How Ultimate Software’s “People First” Workplace Culture Built Us

February 18, 2020      By Annmarie Neal

Ultimate Takeaway
  • Ultimate Software ranked #2 on Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work for" 2020 list.
  • The company's "People First" culture has been built by every employee, every day, from day one.
  • Creating and sustaining a great workplace culture starts with making employees your top priority.

There are days when you’re proud to be part of an amazing company—and then there are days when you’re beaming with pride.

Today, we’re incredibly honored to announce that Fortune and Great Place to Work have ranked Ultimate Software #2 on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list for 2020. This marks our fourth year in a row to be named among the top 10, and Ultimate’s ninth consecutive year in the top 25 on the prestigious list.

It’s a privilege to be ranked so highly amid some of the country’s greatest companies who’ve also dedicated themselves to keeping people their top priority. As they’ve long understood, and more and more leaders across the business world are realizing, it’s not just about the products you create, services you provide, customers you serve, or shareholders you satisfy. Above all, it’s about your people. The tens, hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands dedicated to giving their all for you, because they trust you’ll always do the same for them, during the celebrated triumphs and particularly through the challenging moments.

Staying True to Your Vision

When people discover Ultimate for the first time, they often ask the same billion-dollar question: How did Ultimate build a successful workplace culture, seemingly overnight? In reality, it’s the culture that built Ultimate into a success. And, like most “overnight success” stories, it took every day of 30 years. It took buy-in from every one of our employees—from the original four who started it all in 1990 with shared cubicles to the new hire who just started yesterday and is ready to carry Ultimate’s storied legacy into the next decade. We come from different places, bringing diverse perspectives and unique experiences to the workplace. But we share a clear vision and defined core values. We believe in “People First,” and that’s what matters most at the beginning and end of every day.

Having a vision is only part of the equation, though. You also need to dedicate your time, energy, and resources to bringing that vision to fruition. What’s just as important to your success is seeing that vision through as you navigate unsure economic climates, customer concerns, industry changes, and emerging competition vying for your people and your business. This is the crucial time to stay focused and remember the pillars that first brought you success, as well as your principal beliefs and why you believe in them.

Providing for Your People

The strongest cultures thrive on the intangibles—when employees can “feel” what comprises your culture. But make no mistake, it’s also the tangibles that help create that feeling. Benefits can set you apart from other organizations, make you an employer of choice in a crowded “candidate’s market,” and keep your best talent coming back day after day, year after year, even decades later. Benefits are also one of the best ways to show employees you care about them, no matter how many times you might tell them you do.

From the early days, Ultimate made a commitment to cover 100% of employees’ healthcare premiums, even going a step farther to cover employees’ families, too. When opportunities came to improve coverage, such as adding infertility treatments or gender reassignment surgery, Ultimate took those opportunities. Over the years, Ultimate’s gone against the trend—fewer than 10% of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies fully cover their employees’ healthcare premiums—because we’ve believed in providing this critical benefit. That matters to people. That makes a lasting impact.

Respecting and Celebrating Your Employees

Covering healthcare premiums for employees may not be financially feasible for every company, but there are other cost-effective acts of care that can have major impacts on your people. Creating a successful workplace culture is about creating a sense of belonging for all employees—a culture that respects them, celebrates who they are, and welcomes them with open arms. Establish programs, policies, and employee-resource groups that promote equality and inclusivity, and that increase awareness for the issues and causes your people care about (and that your organization should wholly support).

At Ultimate, we have five Communities of Interest—for LGBTQ+ individuals, women, veterans, and people impacted by cancer—with more on the way soon. These groups are formed and run by and for our employees, with support from our executive team. Last year, we established “U Belong” to improve upon Ultimate’s longstanding diversity, equality, and belonging practices. We are also partnering with expert organizations to ensure better accessibility for our people and our customers, as well as candidates who want to join our Ultimate family.

At the core of a positive culture is earning and keeping your employees’ trust. As with any healthy relationship, workplace trust is earned over time and it’s constantly cultivated. Showing your people that you’re always there for them will go a long way in garnering their trust. The support and care you provide will return invaluable results well worth the long-term investment.

Setting an Extraordinary Example for Others

Congratulations to Ultimate’s people, the more than 6,000 worldwide committed to always doing the right thing. Congratulations to the other 99 organizations who earned coveted spots on this year’s Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, for always doing right by your people. We’re in good company. Our work and results set an extraordinary example for others aspiring to build great cultures. While we know the real work is never done, as it’s said, it’s not really work when you love what you do.

Together, let’s continue to put people first, keep our cultures strong, and help companies all around us do the same for their employees. We have a golden opportunity to make real change in the workplace, from the C-suite to the front lines. Others will look to us for the answers moving forward. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to become a Best Company, but there is one constant: it starts with putting people first.


Ready to make a culture change? Click here for expert insights from industry leader Joey Price on how to create a winning culture from the inside out.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Linda Valiga on February 26, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    I am so proud to have two family members working at Ultimate. It started with my sister in law about three years ago, Dorothy Valiga. She’s a “ genius “ in my mind with IT. She kept saying,” l love this company.” When my son, found himself looking for a job, she encouraged him to apply. I’ve never seen him so happy. The stress is gone and his smile is back. It’s been only 5 months but thank you! Jason appreciates your commitment to your employees and family.

    • Karina Schultheis Karina Schultheis on February 28, 2020 at 8:06 am

      Linda — thank you so much for sharing your experience and making my morning! It’s always such a pleasure hearing about other Peep’s experiences. It is an amazing company – we are taken very good care of – and I’m so grateful for Ultimate and everything they’ve done for me and my family every single day. I’m so glad that your son and sister-in-law have had the same life-changing experiences. Have a great day!

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