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What They Do
Provide cloud-based people management software including HR, payroll and talent-management solutions.
Headquarters: Weston, Florida
Annual Revenues: $332 Million.
What Makes Ultimate Software Great
At some companies, only salespeople get to go on sweet incentive trips, but at Ultimate Software, employees in every department take getaways on the company’s dime. Ultimate’s accountants recently went to Florida’s Captiva Island, consultants and their families flew to the Bahamas for a few days, marketers spent a long weekend at Universal Studios, and software developers took their families to Disney World.
The company’s egalitarian spirit extends to employee benefits, as well. New hires receive stock in the company from the get go, and the company pays 100 percent of the cost of health and dental care premiums for employees and their dependents.
Employees give Chief Executive Officer Scott Scherr credit for setting the tone for the company’s generous, people-first culture, motivating the troops and making work fun. Ultimate’s offices are adorned with sports memorabilia, and the company’s headquarters has a basketball court that is used for company parties and pick-up basketball games. Offices have Nerf basketball, juggling balls, Wii break rooms, and more. It’s no wonder 97 percent of Ultimate’s employees say it’s a great workplace.
“I have a dream job working for a dream company,” one typically enthusiastic Ultimate employee says. “I can honestly say, my life has been enhanced being a part of this organization.”
Since starting in 1990, Ultimate Software has made its mark in the competitive field for human-resources software, snagging such customers as Adobe Systems, Revlon, Major League Baseball and Pep Boys, and expanding from its headquarters outside of Ft. Lauderdale to satellite offices around the country.
In recent years, Ultimate’s workforce has mushroomed, and today, close to 70 percent of roughly 1,735 employees have been with the company less than five years. When employees join the business, they’re flown to Ultimate’s main office for a two-day, all-expense paid orientation that includes presentations from upper-level managers, including Chief Executive Officer Scott Scherr, whom employees say sets the tone for much of the company’s culture.
Beloved by employees, Scherr is a big fan of sports and motivational books, and regularly gives away copies of books such as basketball coach Pat Riley’s “The Winner Within” and “Walk the Talk,” a collection of inspiring quotes. He brings in Riley and other motivational speakers, and once distributed more than 400 DVDs of the movie “300,” asking people to look past the gore to “understand the concept of courage and power shown by a ‘few’ people sticking together,” the company explains. Scherr gives employees customized coins representing big business goals, and blasts songs such as “Staying Alive” and “Eye of the Tiger” during company meetings.
Employees feed off Scherr’s and other managers’ energy. “The owners’ honesty, integrity and overall gracious and positive attitude makes me feel more empowered to want to give extra every day,” one employee says. Employees describe Ultimate as the ultimate team environment: over 95 percent say their colleagues are friendly, caring, cooperative, operate on the assumption that everyone is all in it together, and are willing to give extra to make it happen. “Ultimate does a great job of fostering teamwork,” one employee says. “I really want us to succeed and will do whatever it takes to assist my team completes its goals.”
It helps that the company regularly sponsors cocktail hours, karaoke contests and other events to keep life balanced. It sponsors monthly birthday celebrations and offers “Escape Rooms” with comfortable lounge chairs and Wii game consoles.“There is always music and plenty of fun,” one employee says. “We have dart board games, foosball, other games, and the basketball court in the atrium so people can play casually together and simply enjoy the camaraderie.”
To remain competitive, Ultimate has adopted other Silicon Valley practices, including “48 Hours” events where employees can work on pet projects for a 48-hour period as long as it’s somehow related to company goals.
Given how highly people value the culture, employees want to preserve it as Ultimate grows. “As the company grows bigger I am starting to feel the winds of change; I have been hearing a lot about numbers, metrics, and meeting quotas,” one employee says. “I can only hope the company continues to see us as people and not tools for pumping out work/projects. While working here I've always seen that people come first and I want to keep it that way.”
Others wish there were more opportunities for in-person gatherings with coworkers stationed across the country. “It would be great for us to be able to have more face-to-face in-person interactions with the various teams.”
To his credit, Scherr makes an effort to keep the company’s various locations tied into a common culture. The company frequently hosts semi-annual and annual get-togethers for teams that work remotely. Consultants often fly to Atlanta or Ft. Lauderdale for annual meetings; customer service teams met in Tampa this year for a strategy meeting and a fun scavenger hunt; and an inside sales team gathered in Ft. Lauderdale for a day at the beach learning sand sculpture. This kind of value for personal connections comes straight from the top: “Our CEO flies to the Midwest to take my team to dinner regularly, keeping us informed on issues from the perspective of top management and shareholders,” one employee says.
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