If you’re looking for stars, you might enlist a few to help in the quest. Operating with the assumption that it takes one to know one, Ultimate Software Group Inc. knew it had to involve some of its own proven leaders if it was going to successfully revitalize and ramp up its product development team.
With 1,000 employees and a Weston, Florida, address, the software firm faced the challenge of how to attract young superstars to a midsize company far from high-tech hot spots such as Silicon Valley.
The internship program Ultimate Software created—TechStars—was designed and largely executed by three of the company’s engineering leaders with help from the human resources department and president and CEO Scott Scherr. The objective was to build relationships with talented students before they joined the mainstream job market. Key to the strategy was creating connections with professors at several colleges in the area, including Florida International and Florida Atlantic universities and the University of Florida.
Greg Miller, the director of engineering talent who is the mastermind of the project, and his team visit colleges several times a year to give presentations. They discuss how the company develops software and do a demonstration. They also present workshops for professors at colleges across the country and sponsor high school programming competitions.
Because students are asked to come to the front of the class to tackle real problems, Adam Rogers, Ultimate Software’s chief technology officer, says much can be learned about their technical and social skills. “They have to have a mindset for learning,” he says.
Ultimate Software culls the students it believes are the most intrinsically motivated and offers them internships. Once in the workplace, the students are placed on high-performance teams responsible for maintaining and developing primary software. “If you study what motivates people, money is not as important as autonomy, mastery and purpose,” Rogers says. “That’s what we give our interns. That’s what makes the program so unique. It gives us a chance to kick the tires, and that goes both ways.”
The company credits the program with helping to expand its customer base in the “under 1,000 employee market” by more than 300 percent since 2006 and boost annual revenue 71 percent between 2006 and 2009—from $114.8 million to $196.6 million. The full-time offer acceptance rate for interns is 100 percent, and the program has helped save more than $3 million because of lower turnover.
For its ability to hire a galaxy of autonomous stars capable of swiftly helping to increase the company’s competitive advantage, Ultimate Software is the 2010 winner of the Optimas Award for Financial Impact.
Workforce Management, December 2010, p. 22 -- Subscribe Now!