UKG Enters New Era Focused on ‘Life-Work’ Technology and Rapid Growth

Two years after Ultimate Software and Kronos merged into UKG, the company prepares to march forward under a new leader and emerging culture while remaining fiercely focused on embedding its core values of diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging into its HR technology offerings.

On July 1, current president Chris Todd will succeed Aron Ain as CEO as UKG continues to build a unique culture and brand and continues its impressive growth since the merger. Annual revenue has grown from $2.9 billion to close to $4 billion, which is a year ahead of original projections. Taking into consideration that this merger happened mostly during the COVID-19 pandemic, UKG truly earned their Brandon Hall Group 2021 Gold Excellence Award for Best Advance in Leading Under a Crisis. The UKG leadership team briefed analysts on business plans in early June at a hybrid gathering based in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Ain will become Executive Chair after overseeing the merger and working for Kronos for over 40 years, including 17 as CEO. Ain touted Todd’s readiness for the role after a “long and thoughtful” succession process and stressed the need to build a new legacy for UKG. 

To that end, UKG has brought in new talent to the leadership team and has hired 800-1,000 new employees per quarter who know only the UKG culture and operations. The workforce is at 14,500 and growing.

Leaders stressed UKG’s “our purpose is people” branding and using its technology to optimize how people can bring their best selves to work at companies of all sizes. With a range of HCM suites tailored to specific markets from SMB to large enterprise, UKG believes its focus on meeting employees’ foundational life-work needs will continue to drive robust growth.

Brian Reaves, EVP and Chief Belonging, Diversity and Equity Officer, focused on the need to operationalize UKG’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and how his function is working closely with the product and technology teams. The DE&IB focus, along with UKG’s acquisition last fall of Great Place to Work, helps differentiate UKG’s go-to-market strategy.

Reaves, a software engineer by trade who previously headed DE&I at Dell and SAP, stressed the need to provide solutions that make it easy for organizations to understand and improve the diversity of their teams and provide the insights and innovations needed to create a great organization for all employees. UKG has a full “success framework” to operationalize DE&I, including partnerships to help close the gender pay gap and offer incentives for people to pick up hard-to-fill shifts during the labor shortage.

Hugo Sarrazin, EVP and Chief Product and Technology Officer, who joined UKG from McKinsey & Company eight months ago, introduced the EPIC (Engineer, Product, Innovation & Cloud) leadership team. He focused on the collaboration with UKG’s belonging, equity and employee experience leaders to create solutions that will shape the experiences an employee has with their employer. This includes AI-driven “Life-Aware™” solutions innovations that:

  • Enable collaboration and communication
  • Recognize good work
  • Anticipate employee’s needs
  • Help employees learn and grow their careers
  • Balance life and work
  • Nudge employees to take actions
  • Help employees understand their pay
  • Help employees be in control of their time

“We have the right team in place, with a mix of experiences,” Sarrazin said. “We have let go of the historical organization. We are a new team, with different people, now working as one.”

Other highlights from the analyst briefing include an update on security at UKG following last year’s ransomware attacks. These include a continued focus on security by design, continuous rigorous auditing and testing of the systems in place, and a purpose-built integrated security platform.

Innovation, always a key differentiator for UKG, continues with their “Spark Tank” innovation series. Spark Tank is UKG’s internal innovation lab, with quarterly events to showcase new ideas for products, services, and markets. Some of the recent Spark Tank ideas topics are new approaches to hybrid work, recognizing contributions, and increasing employee visibility. There is also a clear connection between UKG’s DE&I focus and its ability to innovate. Brandon Hall Group’s research shows that companies with more successful DE&I programs also saw marked improvement in their ability to innovate. It is a virtuous circle: companies that innovate attract creative talent, who then help create the next wave of innovations.

What does this all mean for UKG? Simply that they continue to grow, evolve, and get a become stronger organization. UKG’s “Our purpose is people” is not just a tagline but a driving philosophy that governs its past, present, and far-reaching future. 

–Claude Werder, Senior Vice President and HCM Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group
–Cliff Stevenson, Principal HR and Talent Acquisition Analyst, Brandon Hall Group
–Michael Rochelle, Chief Strategy Officer and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.

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