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From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

With the rise of the #MeToo movement, companies across industries and of every size are taking a closer look at their policies and training against harassment, of all forms, to determine whether changes need to be made. While every policy could use a refresh now and then, one sentence commonly found in harassment policies is outdated: the requirement that targets of harassment say “no.”

When the Supreme Court’s Faragher and Ellerth decisions came out in 1998, the harassment policy was born. Attorneys quickly seized onto the language in the decisions to find nuggets to use in crafting language to fit the newly created affirmative defense. One piece they added was that a target of harassment must indicate that the conduct or comments were unwelcomed. The policy now read that if an individual thought she or he was subjected to harassment, they were required to tell the harasser to stop or say that they did not appreciate the comments or conduct.

Yet, this is not what the law requires. Yes, the law requires the comments or conduct be unwelcomed to be actionable sexual harassment, but there’s no requirement that a target of harassment say or do anything.

So, why include this obligation in a harassment policy? Because it made it easier to determine whether harassment occurred. Leaders (and some HR professionals) could find that the conduct isn’t harassment because the target didn’t say stop. By not finding harassment – by over-relying on this requirement in the policy – leaders implied that the conduct was okay. This easy determination also tamped down the possibility that targets of harassment would report it because they saw that leaders wouldn’t take action. What happened? Harassment permeated our workplaces.

Determining whether conduct is welcomed should not be difficult. Did she ask to be touched? Did he ask to overhear the dirty joke? It is not a difficult determination to make, and employers often determine that the conduct itself – even if welcomed – should not happen in their workplaces. Dirty jokes, repeated requests for dates, touching, and anything else that could be considered harassment doesn’t belong in the workplace, regardless of whether the conduct is welcomed or not.

We do a disservice to our employees if we require them to do anything in our harassment policy. The policy exists to set expectations of what harassment is, and whether employers will condone harassment that creates an uncomfortable work environment. With the definitions and examples of harassment, employees learn this expectation.

Instead of requiring action, the policy should give employees options to report harassment – report it to any manager and/or human resources, call an ethics hotline, etc. – but it should not require them to report it. Encouraging reporting is all employers can really ask. Including statements like “we can’t do anything to stop harassment unless we know about it” articulates why employers need to know.

With managers, however, it’s different. Because managers are the organization, for all intents and purposes, their failure to report potential harassment creates liability for their employers. Employers should include language that directs managers to tell HR as soon as they learn or perceive that harassment is occurring or has occurred. Their failure to report harassment means an employer loses the affirmative defense the policy made possible.

Employers are responsible for providing a harassment-free workplace. The law does not place any obligations on our employees. Requiring them to take action or say “no” goes above the law and shifts the burden to employees. Instead, employers should encourage employees to talk to company leadership and share when they feel uncomfortable. Most importantly, employer should address their concerns immediately. Together, we can help put an end to harassment in the workplace.

The post An Important Discrepancy in Workplace Harassment Policies, Law appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

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First days can be overwhelming for new hires, especially in a large team or organization. More importantly, your new hire’s initial experiences set the tone for their initial levels of engagement.

Put your best foot forward with these three tips for a successful employee onboarding plan.

1. Create an Employee Onboarding Schedule

A great onboarding experience starts with a great onboarding schedule. Think of your onboarding schedule as an itinerary of sorts. It details each day of your onboarding process and allots time for key objectives along the way, such as introductions to processes, meetings with team members, and time for questions. If you can keep your new hire from asking, “What should I do next?” you’ll know your onboarding schedule was a success.

2. Introduce Them to the Family

Getting your new hire familiar with their new coworkers as well as some of the team dynamics is mission-critical for a successful onboarding. It gives them a feeling of belonging and a chance to start building relationships with their new team. Additionally, asking for help when you need it becomes a lot easier when you know who to go to.

3. Assign a Mentor

While there’s no definitive answer on how long it takes to a new hire to get up to speed, author Michael Watkins suggests that new hires need about six months before they can add value to their team. In the meantime, you can expect that your latest hire will have a ton of questions. Pairing each new hire with an experienced employee provides an immediate go-to guide for questions, and helps them acclimate to the culture significantly faster.

Need more tips? We’ve got you covered.

These three key actions are just the tip of the onboarding iceberg. Be sure to read two of our most popular whitepapers, 10 Ways to Wow Your New Hire and 10 More Ways to Wow Your New Hire, to create an unforgettable and more engaging onboarding process for your next new hire.

The post 3 Actions Every Manager Needs for Successful Onboarding appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

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

Putting Employees and Customers First

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

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

Award-Winning Service

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

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

Award-Winning Leaders

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

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

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

Happy Customer Service Week 2018!

The post Customer Service Week 2018: Continual Innovation appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

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From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

Managers are often in tough spots. They are required to complete projects while managing their people well. Because people are people, complete with mistakes, errors, and sometimes even naivety, employees can put managers in situations where difficult conversations have to occur. Whether it’s someone isn’t doing her job, creating problems for coworkers or customers, or not even showing up for work, these difficult conversations can cause our overworked managers anxiety. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article found that two-thirds of managers are uncomfortable with these conversations due to the anxiety of how the employee will react. We, in HR, can do something about that.

We can equip managers with both support and a checklist. The support means coaching them through prep work for the chat. Offer advice on what to say and how to say it. Tell them, “You’ve got this” and, “I’m here if you need me.” These words of comfort are important.

As for the checklist, here’s how to help managers prepare for those tough conversations:

  • Plan. Prepare a script. I recommend managers draft an email with some bullet points with the main message or a full script of what they need to convey to the employee. If a manager doesn’t plan, it’s possible that the conversation will veer into uncharted waters and the manager may miss the clear messaging she wanted to discuss.
  • Consult. Consult with HR, another manager, and/or the manager’s manager. Soliciting feedback about misconduct or poor performance can help improve the messaging or alter the manager’s wording to make the message even more clear, less emotional, or less harsh.
  • Take a beat. Yes, performance and discipline should be addressed as soon as possible, but a discussion should not happen in the heat of the moment or in anger. Managers need a beat to breathe, plan, and consult. It’s okay, and even preferred, when the manager’s own emotion could hinder the discussion. Just don’t let the beat last longer than one business day.
  • Schedule. This is a short, in-person meeting—usually less than 15 minutes. There should not be a long list of things the manager needs to cover. Bogging it down with other subjects reduces the importance of the poor performance or discipline part of the discussion, so these issues should be the only topic of conversation, from the manager’s perspective. Plus, if a manager adds other topics, the employee may not remember the most important points.
  • Anticipate. Usually a manager knows if an employee will cry, become defensive, and/or get angry. Ponder this when planning what could happen. Managers should have tissues ready, let HR know they’re having the conversation, or plan to have someone with them if they have concerns about the employee’s reaction. Select this person carefully—s/he should not be a coworker of the employee. It’s best if it’s someone from HR.
  • Prepare for surprise. Sometimes, a manager won’t be able to anticipate how the employee reacts. If the employee starts lodging complaints, the manager needs to know how to refocus the discussion. Managers will need to hear a complaint, but then remind the employee that they’re there to talk about a performance or discipline issue. Managers should report the complaint immediately after the meeting, so HR or upper management can take action.
  • Document. Managers can use their preparation bullet points or script to recap, adding notes on how the meeting actually went. The employee doesn’t have to sign off on the documentation, but should know of the document’s existence.

Tough conversations aren’t what most, if any, managers look forward to in their day-to-day work. However, sometimes they still need to take place. With a little preparation, and even help from HR, we can make tough conversations a bit easier for everyone.

The post An Easier Way to Have a Tough Conversation appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

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This blog post originally appeared on Forbes.

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

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

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

Inherent Challenges Of Spotting Potential

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

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

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

The Science Of Potential

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

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

Turning Potential Into Performance

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

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

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

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

The post Data-Based Strategies to Recognize, Reward, & Retain High-Potential Employees appeared first on Ultimate Software's Blog.

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