As a leader in the HR and workforce management tech space, UKG has its finger on the pulse of what’s driving today’s employees. This perspective has helped the organization create a rich employee value proposition, says Chief People Officer Pat Wadors.
That includes everything from learning and development opportunities and management training to the use of emerging technology and a benefits design that was tailored to the unique UKG population of nearly 15,000 employees worldwide.
Take, for instance, its new U Choose program, a lifestyle spending account that gives employees the choice to use employer-provided funds for more than 150 different expenses—from gym memberships and fitness classes to childcare and even pet care.
“It’s a way for us to be global and be equitable and meet you where your needs are,” Wadors says.
Wadors joined UKG in spring 2022 and has also held HR leadership roles at Procore Technologies, ServiceNow, LinkedIn, Yahoo and more during her nearly 40-year HR career. She says her work to meet the needs of UKG’s employees and, in turn, those of its customers is the ideal fit for her personal purpose: to leave the world better than she found it. Here’s how she is working to do that.
HRE: What has the feedback been like so far for the U Choose benefit?
Wadors: They love it. Oh my gosh, it’s the most talked-about benefit. I think what they realize is, when you do that expense—when you get that opportunity for extra care for yourself and your family and you submit that—the endorphins go off. It’s like, “Wow, this is cool.”
This is not normal healthcare. This is something different, and [it shows them] “UKG cares about me.” I love that. We’re expanding the menu of optionality going into 2024.
It’s been a winner. I’m excited.
HRE: A recent UKG survey found that nearly two-thirds of employees said they would switch jobs today if they could. Where can HR leaders focus to get to the heart of that issue?
Wadors: I would focus—and I am focusing—on the employee value proposition. I believe that organizations and employees need to be extremely clear on the give and the get.
If I work for you, what flexibility do I have? What kind of pay do I get? What kind of training and development do I get? Benefits, care, feedback, et cetera.
And from an employee standpoint, what I [the employer] expect from you is, I want you to be in the office or be hybrid or travel 25% of your time. I need you to do great work with quality, and I need you to be flexible and continue to grow with the organization and act with integrity.
These are simplified give and gets, but my hypothesis is that folks are looking up and out to other organizations to see if there’s a better fit for who they are, where they will belong and where there’s clarity in that value prop.
HRE: And what role do you think that managers and leaders play in delivering and communicating that EVP?
Wadors: They’re the key linchpin. Managers are extremely important, and so there is a burden on [HR] and the executives in the organization to codify what is that employee value prop [for managers].
If we believe in being open, honest and transparent, and we believe in a growth mindset, then we’re going to invest in training and development. If we believe in a for-all leader—which we [at UKG] do—then we’re going to lean in on that.
So, if we say it and we position it and we give the right communication tools to our managers, then they will repeat it. I love the “chief repeating officer” role. You’ve got to rinse and repeat because I might hear one piece of what you said the first time—but by the 10th time, I’ve kind of got the whole landscape.
We have to give [managers] the tools, the talking points, and remind them to repeat.
HRE: How are you working to unify the employee experience across the breadth of HR at UKG?
Wadors: We’re trying to measure the key components of the lifecycle—from courting talent to onboarding, enablement, ramping up your skills. It’s a little bit different in sales versus services versus tech, but everyone needs help transitioning and getting the right skills, tools, networking in a new organization. We care about that. We care about those moments that matter.
Once you’re in the organization … say, you’re taking a leave of absence or you get promoted into a manager job for the first time. How do I [in HR] enable you to do that? We have to give scaffolding around the manager because leaders and managers have an outsized impact on employee engagement and wellbeing.
HRE: What would you say is the biggest difference when it comes to the retention challenges that HR is facing today than when you entered the industry?
Wadors: I would think that it’s the macro environment; the shifts in expectations of talent and the support they need from their employer is a bigger shift than most anticipated.
If you think about mental health, if you think about social issues … giving space to talk about those things at work is hard to teach and to learn. And that’s shifting the conversation quite a bit in every company that I’ve ever spoken to.
HRE: What are the risks of the rapid advancement of tech for HR?
HRE: How do you envision UKG embracing emerging technology, especially in the next year or two?
Wadors: UKG is already using AI, which I love—and we’re leaning in more. I had an opportunity to kick off [an internal] conversation about AI both in our products and outside in the world, and how do we get smarter about this capability for our organization. I think that the first session that [Chief Product and Technology Officer] Hugo [Sarrazin] and I kicked off was with over 1,400 employees.
There’s so much energy to learn and grow that I love. In terms of UKG, we’re looking at every module, every flow of process and saying, “What is the best, highest-efficiency experience leverage point we have, and can we put smarter intelligence—AI, bots—in there to make that experience richer and more impactful for the manager and the employee?” Because both of them have huge roles.
I’m excited. It’s across the board and in everything we do.
HRE: Your personal purpose statement is to “leave the world better than you found it.” What’s your strategy for not letting that drive falter?
Wadors: I have what I call a Goldilocks spreadsheet. I know that’s going to sound kind of funny, but I take the analogy of Goldilocks and the Three Bears where she comes in the cottage and she tries a bunch of stuff and she figures out what’s her just-right fit.
For me, it’s a combination of that journey of learning what I love and don’t love and the purpose: What’s my legacy, what’s the moral of my story at the end of my life? And that purpose statement came to be: What would make me proud to have been on this earth?
Every day, I get to wake up and live my purpose. I get to take care of people at scale. Working in a talent tech organization feeds my soul—at 80,000 customers, right? Think about the magnitude of change if I can influence a company to be healthier and better by having worked with us. Check.
And I have a platform in which to help others solve their people problems and treat people beautifully. For me, that’s one of the main reasons why I came to UKG. They’re in my space. They’re in my heart. They’re aligned with my purpose 100%, and I love what I get to do every day.
HRE: Outside of that work, who or what would you say has most influenced the person you bring to work?
Wadors: There’s been so many people in my life who have mentored and coached me and given me courageous feedback to make me a better me. I do think feedback’s a gift. I seek it often.
My uncle was my first mentor. I’ve had amazing leaders and managers—some not so great, and I’ve learned from them and I’ve learned from my mistakes.
When something goes so well, I’m a little worried because I don’t know why it went so well. And I’m panicked: Can I do that again? When something is a little wonky, I seek the feedback and I course-correct the path and then I know why it was successful.
And I love those moments, and I love co-creating. That, to me, has been my compass: co-creating with amazing people around me and listening to really great ideas. And having a “yes and” mindset.