The Ultimate Software blog delivers current and relevant content to help you put your people first – with thoughts on HCM, payroll, and new technology, you won’t miss a beat. Ultimate Software’s #PeopleFirst approach makes Human Resources human. Our unified HR solution, UltiPro, manages and solves your global HCM, payroll issues
Today is World Poetry Day. To celebrate with a poem—why, there’s no better way!
So in an effort to quench your poetic thirst, let Ultimate Software present:
An Ode to Putting People First
You’ve got a great product, an all-star team
All’s well for a while, then you start to lose steam
You check the numbers, there’s a problem with retention
Your most important asset, your people, need more attention
There’s trouble with your culture, frustration seems to brew
You sent an engagement survey last year, what more can you do?
To truly make a difference, take the path better traversed
Adopt Ultimate’s core principle. Put your people first.
You like how that sounds, onboard with the theme
But still a little unsure, “What does it all mean?”
It’s focusing on employees, far beyond the paycheck
It’s cultural transformation, with help from HR tech.
Sentiment analysis, BI, artificial intelligence
Our solutions are both innovative and elegant
Xander powers our platform, so the AI’s immersed
And it all comes together to put people first.
But did you know most people regret their HCM purchase?
It’s not product functionality; they’re disappointed with service.
That’s why we’re always available, meaning 24/7
To improve your experience and answer your questions.
Our personalized approach goes beyond software support
To help you optimize solutions and design your reports
We solve problems proactively, eliminate strife,
You’re more than a customer. You’re our “Partner for Life.”
It’s never too late to adopt a new perspective
Happier employees, better bottom lines, “Now that’s effective!”
For over 25 years, it’s been the Ultimate way
Respect and care for all; everyone, every day.
We’ve made the commitment, and so can you—
To achieve great success, put people first in all you do.
Connections 2018, Ultimate Software’s annual customer conference, starts tomorrow in Las Vegas. This year promises to be one of our most engaging, productive, and exciting events yet, with a jam-packed agenda and more than 3,900 HR executives, administrators, practitioners, and industry influencers scheduled to attend.
If you’re joining us in Vegas, here’s a preview of what to expect at Connections 2018.
This year’s Connections theme is “New Perspectives,” and we have more than 135 breakout sessions covering over 65 different topics all designed to increase your knowledge of Ultimate’s HCM solutions and show you how to get the most out of UltiPro®.
Led by our subject-matter experts, these interactive sessions cover the complete HR spectrum—from managing payroll and time, to engaging and managing people, to reporting and analytics, to configuring and integrating UltiPro with third-party solutions. We even have breakouts tailored to Canada-based organizations and our customers with global employees. No matter which sessions you attend, you’re sure to learn plenty of useful tips, tricks, and strategies you can take back to the workplace.
Innovative Presentations The conference officially kicks off Tuesday morning with presentations by Ultimate’s Chief Technology Officer, Adam Rogers, and Ultimate’s VP of Products, Martin Hartshorne. Get an inside look at the latest HCM technology Ultimate is offering to customers, as well as the game-changing innovations and UltiPro functionality you can expect to see in the coming months.
Connections has marked the debut of many Ultimate products and services. Last year, we unveiled our portfolio of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, Xander, the next step in data science for HR. We’re primed and ready to share our newest solutions at Connections 2018, providing organizations with even more ways to enhance the employee experience and put their people first.
On Wednesday, you’ll hear from Scott Scherr, CEO, president, and founder of Ultimate. Discover the true power of making employees your number-one priority, as Scherr shares personal stories from Ultimate’s 25-plus-year history, highlighting our successes and challenges. Whether this is your first time at Connections or you’re a veteran attendee, Scherr’s talk is one you won’t want to miss.
Thursday brings results from the third-annual Connections 2018 Code-A-Thon. Witness what Ultimate’s skilled software engineers developed in a matter of days onsite at the conference, showcasing new UltiPro concept functionality based on attendees’ own ideas. And, we’ll announce the winners of our prestigious Innovation Awards, honoring our customers who’ve gone above and beyond with their use of UltiPro and Ultimate’s services in the past 12 months.
Year after year, Connections features memorable keynotes from inspirational individuals, and 2018 is no exception. Come expecting to be entertained and enlightened. Leave with new perspectives on work and life.
On Wednesday, you’ll hear from Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Roberts has more than two decades of broadcasting experience, covering sports and news throughout her storied career. In 2012, she battled a life-threatening bone-marrow disease, but refused to give up her fight. She returned to the GMA anchor desk the following year, ready to achieve even more as a broadcaster. Now, Roberts will share her remarkable story and the life lessons she’s learned at every turn.
Bestselling author and impassioned speaker, John O’Leary, will deliver Thursday’s keynote. As a child, O’Leary sparked a massive explosion in his home that burned 100% of his body. Determined not to die, but to live a full life, O’Leary has spent adulthood as a source of inspiration for thousands of people, challenging each and every one to view their lives differently. Through his book On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life and his thought-provoking talks, O’Leary travels the world, helping individuals overcome personal challenges while celebrating the joys of life.
Connections is also known for its incomparable evening events. In addition to our energetic Welcome Reception on Tuesday night, this year, we’re thrilled to welcome country-music all-star Kenny Chesney, who’ll perform a private concert during our Customer Appreciation Party on Thursday. Enjoy an eclectic setlist pulling from Chesney’s extensive catalog of country hits, guaranteed to have you singing along. It’s the perfect way to go out on the last night of Connections.
Plus, our conference emcee and Ultimate’s Chief Relationship Officer, Bill Hicks, always has a few surprises planned exclusively for Connections attendees, so you never know just what to expect from Bill and his friends throughout the week.
It’s a Connections tradition to partner with inspiring organizations that change the lives of people around the world. This year, we’re partnering with Operation H.O.P.E., Inc. (Helping Other People Everywhere), a local Las Vegas organization that provides services and support to homeless and disadvantaged residents. Please stop by the Wynn registration desk #1 to learn more about the organization and write a personalized letter of encouragement to help empower and support those who truly need it.
We’ll see you in Las Vegas! Follow #UltiConnect on Social
Can’t make it to Connections, or want to catch up on any parts you might have missed during the week? Follow Ultimate and #UltiConnect on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn for live coverage, photos, videos, and more throughout the entire conference.
Every March, Ultimate Software hosts its annual customer conference, Connections. This year, in addition to dozens of workshops, breakout sessions, a full lineup of inspiring keynote speakers, and an intimate live music performance, we’ve partnered with a variety of world-class HR influencers and bloggers to share the latest research and trends with you. During the course of interactive sessions, panels, and hands-on workshops, these industry leaders will provide guests with “New Perspectives” while sharing their expert opinions on compliance, recruitment, talent, and leadership best practices.
While most of these sessions filled within days of registration, we’re thrilled to announce that each session will be Livestreamed on Twitter.
Attorney, tHRive Law
Kate is an energetic and enthusiastic HR professional, employment/labor law attorney, and technology aficionado. She wants to make companies better – not just compliant. With both domestic and international HR experience, she helps organizations create, revamp and implement effective HR policies and practices to drive innovation and business.
Compliance and Employee Communication
Women in Leadership Panel
Chief Content Officer, Allegis Global Solutions
Matt has over 10 years of experience in HR and recruiting, working at organizations like Warner Brothers, the Walt Disney Company, and Monster.com. In 2013, Matt founded Recruiting Daily and has been writing for the site and acting as Managing Editor ever since. His impact on the industry continues to grow as he speaks globally on HR technology, recruiting, and the future of work.
Sentiment Analysis and the Future of Work
Principal Analyst, Lighthouse Recovery and Advisory
Ben is an HCM industry analyst helping companies and vendors with strategy, content, and more. He has worked as an analyst for more than seven years, with five of those in an independent capacity. Ben specializes in HR technology, the future of work, recruiting, benefits, employee relations, and more. He also co-founded HRevolution.
Innovation Sprints: Discover the Potency of Applying a “Hacking” Mindset to Your Work
Director of Human Resources, Denver Water
Mary is a talent strategist and business leader with almost 15 years’ experience in helping organizations achieve their goals through operations, as well as learning and development, with extensive experience in leadership and organizational development, coaching, key talent planning, talent acquisition, performance management, business partnering, HRIS, process and policy creation, and instructional design. In addition to her work within companies, Mary authors survivingleadership.blog and co-chairs the Denver chapter of DisruptHR.
Transforming Your HR Department: Implement Changes Today to Achieve Business and HR Results
Women in Leadership Panel
Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Red Branch Media
Maren is the Founder and CEO of Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and outreach as well as thought leadership to HR and recruiting technology and services organizations internationally. She is a consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques with over 15 years of experience in the HR and recruitment space. She has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies and been a thought leader in the global recruitment and talent space.
10 Ways to Draw Interest in Less Than Desirable Jobs and 50 Discrete Benefits
Women in Leadership Panel
North American Advisor, The Employee Engagement Awards
Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits – first as an entrepreneur, then a corporate HR executive, then as a consultant, researcher, and speaker. He has over 10 years experience in HR and is passionate about employee engagement, culture, leadership, technology, and talent management.
The Relationship Comes First: Discovering the True Path to Employee Engagement
Women in Leadership Panel
President, HRU Technical Resources
Tim is the President of HRU Technical Resources, where he employs his 20 years of HR and recruiting experience to run his $40M IT and Engineering contract staffing firm and RPO. He resides in Lansing, Michigan and works to improve the local, national, and global HR communities. In his free time, Tim writes for popular HR blogs like The Tim Sackett Project and Fistful of Talent.
When Your HR Metrics Fail to Connect with Your Organization
Chief Innovations Officer and Founder, Talent Think Innovations LLC
Janine is the Founder of Talent Think Innovations, LLC, a business strategy and management consulting firm. She has 10 years experience in talent management, technology, diversity and inclusion, and HR strategy that has taken her through staffing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and R&D.
Maybe I’m biased, but I have the greatest job in the world. As Ultimate Software’s Chief People Officer, I have the daily privilege of caring for our employees, spending quality time with our teams, and ensuring our programs and companywide culture continue to serve our people.
Ask any one of my colleagues on Ultimate’s leadership team, and you’ll hear the same sentiments. We are incredibly grateful for the thoughtful notes, emails, and tweets we receive from our employees, each expressing their heartfelt thanks and appreciation for Ultimate.
But, we aren’t the ones who deserve the credit—it’s our people.
Who do whatever it takes to personally serve our customers, and who don’t quit until a question has been answered or a solution has been provided.
Who treat every coworker with the greatest respect, trust, and care, recognizing the critical role each person plays in Ultimate’s success, and appreciating the unique views and experiences every individual brings to our company.
Who believe in our “People First” mission, exemplify our core values, and protect our culture to see that everyone is supported, every day. That everyone has the resources they need to grow as professionals, and to thrive as people.
Who pay it forward by serving our 4,100-plus customers, and countless others in our local communities.
Who we never take for granted, and feel extremely proud and fortunate to call members of our Ultimate family.
For the past 28 years, no matter what challenge we’ve faced or what achievement we’ve celebrated, there’s been one constant at Ultimate: people.
We remain committed to providing the absolute best workplace for our employees—with 100%-paid healthcare premiums, unlimited PTO, and company equity.
We are 100% focused on delivering the most innovative HCM technology, and the industry’s most comprehensive support to our customers—from our portfolio of advanced AI technologies, Xander, to our new UltiPro Connect integration hub.
It’s always been, and always will be, about people. And, at Ultimate, we have the greatest people in the world.
Below is a sampling of the amazing tweets we’ve recently received from our employees. On behalf of the entire Ultimate leadership team, we Thank YOU, our people. Not just on Employee Appreciation Day, but every day.
Taking teamwork to another level, bobsledding pair and married couple, Elana Meyers Taylor and Nic Taylor, are on their ways to PyeongChang, going for gold in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In today’s #UltimateTeamMoment, read how the full-time partners and part-time teammates motivate each other on and off the bobsled track, and how they both could end up celebrating on the podium this month in South Korea.
Bobsled Teammate, Husband Nic Taylor Is Ultimate Teammate as Elana Meyers Taylor Goes for Gold, presented by Ultimate Software
By Karen Price
Elana Meyers Taylor is set to compete in her third Olympic Games, and her career path has seen her team up with a number of talented brakemen, and drivers in her early career, who’ve helped her reach her goals.
Her ultimate teammate, both off and even sometimes on the bobsled track, however, is her husband and fellow bobsledder Nic Taylor.
Married in April 2014, the two support each other in every way as they pursue their dreams, from cheering one another on to helping stay on track with nutrition and sleep to even embarking on a road trip when a bobsled doesn’t show up on time. That’s what happened back in December when Meyers Taylor’s sled got held up in customs before the world cup in Winterberg, Germany.
“When our sled didn’t show up, he and a teammate were the ones who drove to Munich six hours one way to pick up a new sled, so it was pretty incredible of them to do that,” Meyers Taylor said. “Then they had to turn around and get back in time for training. He’s always doing little things—although that was a big thing—to make sure I have what I need. He serves as my sports psychologist, coach, therapist; he does everything for me.”
Being an elite bobsledding couple means little twists on the everyday issues that other couples face. They don’t have a house or an apartment anywhere because they’re on the go so often, which also means they don’t have the utility bills that go along with that. But they do have Airbnb’s to find and pay for along with credit card, phone, and other bills. They also have to think about cell service and internet reliability in the areas where they’ll be traveling and staying and making sure everything’s paid in case they can’t—or shouldn’t—be accessing financial information while on the road.
Then there’s meal preparation. With both of them training and racing, nutrition is critical for both, but in different ways.
“When we’re at a hotel, usually the hotel provides food, but when we’re at Airbnb’s one of us has to do the cooking,” she said. “He does most of it so I can focus on training, even though he’s training, too, and our food habits are different as well. I have to lose and he has to gain (weight), so he has to measure food and make sure I have the nutrients I need while he eats double what I need to eat and still loses weight.”
Although her focus is the women’s two-man sled, which is the Olympic event, Meyers Taylor has also had the opportunity to pilot a four-man sled with Taylor as a teammate.
After Meyers Taylor won a silver medal at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi in 2014, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) began allowing women to push four-man sleds for the first time. Since then, the two have raced together with results that this year included fourth- and fifth-place finishes at the North American Cup in Park City, Utah.
“It’s so awesome and so much fun, and one of the coolest things we’ve gotten to do,” she said of racing together. “Driving a four-man is in general amazing, but he takes care of everything with the sled so I can focus on driving the race. With him I know there are minimal things I’ll have to do as far as preparation. He takes care of it all and he knows what I need before I know I need it. With two-man you have a lot more responsibility as far as equipment goes, so it’s nice to have that break.”
When the two are away from the sleds, Meyers Taylor said, they try to minimize their shoptalk. At home, it’s the “B” word, and they have a rule about it.
“In order to bring up the ‘B’ word you have to ask permission,” she said. “Sometimes he’ll ask or I’ll ask and the answer is either, ‘No, we’re not talking about that right now,’ or sometimes it’s a yes.”
In addition to her Olympic medal, Meyers Taylor is also a two-time world champion. In short, she’s one of the best in the world at what she does. Yet one thing she was hoping for perhaps even more than making the 2018 Olympic team herself was that Taylor would make the team. Taylor, a former college track and field athlete who has pushed for pilots including the late Steven Holcomb and 2018 Olympian Codie Bascue, will travel to PyeongChang, but as a replacement athlete.
“(Trying to both make the Olympic team) is a lot of fun but it’s also hard,” Meyers Taylor said. “I want him to reach his goals sometimes more than I want to reach my own goals, and when he does or doesn’t it’s an emotional rollercoaster.
“Part of the reason I’m a driver is because I’m a bit of a control freak and in his career, there’s nothing I can do to control it. I can’t control if he’s put on the team or anything other than directly racing with him, and sometimes that’s hard. But when he does reach his goals, it’s better than anything I can do.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
The retail industry is in a state of flux as consumers increasingly gravitate toward e-commerce. While brick-and-mortar stores continue to drive the majority of sales revenue, many retailers are adopting an omni-channel approach that provides customers with a seamless shopping experience and product availability both in store and online.
This change, driven by technological innovation, is affecting more than just where customers acquire their goods. There is less demand for in-store cashiers, and more demand for data analysis. Data is growing exponentially, include insight into how photos, videos, and social media affect sales. For retailers, this presents significant opportunity but requires a strategic overhaul. Instead of focusing on endcaps and placement of products, today’s employees need to translate raw data into actionable insight, utilize software that can offer a personalized shopping experience, and understand predictive and prescriptive analytics. As technology plays a bigger role in retail, employee roles are increasingly becoming skilled positions, demanding superior proficiency and better pay.
Meanwhile, the industry’s infamous turnover rate—surpassed only by restaurants—is now a real liability, as is its dependence on seasonal, part-time employees. To remain successful, retail suppliers must rethink their human capital strategies, nurturing loyal, long-term employees who understand the changing industry and are invested in adjusting their roles and responsibilities as needed. Retail has always been a relatively nimble industry, drawing from a large pool of often unskilled workers, but these changes have led to fiercer competition for talent, higher wages, and steeper turnover costs.
So how is it HR can support retail? By developing a more sophisticated approach to the employee lifecycle, from recruitment to performance to retainment. HR leaders are in the unique position to help companies focus on hiring the right people and developing them into engaged, devoted employees. Here are four ways HR can support retail as employees become an increasingly valuable—and expensive—commodity.
Reduce labor costs and increase productivity
In 2017, 16 states increased the federal minimum wage, which is a baseline for many retail positions. As labor becomes increasingly costly for retailers, identifying and rewarding top talent is crucial. Combining people data with sales data can be daunting, but today’s best-in-class HCM solutions are capable of identifying top performers, finding skills gaps, and optimizing scheduling to align teams with customers’ shopping habits. API integrations are game-changing, as are mobile-access functionality and payroll solutions that can process complex earnings and taxation calculations.
2. Turnover and related hiring/training costs
Effective retention programs are crucial as employers move to promoting long-term employment. When managers don’t know someone’s at risk of leaving, they can’t proactively work to retain them. Retailers are also looking to increase employee engagement and productivity, which can be a challenge with part-time employees. Fortunately, today’s managers have access to valuable solutions that can help them predict retention risks and suggest meaningful interventions to encourage them to stay.
Improve customer experience to increase sales
Many retailers struggle with insufficient resources to properly train sales associates. In today’s landscape, organizations must prioritize onboarding and improving the selling capabilities of their staff. New hires need to quickly understand the product and how to sell it to their target audience, especially during the seasonal rush. Successful onboarding speeds time to hire and expedites integration into store culture, leading to higher productivity and retention.
Advanced learning modules offer bite-sized, consumable videos that bring employees up to speed on everything from customer service skills to compliance, without taking away from time on the sales floor. And since it’s been proven that employee engagement directly affects customer satisfaction, managers can use advanced employee feedback solutions to improve both the employee and customer experience.
Cost-effectively integrate store and HR systems
Disparate data sources and prohibitive costs are common obstacles to integrating systems. But retailers in particular benefit from the ability to share people data with other store systems without having to rekey information, especially as businesses begin to fully understand the impact these employee metrics can have on organizational success. Business intelligence (BI) data can quickly report on the “state of the business,” integrating with external information for a deeper understanding of sales, customer service, and productivity. Finally, compliance efforts—which have often plagued employers—are simpler than ever, with hands-off support for local and state payroll and tax laws. As a result, HR is free to focus on its strategic reorganization in today’s changing world.
Essentially, HR can support retail by being an active partner during this complete industry overhaul.
With the 2018 Winter Olympics here, Team USA is set to go for gold across the Games.
In today’s #UltimateTeamMoment, read how the relentless and determined U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team looks to build on its worldwide success to finish on the podium in PyeongChang.
Why the U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team Is a Multiple Olympic Medal Threat, presented by Ultimate Software
By Peggy Shinn
When Sophie Caldwell crossed the finish line in third place in a sprint final in Dresden, Germany, last Saturday, it was the ninth time that an American cross-country skier had finished on a world cup podium this season.
The next day, Caldwell and Ida Sargent added a tenth podium. The two Dartmouth graduates finished third in the Dresden World Cup team sprint. In 28 world cup races to date this season, the U.S. women’s cross-country skiers have finished on the podium in over a third of them.
It’s a continuation of the success that the women’s team began experiencing six years ago—and even earlier than that for the team’s long-time leader, Kikkan Randall.
Now 35 and heading to her fifth Olympic Games, Randall first stood on a world cup podium 11 years ago. And she has helped lead a growing women’s team to the front of the world cup—and world championships.
Since 2009, four different American women have won nine world championship medals—an unprecedented feat in this country. They have become the ultimate team.
Illustrating the team’s improved strength and depth, five different women have claimed world cup podiums this year. In previous years, Randall and 26-year-old Jessie Diggins claimed the bulk of the team’s best results. But now, Sadie Bjornsen, Caldwell, and Sargent have joined them. And team veteran Liz Stephen, a talented distance skier nominated to her third Olympic team, is coming into form, as is Rosie Brennan, who is headed to her first Olympics in PyeongChang.
As Randall said recently via email, “It’s been a pretty amazing season for the team, yet it feels so normal now.”
What has led to this new normal?
Talent and hard work are key, as is teamwork. In an individual sport, their strong team bond has helped lift all their individual performances.
Here’s what else is at play.
Success Breeds Success
When Sadie Bjornsen first joined the world cup tour in 2011, Randall was regularly finishing in the top three of sprint races—earning her first of three world cup sprint titles in 2012. The others hoped they could join her. But for most, it seemed like a far-off goal.
Around that time, a young phenom named Jessie Diggins joined the team, and in short order, earned a world cup podium with Randall in a team sprint. Then Diggins and Randall claimed the team sprint world title in 2013. Two years later, Diggins won her first individual world championship medal in the 10-kilometer freestyle (or skate) race, finishing second ahead of American Caitlin Gregg, who earned the bronze medal. Since then, Diggins has become a podium regular. And she won two more world championship medals in 2017.
Most recently, Diggins finished third overall in the Tour de Ski—the first time an American cross-country skier has finished on the podium in the grueling seven-day stage race. She also finished on the podium in two of the seven races (six, after bad weather canceled one).
Sophie Caldwell has claimed seven podium finishes since finishing sixth in the sprint at the 2014 Olympics—the best result to date by an American woman at the Olympic Games. She kicked off the 2018 Tour de Ski by finishing second in the Tour’s first sprint.
Liz Stephen has also had podium success in previous years, and Sargent got her first taste last year when she finished third in the sprint at the PyeongChang test event.
And Randall was back on the podium after taking maternity leave during the 2015–16 season. She earned her third world championship medal last February (bronze in the sprint), then finished third in a freestyle sprint in December, but has struggled with a stress reaction in her left foot for the past month.
This year, Sadie Bjornsen has become a podium regular as well. The 28-year-old from Washington state’s Methow Valley won a bronze medal with Diggins at the 2017 world championships. Then this season, she was the first to earn a world cup podium. She finished second in the season’s first sprint race.
“This year, for the first time, every single girl on our team goes into every weekend feeling like they could win a medal,” Bjornsen said. “It’s different than last year. I like to say that I thought I could win a medal [last year]. But it was more like I was confident Jessie was going to win a medal.”
“To have the depth on the team, to have somebody different on the podium, like in the Tour de Ski, it was Sophie and then Sadie and then me, just like boom, boom, boom, one after another,” said Diggins. “That is exactly the very best thing for a team. Everyone is feeding off each other’s successes and motivating each other and lifting each other up.”
The team makes a point of celebrating everyone’s successes, big and small, even as their successes have become regular events. All this celebrating means a lot of toasts, often twice in one weekend.
“It’s cool because everybody, despite the fact that there have been so many podiums, there’s still an equal amount of excitement that you’re sharing with each person,” said Bjornsen. “It always brings the level of our group higher when more people start doing better because they see themselves like, hey, I’m that good too.”
With the confidence that they now belong on the podium, the U.S. women are racing with fearlessness.
“You get that little bit of success and the confidence then comes, and the way you ski and see yourself in the pack changes,” noted Randall.
Sargent’s racing this year is a good example. A talented sprinter, she scored her first podium finish last February at the Olympic test event. This year, she is at the front attacking in the sprint heats.
“Everybody is putting themselves in a position where they belong at the front,” said Bjornsen. “Everyone is like these fearless fighters. They’re not afraid to try things.”
Experience Is Paying Off
Of the seven women on the A and B team, six have Olympic experience and have been competing full-time on the world cup for over five years. Randall is in her 17th year on the U.S. Ski Team, Stephen her 13th.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time, and some of us who were quite a bit younger a few years ago, like me, Sophie, and Sadie, I think that we are getting to the age where now we have quite a bit of experience, so we’re learning in the sprint rounds how to avoid accidents, how to move through the rounds, how to pace,” said Diggins.
Randall has noticed her teammates improved experience and maturity as well.
“Everybody has figured out how to make a good lifestyle and routine here in Europe,” she said. “They’re all approaching it from a super-professional level. Everyone kind of knows what works.”
New Wax Truck
Ski wax plays an important role in cross-country skiing—perhaps even more so than in alpine skiing because, except for the few downhills encountered on cross-country trails, speed is generated by human effort. The easier that skis glide over snow, the less effort that a skier must exert to go fast. And in classic skiing, kick wax is key for skiers to propel themselves forward.
Waxing is a mix of alchemy, chemistry, and a technician’s touch. And the big Nordic teams from Norway and Sweden set up giant tractor-trailer trucks that expand out and up, creating mobile labs at each race venue.
Until this year, the U.S. cross-country ski team’s wax technicians worked in small wax cabins (fashioned from cargo containers) at race venues. They trucked skis, tools, and wax to each venue, then unloaded the gear into the “cabins.”
Now, thanks to a grassroots fundraising effort, the U.S. Ski Team has its own wax truck that debuted in December 2017. And the skiers have noticed the improved wax and more collaboration between skiers, wax techs, and coaches.
“The classic waxing has taken an enormous turn for the better,” said Bjornsen, who worked hard in the off-season to hone kick wax and her technique. “It has a lot to do with our new wax truck and the ability to have the entire team work together and find the best wax possible.”
In Sochi, Randall was a favorite to win a medal in the sprint, but she did not advance out of the quarterfinals. The team was an outside favorite to medal in the relay but finished eighth.
Going to PyeongChang, the U.S. women are medal contenders in multiple events at the Olympic Games for the first time ever.
Diggins and Stephen have both finished on world cup podiums in the skiathlon (7.5 kilometers of classic skiing, followed by 7.5 kilometers of skate skiing). Bjornsen, Caldwell, and Sargent have each had top-three finishes in sprint classic races (the sprint alternates between freestyle and classic technique at each Games). Diggins has a world championship silver medal in the 10K freestyle race, and Randall has a world cup 10K podium finish on her resume. Diggins and Randall are world champions in the team sprint (in the freestyle technique, which will be contested in PyeongChang), and multiple women on the team have earned world cup podium finishes in the event.
And the team is most hopeful for a medal in the 4×5-kilometer. They have finished second or third in several world cup relays in the past five years and have finished fourth in the relay at the past three world championships.
“Just making those teams is going to be a challenge with everyone skiing so well,” noted Randall, who still has foot pain but is back racing and hopes to return to form by the Olympics.
“It’s a really cool position to go into the Games with the idea that you can medal,” said Bjornsen. “I think medals, even individual medals, take a team in a good place. If we all go into the Games with this excitement and also some confidence and the same feeling we’ve been having the whole entire year, I think that there are a couple people on our team that will be standing on the podium for sure.”
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008. Her book, World Class: The Making of the U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team, is now available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
Women in the world of business have long complained about barriers to their professional advancement. So have many minorities (and justly so). While there are laws that prevent discrimination with regard to job promotions, these career obstacles often are hard to prove, much less enforce. Many companies make it seem like the sky is the limit for all smart, hard-working employees but instead some of us bump up against an invisible obstruction designed to preserve the generally male-dominated executive status quo.
I’m referring, of course, to the “glass ceiling.” Nearly 40 years after the metaphor was coined in a 1978 speech by Marilyn Loden, author of the book, “Feminine Leadership, or How to Succeed in Business Without Being One of the Boys,” the glass ceiling remains firmly in place, discrimination laws aside. A 2017 survey by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org of 30,000 men and women employees indicates that while both genders want to be promoted in approximate percentages, women are 18 percent less likely on average to actually receive one. This gap is even more pronounced for women of color.
“Women fall behind early and lose ground with every step they take (in the workplace),” the study states. Since women are underrepresented in line roles at every level of the corporate pipeline, by the time they reach the level of a senior vice president, they hold a measly 21 percent of these positions. “Since the vast majority of CEOs come from line roles, this dramatically hurts women’s odds of reaching the very top,” the researchers comment.
What is most bothersome to me is the message the study sends to young women and girls about their chances of becoming business leaders—not tomorrow or next year but in this century! So, I’d like to share a remarkable story of a customer I met who has blown up the glass ceiling with grace and aplomb! Few women have gone as far as Kim McWaters, who began her career more than 30 years ago as a temporary switchboard operator at Universal Technical Institute and has served as the company’s CEO and chairwoman since 2003, overseeing more than 1,880 employees today. Universal Technical Institute is a publicly traded nationwide provider of technical education for students seeking careers as automotive, motorcycle and marine technicians—what used to be euphemistically considered “guy jobs,” but now include many women.
Kim recently shared her remarkable journey with me. The irony, if that’s the right word, is that she had no big dreams of someday running a big company. As a favor to her uncle, she took a part-time summer job to operate the switchboard at Universal Technical Institute. She was 20 years old, a single mother needing the income to feed her one-year old son. “What I learned as a receptionist is that I liked helping people solve problems,” Kim said. “My job was essentially to coordinate someone’s needs with someone else who could assist them.”
Most of these needs came from students and their families. Gradually, Kim learned who in the organization could best handle each caller’s specific issue. “In a matter of weeks, I became very familiar with the entire organization; I got to know each person’s functional area of technical expertise,” she said. “More importantly, I learned that a business is like a village; to succeed there must be close interdependence. Every single person in a company is important.”
The summer she learned this, Kim also found meaning in Universal Technical Institute’s purpose. “Every three weeks a new group of students came in,” she said. “These were people who weren’t particularly successful in the traditional academic setting. Most lacked self-confidence, walking in with their heads down. By the time they graduated, the transformation in them was astonishing. The reason was our world-class facilities and equipment and especially our people. Everyone here is committed to changing people’s lives through education.”
I asked Kim what she thought about the fact that so many women eventually collide with their organization’s glass ceiling, knowing she had successfully worked her way up the ranks at Universal Technical Institute from the switchboard through admissions, customer service, marketing, and operations before blasting through the glass ceiling to become CEO. “Shortly after I became president, I launched an initiative called Breakthrough Performance, where we brought every one of our 900 employees at the time offsite for three days and nights, stripped them of their titles, and asked them to act like consultants in helping us make the company better,” she said. “We empowered them beyond their titles to provide constructive solutions.”
Kim learned that this was how the company should always be run. “Every employee must have a voice and every voice must have equal weight, irrespective of the person’s role, gender, nationality, and so on,” she explained.
I also chatted with Kim about the 2016 Gallup study stating that women leaders were better than men when it came to engaging employees, resulting in lower absenteeism and turnover, and higher productivity and profits. Was this consistent with Kim’s experience as a leader? “I generally believe that women are more nurturing and empathetic (than men) and are better able to tap into others’ talents,” she replied. “Women have a different way of motivating people to accomplish their goals. On the other hand, I also feel that some women can be very crippling to other women in the workplace because they’re trying to survive in a male-created business world. That’s changing now.”
I asked Kim to elaborate. “For one thing, many women now realize they don’t need to program themselves to act like men to become successful business leaders,” she said. “The extreme male traits that have made men successful don’t necessarily work for us because we’re different. Women also are learning that their feelings and emotions are positive characteristics in motivating others in the workforce. We’re able to be successful leaders because of our many dimensions.”
I couldn’t agree more. Female qualities are equally needed to manage today’s highly diverse workforce. Young people of myriad nationalities and cultures are self-defining their sexuality and gender. Women must simply refuse to believe it will take more than a century for women to match the number of men in the C-suite. We cannot wait. As Kim has proven in her life and work, everyone can have a chance, but we need to create more of them for women and minorities in order to level the playing field.
Rapid advances in technology—from the distributed computing reality of the Internet of Things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI) to increasing workforce fluidity (as described in our 2017 Trends Blog)—are combining to reshape today’s workplaces.
In addition, there are some broad cultural trends that are impacting HR technology, pushing us well beyond the automation of traditional manual tasks and redesigning performance management processes, to rethinking the way we manage employees.
First, AI is everywhere, but not without its challenges (for example, machines learning from biased data)—so its newest incarnation will have to be focused on not just mastering the science of AI, but also on the art of collecting better, more accurate data. Cloud-based AI, machine learning, natural language processing, image recognition, and virtual reality experiences have already been changing the dynamic among people, work, and communication—and we’re going to see more application of these technologies in the workplace in 2018 and beyond.
Second, hyper-personalization—from designing your unique, one-of-a-kind Nikes, to M&Ms with personalized messages, to online shoppers for clothes and groceries that remember your preferences and customize recommendations for you—is coming to employee management in 2018, and HR must help its managers lead with a higher degree of personalization and understanding of each of its direct reports.
And, finally, with technological advancement comes the risk of becoming removed from the “messy” human work of fostering belonging and shared purpose for our teams. Creating and maintaining an inclusive culture requires knowing a lot about people, empathizing with them, and sustaining that commitment long term. Current diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts need to be redefined and updated to bring ongoing positive change for people organizations.
With this in mind, I believe there are three pivotal trends that must be of interest to HR and senior business leaders in 2018, each interconnecting with the others to transform the near-term future of work.
Megatrend #1: People-First Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning and Human Intuition Combine Forces
In 2018, businesses will migrate from AI focused on automating tasks formerly performed by people to more complex AI technology that augments and amplifies human intelligence and capability. This next evolution of AI underlines the assistive role of the technology to enhance human performance, by allowing people to scale and undertake more rather than replacing human skills and experiences. The application of AI in the world of HCM reinforces the role of human intelligence in solving problems individually and collectively.
People-first AI means organizations and managers using machine learning to better understand what motivates employees, how to more effectively recruit and retain talent, and how to improve on the employee experience at work by using both their own skills and knowledge combined with the near-instantaneous analytical power of AI. This type of AI supplements the work that HR and managers already do, rather than replacing replacing them—for example, by alerting managers to increasingly negative sentiment in employee feedback from one particular office that may have a morale issue, or by suggesting ways to reword a job posting to be more inclusive.
An astonishing 95% of people want to feel whole at work—free to be their authentically unique selves. Prior corporate leadership models frequently embraced a rigid, hierarchical “command and control” structure based on an employee’s perceived skills and capabilities, or encouraged managers to manage everyone on their team in the same way in order to be perceived as fair and equitable. Today’s workers prefer a culture in which leaders seek to develop the whole person, with a deep understanding that one-size-fits-all management is not an effective approach—and that different people need different styles of management to best motivate them. Some employees prefer public recognition and others prefer a private thank you or a handwritten note. Some employees thrive in complete autonomy while other employees work best when they receive confirmation from a manager or co-worker on each step of a project.
This obligation to lead and develop the whole person at work requires that leaders understand the needs, motivations, concerns, challenges, and goals of people in many dimensions. Leaders must nurture the cognitive and emotional development of people, beyond the typical physical-wellness offerings of many organizations, to help their people achieve meaningful, purposeful, and productive work and careers. The most effective managers will be able to flex and adapt their personal management styles to the individuals they manage in order to help their employees put forth their best effort and succeed at work.
Megatrend #3: Humanizing Work: Breakthrough Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Modern Age
A workforce culture in which all people can feel they belong and be themselves—and one that taps into the most powerful combinations of talent and experience—requires a broader consideration of the tapestry of human diversity, and a mind shift from compliance-driven D&I models. Many organizations recognize that human diversity generates unique perspectives that foster greater innovation, sustainability, and cultural competence. But today’s D&I must go farther than categorizing and measuring to more broadly recruit for differences in opinion, experience, lifestyle, and background, and to also ensure concrete actions and follow-through to drive progress.
Rather than consider D&I merely as a must-do initiative or a socially responsible action to become an employer of choice, modern diversity, equity, and inclusion will apply advances in virtual technologies and neuroscience that allow organizations to move beyond the talk and numbers, to evaluate and overcome unconscious bias in the entire work experience—from recruiting to performance management to pay equity—to help companies create workplaces that are truly inclusive beyond traditional categories of diversity. Impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion effort requires attention on individual, team, and company levels—not just looking at an organization as a collective whole, but analyzing and assisting the company at all levels and providing concrete guidance beyond just static reporting—to result in better business performance.
These three Megatrends—people-first AI; individualized leadership; and diversity, equity, and inclusion—intersect in powerful ways. For instance, people-first AI is an enabler to leadership that is tailored to every person individually, allowing leaders to break out of the one-size-fits-all approach to development, and ensuring employees remain engaged in their work, feel good about their place in the organization, are physically and emotionally healthy, and are able to collaborate freely, openly, and confidently.
People-first AI also empowers leaders and organizations to gain an entirely new understanding of people and how their diverse perspectives come together to solve business problems. This new technology is poised to help organizations create more innovative and effective teams, as well as understand and respond to the needs of their diverse customers.
Keeping and attracting hot talent is a challenge in the professional services industry
The professional services industry is highly dependent upon people as its biggest revenue driver, making it crucial for firms to retain and nurture their high performers and high-potential employees. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult for professional services HR leaders to do so. But with cash flow, project staffing, and customer satisfaction on the line, HR leaders must continue finding ways to put their own people first to boost engagement, productivity, and retention. This blog post will help you to start winning the war for talent.
Consider these statistics: The industry currently employs more than nine million Americans and has less than a 2.8% unemployment rate, yet attrition has risen to 12.9%—the highest it’s been since the Great Recession. It’s a candidate-driven market with fierce competition.
Here are several key initiatives professional services HR leaders should consider implementing to help improve the employee experience (and, therefore, the bottom line).
Ongoing Training Drives Engagement
People are the primary assets for professional business firms, and they want to know their employers are invested in them. As training and development programs continue to improve and become more available and intuitive, spending has jumped, hitting the highest growth rate in nearly a decade in 2015. And it’s not surprising, considering that effective training is a proven driver of engagement and satisfaction, combating workplace boredom, and contributing to an increased overall sense of value. Employee development is also particularly beneficial for professional services firms, who can then leverage the increased aptitudes and skill sets of individual employees.
Leadership Planning to Keep A-Players on the Team
While employees leave companies for a variety of reasons, it’s often due to the desire to move up—either in responsibility or in salary. Increases of more than 10% are not uncommon when changing jobs, compared with an overall average of just 0.8% of real hourly earnings increases from June 2016 to June 2017. Some commentators even suggest employees change jobs every two years to maximize long-term salary growth.
The best way to combat this tendency is for professional services HR leaders to commit to transparent leadership development within their firms. Creating a proactive, executable strategy for professional growth and career advancement within the organization encourages retention by outlining development opportunities while decreasing the risks of talent gaps.
Measure Employee Satisfaction
Considering the extremely high cost of replacing even a single valuable employee, it’s also imperative for HR leaders in professional services to keep an active pulse on employee sentiment, to monitor red flags and pinpoint flight risks before it’s too late.
Sophisticated survey technologies utilize advanced natural language processing (NLP) and machine-learning algorithms to uncover employee sentiment in real time. By interpreting a combination of quantitative and open-ended survey responses, these solutions can accurately pinpoint the topics most important to employees and decipher their true feelings. Specific, data-based, actionable insights are invaluable for improving satisfaction, giving professional services HR leaders a real edge when it comes to improving retention and performance.
By incorporating these initiatives and solutions, HR leaders are supported in their strategic efforts to combat industry pressure and improve their organization’s key performance indicators KPIs. Professional services firms face unusual challenges, but these tools and strategies can help nurture high achievers, develop future leaders, and boost engagement and retention, all while streamlining payroll and HR intricacies and generating accurate visibility into compliance, staffing, and analytics.