices for you. Down deep, all people want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

I couldn’t agree more. When we feel we are part of something important led by a leader we believe in, work becomes much more than just work. It becomes part of our purpose and identity.

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Big Data and Predicting Turnover https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/big-data-and-predicting-turnover/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/big-data-and-predicting-turnover/#respond Sun, 15 Apr 2012 10:13:21 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=111 I learned a lot about data during this year’s Ultimate Software Connections conference. Which is totally cool with me; I’m not afraid of numbers. One specific term was “big data.” Now, I admit that I had heard the term but didn’t really have my arms around what it meant or what it means for business. […]

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I learned a lot about data during this year’s Ultimate Software Connections conference. Which is totally cool with me; I’m not afraid of numbers. One specific term was “big data.” Now, I admit that I had heard the term but didn’t really have my arms around what it meant or what it means for business.

Chris McLatcher, director of business intelligence and analytics for Ultimate Software, really gave a great overview of big data during his session, “What’s Coming in the Area of Reporting, Metrics, Analytics & Predictive Analysis.” In case you’re wondering, the term “big data” refers to groups of data so large that they become challenging to work with. But we do it anyway, because of the trend data that we can pull from it. If you’d like to learn more, here’s a video that can help.

 

Data has always been important to our organizations. Now that lots of it exists and more is generated every second, data is even more important. But not just getting the data. It’s equally key that we can read, process, and make decisions based upon it.

This is where predictive analytics takes over. We can use these techniques to leverage the data. Because what our organizations are able to do as a result of the data will help them achieve success. Having data just for the sake of data isn’t achieving success. Ultimate Software talked about one of the ways they are able to use big data for their clients. Think about this scenario:

Your company is getting ready for their annual strategy session. Part of that session is setting business goals for the next operational year. During the conversation, someone mentions that they are concerned about achieving the goals being discussed because of the current talent situation in the company. “There are lots of reports in the media about people looking for new jobs. If we lose a couple key players, we won’t have the bench strength to make these goals a reality.”

Wouldn’t it be great if you could put the senior leadership team’s fears to rest? The question is: what could possibly be said? Ultimate Software has been successfully testing the use of predictive analytics to not only determine how much turnover an organization might expect but the likelihood of an individual to leave the organization. This is pretty powerful stuff!

If businesses had more accurate data regarding potential turnover, there would be opportunities to potentially change the outcome. Again, what our companies can do with data becomes incredibly valuable and has the potential to impact the bottom line. It all comes down to knowing and understanding the business data we have available.

If you want to stay on top of business analytics and how they can help your organization, consider joining the UltiPro Business Intelligence SIG on LinkedIn. Chris also mentioned two books: Investing in People by Wayne F. Cascio and John W. Boudreau and HR Analytics Handbook by Laurie McBassi. Neither are reads for sipping a pina colada by the pool, but when you need them, they will be very useful.

There’s an old cliché about knowledge being power. In today’s world, having access to the data you need, at the moment you need it, will create powerful opportunities for your company.

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Live from #UltiConnect 2012: Statistically Aware Human Resources https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/live-from-ulticonnect-2012-statistically-aware-human-resources/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/live-from-ulticonnect-2012-statistically-aware-human-resources/#respond Fri, 30 Mar 2012 06:03:39 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=95 I’ve always been a numbers person. I think there’s much we can learn from looking at data and statistics. And it’s never too late to embrace the numbers. In fact, Thomas Otter, vice president of research at Gartner Research coined the phrase “statistically aware HR” during his session on workforce analytics at the Ultimate Software Connections […]

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I’ve always been a numbers person. I think there’s much we can learn from looking at data and statistics. And it’s never too late to embrace the numbers. In fact, Thomas Otter, vice president of research at Gartner Research coined the phrase “statistically aware HR” during his session on workforce analytics at the Ultimate Software Connections conference and I believe it’s a perfect way to approach data.

When we think about it, we have tons of data about our workforce right at our fingertips. And how much of it are we actually using? When we’re faced with a problem, is the first question…let’s run some reports and see what the data tells us? I’m sure some companies are doing it. But Otter points to research that indicates “65% of organizations will fail to exploit workforce analytics because of a lack of skilled resources.”

So regardless of our current skill level, here are 4 things you can do to become more statistically aware:

  1. Invest in learning statistical skills. Take a class, read a book or blog. Find a way to learn more about the subject. Example: During Otter’s session, I learned about the Bradford Factor which says there’s a difference in being absent for 7 days and being absent 7 times for one day. This data is important because it can impact workplace productivity.
  1. Start with a small problem. Now is not the time to take on more than you can handle. Remember to consider operational factors in your calculations. And don’t promise numbers you can’t deliver!
  1. Leverage external data. Think about the partners you are working with who can provide data. Also leverage applications your employees are using, such as LinkedIn. With the popularity of the platform, make sure your organization is using the available data about your industry and competitive set.
  1. Learn from history and others. Collect historical data and use it as a test of what actually happened. That can offer insight into data analysis skills. Also, tap into the expertise around your company. For instance, work with marketing professionals who have become very knowledgeable about measuring brand awareness.

Like most skills, the more we work at something, the better we get at it. Once your analysis is complete, take action based upon your findings. Plan to evaluate the results at pre-determined milestones and adjust accordingly. Soon, you too will become one of the “statistically aware”.

 

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Buying a House, Saving for Retirement and Choosing Benefits https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/buying-a-house-saving-for-retirement-and-choosing-benefits/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/buying-a-house-saving-for-retirement-and-choosing-benefits/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:23:24 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=93 Today I want to talk about something that is very important to all of us: choosing the right benefits. I relate to this because as someone with a wife and two small sons at home, it’s absolutely critical that I choose the right benefits for my family. Given that I’m responsible for HR & Benefits […]

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Today I want to talk about something that is very important to all of us: choosing the right benefits. I relate to this because as someone with a wife and two small sons at home, it’s absolutely critical that I choose the right benefits for my family. Given that I’m responsible for HR & Benefits within Ultimate’s UltiPro and I’ve spent my entire career studying and managing benefits solutions, I am fortunate to have the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed benefits decisions. Unfortunately, for most people, knowing how to differentiate and select benefits can be confusing and daunting. This fact is very concerning because outside of buying a house and saving for retirement, choosing the right benefits is probably the most important decision a person will make.

At this point you may be thinking, “He’s just saying this because he has spent his career in benefits.” This may be true but let me explain it from my vantage point.

The reality is that benefits are important because of their potential impact on one’s personal and financial well-being. Based on recent data from Mercer, an employee’s annual healthcare cost for a family of four is expected to top $10,000 in 2012. That is approaching almost $1,000 per month! At that level, we are in the ballpark of a monthly mortgage payment. This is where the similarities end. The reason is that unlike buying a house, if you choose the wrong benefit plan you could suffer catastrophic financial losses should you get sick or have a health problem that is not covered. Even worse you might not even be able to get the medical treatment you desperately need. I think this makes it pretty clear why understanding how to choose the right benefits is important.

What’s ironic is that most people spend only a few minutes choosing their benefits and do so with very little information. This is where the need for benefits decision support comes in. As a business owner or HR leader who wants your people to make informed benefit decisions, it is critical that you provide the tools for them to do so. This includes: 1) definitions of key benefit terms, 2) the pros and cons of each benefit plan being offered, and 3) comparison tools that can be used to determine the benefit plan that is best tailored towards their unique personal situation. Historically speaking, people have relied on their employers to provide the information needed to make informed benefits decisions. This approach, however, is becoming ineffective at a very rapid pace. This is because the younger generations entering the workforce rely almost solely on their social networks for all kinds of advice. Now I’m not new to the workforce, but soliciting benefits advice from my friends and family using my social network seems like a much better approach to me.

So my message is, take your time and be wise in your benefits decisions. If you are the person responsible for benefits management in your organization, take it upon yourself to provide your people with the information and tools they need to make informed benefits decisions. Put yourself in their shoes. Failure to do so can have terrible consequences for everyone.

Here’s to putting people first.

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Sharing At Its Best https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/sharing-at-its-best/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/sharing-at-its-best/#respond Mon, 12 Mar 2012 13:23:25 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=92 Ever since my kids were old enough to understand the concept of sharing, my wife and I have been encouraging them to do it often. With three kids that are very close in age, that is easier said than done, but I am always proud of them when they manage to pull it off.  We […]

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Ever since my kids were old enough to understand the concept of sharing, my wife and I have been encouraging them to do it often. With three kids that are very close in age, that is easier said than done, but I am always proud of them when they manage to pull it off.  We nearly fell out of our chairs the other day when witnessing our ten-year old son actually offer the last couple of cookies to his older sister. Of course, he’s recently been trying to win us over to buy him some new technology, so we’re wondering just how genuine that “share” really was.

Though sharing may not always come easily for kids, sharing between adults has never been easier. The rise of the social web has made it really simple to share everything from advice on how to fix a leaky faucet to the latest videos of your cat doing something weird. It still amazes me how quickly the technology has gotten us to this point.

As a SaaS provider, sharing is in Ultimate’s DNA. When we made the decision to move to the cloud over ten years ago, we knew that by sharing common infrastructure, we’d lower costs and ease the administrative burden for our customers. What we couldn’t foresee was just how much sharing would eventually take place within our user community because of this shift. There are dozens of UltiPro User Communities on LinkedIn, thousands of participants in our Ideas community, and the content and thoughts that are being shared in these forums are both practical and engaging.

I’m responsible for the Business Intelligence & Analytics products at Ultimate, so I want to highlight some of the sharing taking place between the BI users within our customer community. The author of a recent ZDNet article urges business people to be “BI savvy,” and I couldn’t agree more.  However, our users are wearing multiple hats and have limited time to develop their expertise. They know that UltiPro Business Intelligence allows them to tap the vast amounts of information living with their employee records, so they are turning to the communities to help them. At nearly 900 members as of this writing, the Business Intelligence forum on LinkedIn is one of the largest and most active. Collaborating with other users to share tips, tricks, ideas, and even reports is a great example of how the cloud proves its value. Users are sharing reports on a wide range of topics including total compensation, bonus distribution by performance rating, and benefit election comparisons. This is something that we’ve coined “Consume/Author/Share” within UltiPro.

Across the enterprise applications market, there is so much room to innovate and expand upon making data and analytics accessible, understandable, and pervasive throughout solutions, and we’re totally focused on this at Ultimate. The good news is that with the help of collaboration and the cloud, people, i.e., our customers, can work together and benefit from one another today. Because of this, hundreds of report templates have been downloaded thousands of times. This is sharing at its best. And though I may not have quite the same sense of pride as when my son offered my daughter the last cookie, I’m still awfully proud to be a part of this community. Keep on sharing!

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