Ultimate Software really does put “people first” –  just ask its employees

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on October 16, 2019

Ultimate Software launched nearly 30 years ago. Today, Ultimate serves more than 6,000 customers worldwide. But even from its early days as a startup, Ultimate put itself on the right track. The human resources (HR) – also known as human capital management (HCM) – company began with two men and two women, which set the stage for the importance of diversity and equality from Day 1. And the tremendous potential for women in tech.

Cecile Arper-Leroux, one of the women in tech putting people first

One of Ultimate’s leaders recently delivered a passionate presentation about the future of work at DisruptHR NYC.

Shortly before her presentation, Grit Daily had the opportunity to sit down with Cecile Alper-Leroux, who joined Ultimate nine years ago. Today, Cecile serves as the VP of HCM Innovation and is a role model among women in tech. Ultimate not only provides Cecile and her colleagues with creative latitude, but it also fosters women’s inclusion and empowerment.

Grit Daily: Ultimate Software has a long-standing relationship for being a welcome home for women in tech given its focus on inclusivity. What is the environment like today?

Cecile Alper-Leroux: Today, 29 years after its founding, Ultimate still has about an equal number of women and men throughout the company. Even more impressive is the fact that women hold about 50% of the company’s frontline management positions.

GD: Creating and supporting communities is a critical aspect of culture. Tell me about Ultimate’s efforts in this regard.

CAL: Among my multiple responsibilities, I serve as an executive sponsor of Women in Leadership (WIL) which is one of Ultimate’s internal Communities of Interest. Community is a concept that Ultimate takes seriously. Earlier this year, Ultimate expanded its work with WIL to launch the Women in Technology (WIT) community group. Soon after its inception, Ultimate realized the upside of taking care of our employees and customers. If you treat them like family, they’ll be loyal, unfaltering and work as part of a unified effort to drive consistent growth and profitability.

GD: What is your leadership style?

CAL: I regard myself as a servant leader. I’m dedicated to listening to my team. When I onboarded with Ultimate, I spent the first six months listening to and absorbing what the employees and customers said. I probed on how they felt and what they wished for. Only then did I take action. Listening is only half the job – the other half is being accountable for making the changes required.

Corporate culture has become the mainstay of teams demarcating a clear line between those who will succeed and those who will not. When asked why Ultimate has largely expanded organically versus taking an M&A approach, Cecile’s answer was as succinct as it was profound. “To protect the house.”

However, culture is dynamic and changing in different ways at a different pace across industries. Hence the HCM solutions need to change to keep up with new demands. Cecile, Ultimate’s leadership team and the thousands of women and men behind this successful HCM company are constantly asking themselves how they can be better prepared for the future of work. They want to future-proof Ultimate’s HCM platform as well as offer the support required to ensure customers will move forward into the future with the company.

GD: If you reflect on your journey as one of the women in tech, can you offer any advice to the next generation?

CAL: This warrants a thoughtful response. Society puts too much emphasis on tech and not enough on the people experience. This is one of the most exciting times for HR professionals to shape how people are perceived and the experiences they have at work. Let’s give them the latitude to do so.

GD: Thank you for taking the time to highlight the importance of community, putting people first and for being a role model to women in tech.

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Dr. Loralyn Mears is a Columnist at Grit Daily and a podcast host (The Grit Files, which aims to shine the spotlight on female founders). She is a content marketer, founder of the WORKtech startup, STEERus, specializing in personal and professional development to address gaps in soft skills - communication in particular. In her consultancy practice, she helps clients with content and strategy. Loralyn spent over a decade playing with mosquito DNA, got her PhD, decided she would rather market science than be at the bench and has never looked back. Along the way, she’s wined and dined her way around the globe. She's authored two books, including the 2018 Gold Medal Indie Book award-winning, One Sip At a Time: a Memoir and the hard science thriller, "The Battle for Humanity: How Science Saved Us." 

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