Mike Klein, 55, who started at Ultimate as a contractor back in 2000 working on Y2K conversions, considers his Christmas 2006 nomination for the coveted UltiPeep MVP award one of the highlights of his career. Klein, who came on board full time as employee No. 493, says it was an honor to be chosen as the embodiment of the core “people first” values of Ultimate. Still, he says it’s the collaborative spirit of the company that he finds so compelling. “Everyone works together as a team to achieve the company’s goals,” he says. “The team effort drives everything.”
New tech drives innovation
Even so, the individual doesn’t get short shrift. Ultimate puts a huge emphasis on training and innovation, a combination that’s particularly relevant to IT, says Klein, who is now manager of client services. Everyone is encouraged to stay current on the latest technologies, which keeps it interesting from an individual’s perspective, Klein explains, but it also makes it easier for his team to do their job delivering top-notch customer support.
“It’s a big thing to have the chance to discover new ways of taking care of [customer] issues without having your hands tied using old technology,” Klein says, citing as an example the ability to deliver critical system updates via imaging and an enterprise app store as opposed to traditional methods of networked or individual machine upgrades. “We’re able to find the best possible means of helping our customers. Many other companies I worked for were short-sighted and didn’t put money towards making sure IT had the tools they needed.”
Giving employees the tools and the latitude to experiment with creative problem solving and out-of-the-box innovation is one of the hallmarks of the Ultimate culture, says CTO Rogers. The organization encourages lifelong learning through a variety of initiatives, including leadership and technical training, reimbursement for popular IT certifications, and its own unique program called 48 Hours, which gives employees two days, twice per year, to work on pet projects as a way of encouraging people to take risks.
A couple of times a year, Ultimate stages a science fair of sorts, where participants present their 48 Hour innovations while giving staffers a chance to vote on their favorite. In one of the more successful examples, a developer team came up with an app called Huddle, which works with motion sensors to detect when conference rooms are in use. Huddle was such a hit, it got backing to become an official company tool, making it easier for all employees to locate and book available meeting rooms.
“I can’t underscore the importance of growth and development enough,” Rogers says. “I expect people to take chances because IT is built on the shoulders of others making mistakes. That’s why I encourage exploration and don’t punish mistakes.”
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