When tech and HR combine: What I saw at #UltiConnect

I had the opportunity to speak at and attend the Ultimate Connections conference put on last week by Ultimate Software. This is the Little User Conference That Could – growing to a mighty 3,000+ attendance by those interested in learning more about how an HCM software solution can help them with their business, specifically the HR function.

As a speaker and Influencer at the conference, I got to talk to all sorts of people – product development, customers, potential customers, smart HR people, etc. Others have written some great posts already about what they saw coming out of the conference (like this one, or these). What I focused on more was how technology was impacting those who were just now starting to implement an enterprise solution. And what I learned was eye-opening.

Many of the customers I talked to were relatively new to having an HCM to help them with what they do on a regular basis. They were managing everything through disparate systems, or through no systems at all. There was a lot of talk about Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, and paper…so much paper. Now, you might think that what made everyone excited was the UltiPro Perception module that uses natural language processing to help you know what your employees are really thinking. Or Xander, the AI platform Ultimate Software has been developing to help managers make more informed people decisions. Or the ad-hoc reporting capabilities that allow HR departments to create their own reports and finally do analytics to run their business more effectively. And don’t get me wrong – these things are indeed exciting and cool, and people DID talk about them. But what I heard mentioned over and over again wasn’t really any of these things.

It was Payroll and Time and Attendance. 

Having a system that relieves the administrative burden for something so simple and so basic was a game-changer for these organizations. It meant employees could get paid accurately and on time. It meant timecards were correct and (fingers crossed) completed when they should be. It meant employees could finally go to one place – their dashboard – and know how many PTO days they have left for the year.

This is a big damn deal, people.

It made me realize that no matter how many bells and whistles technology may have, if people can’t and don’t use it, it doesn’t matter. And if the technology can’t do the basic things like payroll and timecards, HR doesn’t want it. So yes, advanced functionality is all well and good, but if it’s not grounded by a solid, simple solution to HR’s problems, it’s useless to them

In HR, we often talk so much about moving away from administration and to a more strategic role…and we need to. But the daily work in the organization needs to get done, too – things like paychecks and vacation and leave management and all the little things that employees take for granted because good HR people word darn hard to make sure they happen, no matter how manual the process may be. But the more manual the process, the less time available to be strategic. Now, these nice people I met will have TIME to cool work, and the TOOLS to start measuring the impact of that work. And they were so excited to start.

So next time you hear someone grumbling that HR is being to administrative, dig a little deeper – do they have what they need to get the blocking and tackling done efficiently? If not, then cut them some slack. And help them find a better way.

Author’s note: This user conference had some pretty amazing keynotes, and I’m sure I’ll revisit many of the themes I saw – from the humble CEO to the moving John O’Leary. And I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have been asked to be a part of the Women in Leadership Panel. Originally conceived by Janine Truitt to be a discussion around women in the workplace, diversity and inclusion, and how HR can move businesses forward, it became an honest, open, and sometimes raw conversation with the women who came to be a part of the session. Thank you so much to all of those who shared, and thank you to Janine, Jason, Maren, Kate, and Micole who let me be a part of it. A recording of the live stream of the session can be viewed here

5 thoughts on “When tech and HR combine: What I saw at #UltiConnect

  1. “and how HR can move businesses forward…” is a statement contained in you Author’s Note. I am very sympathetic to HR personnel in small businesses who have so much to keep track of that any system is better than nothing. I also worked in an HR organization of 105 employees who, with all the computing power in the world, still did what management insists they do: track hours and payroll, and enforce managerial policy. Your use of the word “strategic” as a goal of HR is, in my experience, presumptuous, at least in the way that most businesses use that term. Strategy in HR means how to establish more managerial control while talking incessantly about continuing problems, like employee engagement, all with a smile painted over barely controlled rage.

    1. Hi, Thomas. Thanks for taking time to read the blog. I think it’s unfortunate that your experiences lead you to believe that all of HR is about “barely controlled rage.” That’s no way to work. I’m hopeful that there is an aspirational aspect to everyone in HR, with the understanding that handling the day-to-day administration can be easier to allow HR to have the conversations with executives to help shape – not just enforce – policy. If you don’t have that, I hope you find an org that will give that to you!

  2. I run payroll and if I had to do it manually I would have no time for anything else. There’s a lot of administrative items. The next software that comes up with a TurboTax guide for all different types of leave will have me banging down their door with fists full of cash because the administrative items are what take too much time. You can’t be strategic or even think about being strategic when you’re trying to just make sure the business runs.

    1. Thanks for reading! And exactly…I think of invoice approval processes that require me to manually sign and date each and every invoice and think, “This is why I get paid the ‘big bucks’?”

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