Purpose first: UKG focuses on people to survive and thrive during pandemic
At the beginning of 2020, most organizations had a plan. Unless you’ve been very lucky, it’s likely been derailed in more ways than one due to COVID-19.
Regardless of all the changes that have come their way, UKG has been able to not only survive but thrive in chaos. This is largely due in part to their emphasis on people.
Merging in the midst of the pandemic
In February, Kronos and Ultimate Software—both of which employed more than 6,000 people with a combined value of more than $22 billion—announced the merger of their two organizations. One month later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
In order to get an inside view of what it’s like to be a part of such a large and globally significant merger in the middle of global health crisis, we connected with three Indiana-based UKG employees for a small group interview and open discussion.
“Almost immediately after we announced the merger, the pandemic impacted our business,” said Margaret Mitchell, senior human resources manager at UKG. “We were hyper-focused on successfully integrating two culture-friendly organizations, which is a challenge in and of itself. Then we were faced with doing that in the midst of a pandemic.”
When thinking about how to manage this successfully, overcommunication and transparency guided the organization. This included regular video updates from CEO Aron Ain, who shared early on that no one was going to lose their job because of COVID or the merger.
“In times of crisis, good companies really lean in to their core values,” said Margaret. “This meant figuring out what was best for our customers and our employees. How can we serve them well during this time? We’ve aced this from a company perspective.”
At the onset of the pandemic, UKG was able to adapt and shift quickly so that they could serve their customers better. “It was critical for us to focus on where we provide value. We moved our focus from workforce management to human management,” said Latif Majeed, practice manager. “We’re able to provide data that enables organizations to be more efficient in the workplace, and we’ve done well because of the insight we provide.”
Margaret agreed. “It was important for us to figure out not only what our customers needed now but what they needed in the future. If customers don’t feel value, then we’ll be the first line item they cut.”
It was also important to ask questions internally as leadership figured out how to navigate the challenges ahead. “How do we get through this pandemic together? What’s the worst case scenario and how do we maintain? How do we support our families?” said Margaret. “By asking these questions, we were able to come up with a game plan and do what’s best for our people.
“By focusing on what matters most to our organization, we’ve been able to position ourselves well, enhance the culture of a merged organization, and plan for what’s ahead,” said Margaret.
Keeping employees engaged during COVID
Early on, UKG knew it was critical to keep employees engaged during COVID. The company acted quickly by providing everything from wellness initiatives like stretch breaks and Zoom classes and a COVID relief fund for spouses who lost their jobs, to a summer camp where kids could learn and be entertained at the same time. These new initiatives are in addition to other benefits employees receive like no insurance premiums, unlimited PTO, and tuition reimbursement.
“It was important to us to engage our employees effectively through this transition,” said Margaret. “In the midst of a merger, we expected some cultural challenges since we can’t go to meetings and be on site with new team members. The leadership was very insistent on providing opportunities to help our employees.
“They also recognized that each employee had different circumstances. Some employees are single and isolated, while others have aging parents or children,” said Margaret. “We needed to give a lot of flexibility and identify what helped each employee the most, whether that be time off, programs, or counseling to ensure they received what they needed from the organization.”
When asked what UKG did to keep employees engaged, Latif said, “What isn’t UKG doing to help support employees? Even if the company didn’t have an answer or solution, leadership was transparent. It’s rare to find the level of transparency in an organization. From a manager’s perspective, it’s been really helpful to have the tools and communication I need.”
“From an employee perspective, there is a high level of trust in the organization,” said Roshn Marwah, Project Manager. “It’s certainly hard to bring two organizations together, and employees can feel a lot of uncertainty during a merger, which is even more heightened during this pandemic. As an employee, the trust that existed before is reinforced now, which I think says a lot about the success of the merger and the organizational culture.”
“At the end of the day, our people are most important,” said Margaret. “By doing what’s best for people, we’ve been able to do what’s best for our organization.”
What’s ahead for UKG in Indiana
UKG isn’t just focusing on the here and now; they’re looking ahead. “The merger was all about growth and taking our organization to the next level,” said Latif. “ We’re growing, hiring, and seeing amazing success on the customer satisfaction side.”
With an already strong presence in Indianapolis, UKG has 322 full-time employees and is committed to hiring up to 40 more employees in 2021. The organization also has strong partnerships with local organizations like Nextech, Indy Women in Tech, IndyHub, and the Orr Fellowship.
The Indianapolis Tech Center of Excellence (ITC), which played a pivotal role in helping Kronos increase revenue prior to the merger, is expected to help continue driving growth for UKG in the future. The ITC is currently hiring, and the process in Indianapolis is unique because of the company’s award-winning Interview Blitz program. Interview Blitz is a full-day event providing the next generation of technology leaders with networking, interviewing, and case study competition activities to evaluate their collaboration, innovation, and communication skills.
“The ITC is currently hiring for our January and June classes in 2021, and we’re continuing to hire from local cities and universities,” said Latif. “We are incredibly focused on giving back to the community we live and work in. It’s a part of our employee performance goals, and the message is clear from the company: be engaged in the community.”
Hear from UKG’s CMO Jody Kaminsky on how UKG has built an inclusive environment through affinity groups and investing in their employees at Indy Women in Tech’s EMPOWERIndy @Home event tonight. Register here.