Topping off a year of high-powered moves that significantly strengthened its position among the top HCM technology brands, UKG announced several partnerships and product enhancements at its annual customer conference, UKG Aspire, Nov. 6-9 in Las Vegas.
UKG, since its formation in 2020 through the merger of Ultimate Software and Kronos, has stood out as a unique tech company that infuses its values of belonging, equity and impact into its technology offerings.
CEO Chris Todd and his team are hyper-focused on delivering HCM and workforce management technologies that empower culture transformation in organizations. As the company’s 2024 fiscal year gets underway, UKG made it clear that the bold innovations of 2023 — which included the launch of UKG One View, a unique multi-country payroll solution — would continue.
- A collaboration with PayPal that will empower millions of people to directly deposit all or some of their pay each pay period into a PayPal Balance account and use the funds within the popular digital wallet. Not only can employees deposit all or a portion of their paycheck into their PayPal Balance account, but PayPal will, in some circumstances, make anticipated payroll funds available up to two days ahead of time, creating another avenue for people to have faster access to their earned wages.
- A strategic partnership with Eightfold AI, a leader in AI-powered talent intelligence, to help companies transform high-volume hiring by more effectively attracting and engaging high-performing, diverse talent. Eightfold AI’s market-leading Talent Intelligence Platform delivers patented, deep-learning AI to help organizations use a skills-based approach to recruitment. Utilizing the open and extensible framework provided by the UKG FleX platform, Eightfold AI will tightly integrate with the UKG Pro Suite to allow customers to be more intentional and purposeful when hiring, especially at scale.
- UKG Bryte, an AI-powered assistant that uses generative AI (GenAI) to help guide employees, people managers and HR leaders by shining a light on important insights that support great workplace experiences. UKG customers received an exclusive first look at the intuitive experience provided by UKG Bryte at Aspire.
- The launch of the UKG Pro Benefits Hub, which makes it easier for employees to understand the full scope of their benefits options. The hub uses a side-by-side plan comparison tool that helps employees select the best plan possible, whether based on need, budget, or both.
- The expansion of its longstanding strategic collaboration with Microsoft that will utilize the UKG FleX and Microsoft Power Platform to make it easier for mutual customers to create unique employee experiences specific to their business.
Beyond the partnership and product announcements, UKG leaders shared plans and strategies for product and service improvements with industry analysts at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Here are selected highlights:
Great Place to Work® Everywhere
Todd was not using hyperbole when he called UKG Great Place to Work® (GPTW) a singular asset that no one can reproduce. Since acquiring it in 2021, UKG has expanded its use. With the launch now of the GPTW Hub, UKG offers customers decades’ worth of data on employee engagement and sentiment to help organizations identify leadership and employee experience strengths and areas for improvement through the lens of their workers. At a time when organizations are struggling to retain top talent and hire and keep frontline workers, the data and insights that the hub can provide can be pivotal.
While the hub is a separate product, data and insights from GPTW are integrated across all of UKG’s many solutions, from large enterprise organizations to smaller organizations with 500 or fewer employees.
The focus on frontline workers is particularly important as they comprise close to 80% of the workforce and have traditionally been underserved. While talent attrition in some areas of the workforce has leveled off, companies large and small struggle to find — and keep — frontline and deskless workers. When companies can benchmark their employee experience practices against data with more than 100 million data points, that creates insights that can be transformational.
UKG doubled its innovation budget in 2023, and it shows. After having seven patents issued between 2007 and 2023, the company filed 24 AI-related patents in 2023 with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office. Today, the company has more than 2,500 AI models in production.
UKG Bryte, the GenAI guidance system, is built into UKG Pro, the HCM suite for mid-market, enterprise and large enterprise organizations. Its capabilities include high-impact solutions, such as leadership development nudges, frontline worker insights, career opportunities, employee-driven skill development and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) action planning.
Leveraging Bryte and UKG FleX People Fabric, a behavior-focused AI platform, UKG will unveil many new GenAI capabilities in the first half of 2024. UKG executives acknowledge that many companies are still evaluating the pros and cons of GenAI, and a new Brandon Hall Group™ study shows only 23% of HR professionals in large organizations believe AI will have a positive impact while 33% are uncertain and still evaluating.
But UKG has been focused on AI for years and stressed its commitment to responsible and ethical AI, framed by a three-layer data security and transparency model built on a foundation powered by strategic partner Google’s Large Language Models. It enables UKG to serve customers of any size, in any industry at scale.
Powerful HCM Suites
UKG’s two HCM Suites — UKG Pro and UKG Ready — are the only end-to-end cloud-based platform to serve the entire global market. Both incorporate Great Place to Work™ in all markets.
Serving larger and more complex organizations, UKG Pro features strong workforce management vertical solutions for healthcare, manufacturing, retail/hospitality, services and distribution, and the public sector.
In 2023, additions included the launch of the UKG One View global payroll system (see below), a new mobile app, a benefits hub, a strategic workforce planning solution, automated position posting, and SMS messaging and candidate scheduling in the Recruiting hub, and its Pay + WFM bundle for large enterprises, among other enhancements.
Moving forward, the strategic partnership with Eightfold AI talent intelligence improves how organizations can attract and source candidates in UKG Pro Recruiting. Other additions for 2024 include:
- Greater control for employees over how they receive their pay, along with financial wellness tools and education.
- AI-powered skill suggestions to deliver better career possibilities for all workers.
- Personalized pathways to help employees move vertically or horizontally within an organization.
- Actionable recommendations for employees to grow their skills toward the opportunities they want to pursue.
- Enhanced performance reviews through the assistance of UKG Bryte™ within the Performance and Coaching module.
UKG is investing heavily in Ready, the suite for smaller organizations in all industries. Previously focused on serving only companies with 200 or fewer employees, Ready now will serve organizations for the under-500-employee market in North America while expanding its footprint abroad.
Improvements in 2023 focused on employee experience and ease of use, simplified benefits and onboarding and, of course, leveraging GPTW. The company added more sales reps, expanded marketing efforts and added more activation and customer success people to better serve the busy SMB market.
A host of enhancements are targeted for 2024, including eight additional languages and Ask Bryte AI, a natural language search engine that will help users get answers and additional resources to do their jobs better.
Part of UKG’s multi-faceted innovation strategy, UKG Labs is a startup ecosystem and virtual laboratory of early-stage companies from around the world, onboarded in small cohorts.
With the idea of “improving the velocity of market discovery,” as one UKG leader put it, the company works with the start-ups for a minimum of three months to explore niche ideas that could improve HCM offerings. For example, Bountiful is a referral-as-a-service platform for recruiting that automates the often-manual management of existing candidate referral programs. It also enables anyone, anywhere to refer great talent into jobs and get paid for it. Companies use the platform to improve employee participation, hire faster, diversify the talent funnel and maximize the efficiency of the talent team.
Besides supporting the startups, UKG looks everywhere for innovation:
- They listen to customer suggestions and will deliver 60% of top customer ideas to the market in 2024.
- They turn to their employees — U Krewers — to develop ideas in quarterly two-day development sprints.
UKG One View™
The multi-country payroll solution, launched earlier in the year after the acquisition of Immedis, a leading global payroll provider, UKG One View™ firmly establishes UKG as a leading player in global payroll.
UKG’s vision is to transform the global payroll paradigm into a more efficient, technology-enabled multi-country payroll experience. While traditional multi-country payroll systems are complex to manage, lack transparency, have compliance challenges, contain schedule-to-fund gaps and offer a generally poor employee experience, One View provides the payroll flexibility organizations have been searching for and a truly global experience at the same time.
Eventually available to all UKG markets, One View also offers AI-driven payroll reporting and analytics that can shine a light on employee transaction costs and compensation planning, which is incredibly difficult across multiple countries without a single source of truth. The potential impact of UKG One View on employee experience as it evolves and expands is enormous.
2023 has been a banner year for UKG and it is in an enviable market position among HCM technology competitors entering 2024, even though the market for growth may be tougher due to economic and geopolitical strife at home and abroad.
With its investment in AI, the acquisition of Immedis and subsequent launch of the UKG One View global payroll platform, UKG’s strategic partnerships (Google Cloud, Eightfold AI, PayPal, Microsoft and others), and infusing the power of Great Place to Work data across all its solutions, CEO Chris Todd and his team have done an exemplary job of forging a unique place for UKG in the crowded and chaotic HCM technology market.
With its UKG Ready, UKG Pro, UKG Pro Pay + WFM, and UKG One View products, UKG serves the entire HCM market, from SMBs to large enterprises, which provides them with an advantage in a potentially tough market against top competitors like Workday, Oracle and SAP that concentrate on the enterprise and large enterprise spaces.
UKG wisely doubled its innovation investment in 2023 and is doing an excellent job addressing all personas of an organization, especially the frontline workers, frontline managers and the emerging non-employee segment of gig workers, temp workers and contractors whom Brandon Hall Group™ believes will continue to expand as the post-COVID work environment continues to evolve.
UKG has placed its bet on building human-centered HR technology focused on making work better for everyone at a time when there is so much division in the world. They back it up with an employer brand that strongly aligns with its marketing messages. That is a winning combination.