I had the privilege of attending #SHRM18 as a member of the #SHRM18Bloggers Team in Chicago, IL. One of the vendors I wanted to highlight was Ultimate Software. They are one of the sponsors of SHRM #NextChat and was the host for the #NextChat Reception that was held at the conference. I am already aware of how they support the #HR profession and the HR Tech industry, so I wanted to dig in into their product offering. I got the honor of getting my questions answered by Adam Rogers (Twitter: @adamr), Chief Technology Officer, Ultimate Software.
If your organization is in the market for a HCM, hopefully this Q&A will give you some valuable perspectives when considering a HCM vendor. If you’re heading to the #HRTechConference in September, check them out!
GT: How do you differentiate your product/services from other HR Tech companies? If I’m in the market for HR systems, what features would win me over?
AR: There are really three crucial things to consider when evaluating HCM systems: culture, product, and services. I mention culture first because it’s often overlooked during the buying process, but it shouldn’t be. An organization’s culture ultimately determines your long-term experience with them. Ultimate’s commitment to putting people first is paramount, and, in addition to taking excellent care of our own employees, we design products and services that help our customers build the people-centric environments they need to grow and thrive. Ultimate’s also unique because, while most of our competitors focus primarily on either product or services, we’ve always invested equally in both. We introduced UltiPro as the first cloud-based HR/payroll Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology back in 2002, and we continue to leverage Agile software development, Service Design Thinking, and other collaborative processes to pioneer exciting new product advancements. At the same time, we view each and every customer as a partner for life. Offering every customer a dedicated account representative, free training for life, and 24/7 access to APA-certified UltiPro experts is just the beginning of our personalized and comprehensive service offerings. By devoting ourselves entirely to these three key priorities, we’ve differentiated ourselves in a crowded space and are proud of our consistent 96% customer retention rate. Our very first customer, who launched back in 1991? They’re still a valued and satisfied customer today. That’s the sort of lifelong partnership that wins our customers over.
GT: Can an organization just purchase one or two components (i.e., HR, Benefits) of Ultimate, or do they have to purchase the entire suite? If they can be bought a la carte, can they be integrated with other payroll systems or will this require redundancy in data entry?
AR: Our standard UltiPro offering includes HR, payroll, and benefits administration, as well as UltiPro Business Intelligence. Other solutions can be purchased as needed to enhance the core offering, such as talent management, compensation management, advanced benefits tools, learning suites, and more.
Our sentiment analysis survey solution is also available to certain organizations a la carte, depending on company size.
We understand that integration is paramount, so we offer various options to help organizations seamlessly exchange data between UltiPro and other business solutions via timely, secure, and reliable integrations.
GT: How HR savvy are your implementation/design teams? I found that one source of frustration I had when dealing with HR tech teams involved their lack of understanding of the nuances that we face in HR. This is especially true when it comes to accuracy of data and how to address inaccuracies (human data entry error) in a timely manner. I had a PM who thought correcting SSN and COBRA notifications were not priorities.
AR: Thanks to our incredible culture, benefits, and global recognition as a Best Place to Work, we attract and retain many of the best people in the industry. Many of our launch, implementation, and design professionals have decades of experience and multiple certifications. The high level of collaboration between our product and services teams ensures that everyone has a clear understanding of HR and the features needed to optimize our customer’s experience. Our project teams are composed of experienced industry experts specializing in specific areas of UltiPro, along with technical resources, integration analysts, and a dedicated project manager who personally oversees the entire project. This means our customer’s questions are addressed quickly and they benefit from immediate, proactive assistance every step of the way. Many of our integration consultants are FPC and PMP certified, as well as Certified Experts in SQL Server Development.
Finally, we use an iterative design process, which means our user experience (UX) team conducts detailed, ongoing research and actively partners with customers to truly understand our users’ needs. By partnering closely with our customers, we can ensure that UltiPro exceeds their expectations, not what our developers think they need.
GT: What is the average time spent by an employee doing benefit enrollment? How will AI assist employees with this process?
AR: Benefits options are quite complex, and employees often aren’t given much (or any) insight to assist with decision making. Many studies show that employees almost always default to selecting the same plan as they chose the year before, including recent research from Aflac that indicates almost half of employees spend 30 minutes or less making benefits decisions. Haphazardly choosing among plans can have expensive repercussions for everyone involved, including employers.
Assisting employees with making more personalized benefits decisions—decisions that help them to save money while ensuring the best coverage to meet their own needs—is a perfect opportunity for AI support. Solutions like UltiPro Benefits Prime provide step-by-step guidance, educational tools, and personalized plan recommendations. Without ever needing to contact HR or the benefits provider, employees are able to make the best benefits decisions for themselves and their families.
GT: Are your clients asking you to collect data to determine possible gender wage gap in their organization?
AR: We recently released a Pay Equity report for all of our customers, which allows them to analyze average pay by gender, ethnicity age and disability status.
And while recognizing pay disparity is a great initial step, working to improve overall diversity, equity and inclusion is obviously the ultimate goal. We’re working on a variety of solutions to interrupt and eliminate bias before it occurs, including tools that help improve quality of hire while eliminating unconscious bias, revamp interview guides and job descriptions based on diversity data, and help recruiters and organizations reevaluate their recruiting and hiring processes.
GT: What AI related features are you rolling out in your upcoming releases?
AR: We’re still extremely excited about Xander, which isn’t really a feature but our “People First” AI engine. Xander uses natural language processing (NLP) to digest and actually understand human language, including the emotions that drive the words, coupling analytical and emotional intelligence to analyze all aspects of HCM data and provide decision makers with detailed, unbiased insight.
Armed with a comprehensive understanding of what’s really going on in their company, leaders can take meaningful action to drive positive changes within the organization.
We’ll be leveraging Xander’s enhanced AI capabilities in a variety of solutions and recruiting-based predictive analytics are coming next. Customers will be able to leverage AI and predictive analytics to identify top candidates and make smarter talent decisions.
Building off of our AI-powered sentiment analysis and NLP capabilities, we’re working on delivering a new kind of performance management tool that’s focused not just on managing performance but improving it. With real-time coaching for better quality feedback and team-level performance intelligence, a manager will be able to quickly make sense of continuous feedback and focus on real improvement opportunities.
GT: Have you seen demand for machine learning features from your clients?
AR: Absolutely. Machine learning enables the platform to learn from experience and get better with time, which is clearly desirable—you’d want the same thing from your employees. Ultimate’s machine-learning technology looks at how effective UltiPro’s predictions are and automatically makes adjustments to improve, which means your data from today is even more valuable tomorrow.
GT: You emphasize capabilities that will enable the removal of barriers faced when applying for a job. What are some of the more serious barriers these features address?
AR: Traditional recruiting systems can be complex and burdensome, leading to candidate disengagement and application abandonment. UltiPro Recruiting’s unique candidate-centric design helps engage potential hires with familiar technology they want to use and build successful relationships from the first interaction. We use social and mobile technology for an easy, personalized, and enjoyable experience. Candidates can even use gamified features to find opportunities or import their information from LinkedIn. And with automated candidate match capabilities coming soon, we’ll be able to speed up processes for identifying promising candidates and getting them into the right roles.
GT: Do you partner with anyone on your Learning Management system to make sure that education is centered not just on the employee, but the organization as well? Depending on industry and/or state, there are some statutory training requirements. Are those pre-packaged, or add-ons?
AR: UltiPro Learning enables organizations to build an optimized learning strategy while effectively reaching employees where they are, with mobile and social learning capabilities. Today’s learners expect their learning at work to be much like the learning they do at home – on-demand and snackable. Think YouTube for the enterprise – where we can easily share what we know with others, as simply as uploading a video from our phone.
Organizations have several options for creating courses and adding course content, including building their own content, converting existing content, or adding third-party content. By leveraging our course marketplace, customers can jumpstart or expand their development content, including best practice statutory, soft-skill and technical training courses and materials.
GT: How much of an impact will the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have on your systems, considering the massive personal data collected from ATS, HRIS, and Payroll?
AR: The GDPR has specific requirements for data processors like Ultimate, regardless of whether the organization operates within the boundaries of the European Union. Ultimate already has all the key practices in place to align with our responsibilities as a data processor to allow for an employee’s right for data portability or erasure. Additionally, we’ve added the ability for customers to capture or withdraw an employee’s consent in UltiPro and have a team of subject matter experts available to guide our customers through the new regulations.
Adam Rogers began his career in 1997 as Ultimate Software’s very first intern and quickly became a leading innovator in the field. In 2002, Adam led his team to deliver the very first Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud Enterprise solution, redefining industry standards by bringing HCM to the cloud. Today, Adam serves Ultimate as CTO and holds the unique distinction of leading both product innovation and corporate IT strategy. His teams are routinely recognized for their industry-leading innovations and Adam’s thought leadership work is regularly published in Forbes, InformationWeek, and a variety of online blogs and publications.