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Q&A: Neil Pickering, Industry and Content Marketing Manager at UKG

Neil is an IT veteran and evangelist for the performance transformation benefits delivered by workforce management and human capital management solutions. Working closely with customers across… View Article


Q&A: Neil Pickering, Industry and Content Marketing Manager at UKG

Neil is an IT veteran and evangelist for the performance transformation benefits delivered by workforce management and human capital management solutions. Working closely with customers across the supply chain he witnesses first-hand the engagement, cost, productivity and compliance benefits achieved through the effective alignment of people and workforce technology.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I am Industry and Content Marketing Manager at UKG, specialising in Retail. I’ve worked in the software technology sector for over 20 years, and with Kronos – now UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) – for 16 years.

My experiences cover multiple disciplines – marketing, sales, pre-sales and alliances roles. Some of the greatest pleasure from my work is communicating and partnering with our impressive list of retail customers, including The Co-operative Group, Sainsbury’s, Midcounties and Central England Co-op, TJX, adidas, Home Bargain… name just a few.  Hearing how these organisations are using and benefitting from our solutions is great.

I’m particularly proud of the work that UKG has done over recent months to help our customers deal with the pandemic, including offering free additional modules and building new freely available reporting for contact tracing.

What does your company do? / What is your USP?

Following a merger like no other earlier this year, three powerhouse companies – Kronos, PeopleDoc and Ultimate Software merged to form one of the world’s largest cloud companies. Building on more than 70 years of combined experience from three global leaders in workforce management, HR service delivery (HRSD) and human capital management (HCM) solutions, the new UKG name builds on the strength and innovation of these three companies who share a singular focus on inspiring workforces and businesses around the world.

Our cloud-based – and mobile first designed – solutions help retailers optimise the performance of their most valuable asset – their people.

Given that people represent the largest controllable expense for retailers, optimising their performance is key to driving revenue and maintaining margin. UKG solutions are proven to help retailers control costs, improve productivity, minimise compliance risk and improve employee engagement.

On average customers will save ~3% of their annual wage bill using UKG technology; this could be slightly higher or lower depending on their current workforce management solutions and processes.

How we deliver benefits:

  • We accurately forecast customer demand
  • Based on demand we can optimally schedule employees – automatically – based on their experience, skills, availability, preferences, etc.
  • Both of the above minimise over- and under-staffing, ensuring both great service and cost control
  • We make sure people are paid accurately in accordance with their contracts
  • Likewise, we manage absences, automating processes, reducing manager time and administration, and minimising inaccurate recording
  • We empower employees with self-service access to tools – stopping the need to constantly ask managers or their HR/Payroll team for information. They can view schedules, request additional shifts that are available, book holiday, swap-shifts with colleagues…etc. all from their mobile phone.
  • We minimise the use of overtime and temporary staffing by giving a real-time view of available resources and current utilisation rates
  • And we deliver real-time analytics that drive performance improvement, such as how to deploy people more effectively to drive revenue – e.g. aligning your high performing staff with peak demand

What makes UKG different:

First and foremost, our purpose is people – we have a history of focusing on people in work, not just through the solutions we offer, but also in our own remarkable culture. We believe that organisations succeed when they focus on their people, so this underlines everything we do.

This culture is seen through our amazing project delivery and support team, many of whom are recruited from the retail industry. We are proud that many of our service team members used to work for our customers and – by their own volition – wanted to join the UKG team, as their experience with us was so positive.

In terms of our technology, we invest more each year in research and development than our top 10 competitors combined. This has totalled over $900M over the past five years, making our innovative solutions unrivalled in the market. Through this development, we have imbedded the most innovative technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which provide greater and more accurate automation of processes. For example, we offer demand forecasting that automatically adjusts to the weather forecast, and our Workforce Advisor solution proactively alerts managers if they are facing compliance issues.

For the end-user, through our cloud-based and mobile first solution design, colleagues can access the same functionality across any device, helping them work their way and support flexibility and engagement.

We are a truly global organisation, having deployed solutions to over 40,000 customers in over 115 countries. Our depth of capabilities and configurability is second to none and we are the go-to workforce management provider for global deployments, owning to the skills of the team and depth of solution capability.

Finally, with more than 40million people using a UKG solution every day, and an annual revenue of $3 billion, customers can rest assure they’re in safe hands with us.

What’s special about the platform and your approach?

UKG solutions are designed from the ground up to be cloud-based and mobile first. These features are particularly important in today’s workplaces, enabling colleagues to access key information easily and in a way that best suits them. Our device agnostic design means you get the same experience and capabilities whether you are using a mobile phone, tablet or PC.

Embedded AI and ML deliver unparalleled levels of automation and insight with Workforce Advisor being the sidekick to managers, giving proactive advice on potential threats and issues.

Our combined experience of more than 70 years across multiple regions and markets means the depth of capability in our solutions is second-to-none. We don’t have to resort to complex customisation of product (which is expensive to maintain) – like many rival vendors.

 What advantage does it add?

Our solutions are low risk deployments for customers as they’re quick to implement, easy to own and easy to maintain, driving strong ROI.

How does a product/service implementation actually look like and how do you measure success?

The steps we will follow for a solution deployment are:

  • Pre-sale Value Assessment Workshop – where we analyse with the prospective customer their current process and then map out where and how a UKG solution will add value
  • Scope of work definition – agreeing exactly what will be delivered and the success criteria
  • Project kick-of – where both teams meet and map out the project
  • Deployment and milestone measure – consisting of both on-site and remote work as required
  • User Acceptance Testing – to prove the solution meets all requirements
  • Go live – enhanced support to ensure a smooth go-live
  • Transition to UKG support team – where the project is handed over to the UKG support team

How long a deployment takes depends on multiple factors, including size of project, number of regions, modules being deployed, availability of client resources etc.

How are retailers using your systems to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like? Can you share a case study with us?

Retailers rely on our solutions to help them optimise their labour resources, because when you utilise labour more effectively you drive greater revenue performance and higher margin.

The retail industry has evolved significantly in recent years and consumers now have a choice of when, where and how they shop, compelling brick-and-mortar stores to entice customers with in-store experiences. To deliver, retailers need to put their best people in front of customers at the most opportune time.

We help retailers align staffing with consumer demand and gain full visibility across locations — all while eliminating paper processes and minimising compliance risk. Our streamlined solution automatically records time and attendance, and always pays employees based on the current labour laws to ensure you stay in compliance. With robust reporting and analytical tools, managers can have better control over issues such as budgeting and turnover that affect the bottom line.

Best practice will differ from organisation to organisation, but ultimately, best practice is about putting employees first and empowering them with the right tools to be more engaged and more effective.

Are there other companies you partner with?

UKG partners with organisations that add value to our clients, these include product reseller partners, technology partners, and service/consulting partners. We have over 90 technology partners on the UKG Dimensions Marketplace, each extending the value our solutions.

Partnership examples include:

  • Google – which currently provides the global hosting of our UKG Dimensions solution
  • SAP – resells the UKG Dimensions solution as SAP Time Management by Kronos
  • ReThink – helps our retail clients develop labour standard which is essential for use with our optimised scheduling solution
  • REPL – which works with our clients by extending project teams and supporting the implementation

What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2021 / What challenges are retailers facing in 2020?

Retail is all about adaptability and resilience, and people are at the centre. When COVID-19 struck, our customers needed to react and adapt quickly. Some needed to quickly re-deploy staff, moving them from one location to another, others scheduled their people not to work in store but provide support services from home. Others needed to furlough staff but maintain communication with them. Many retailers are no longer scheduling to demand but scheduling instead to safe store capacity, and scheduling staff to perform other roles such as greeting customers at the door. Until a vaccine is found it’s likely that retailers will continue to face unprecedented challenges and overnight governmental changes as a result of COVID-19.

Additionally, retailers were already adapting to find the right balance for them between online, bricks and mortar stores, and click and collect. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this, causing a larger challenge and forcing retailers to speed up their digital transformation projects.

Retail is constantly changing, driven by new technology, social media and customer buying habits so another key challenge for retailers is simply keeping pace with these changes and ensuring they have the right technology to easily and quickly facilitate change.

Furthermore, following the rise of the gig economy in recent years, it’s very likely that we’ll see a shift on working patterns too. People will work for multiple organisations, therefore maintaining connectivity with your transient staff and delivering a workplace experience that keeps them coming back to work for your business will be a challenge.

UKG solutions will be at the centre of these challenges, helping to simplify the complex through digital workforce transformation.

How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?

With change comes new opportunities for businesses and capitalising on these opportunities will require a workforce that is skilled, agile and flexible. UKG will continue to be a key partner for our retail customers in helping their businesses succeed

What is on the horizon for you as a company?

UKG will enable organisations to digitise HR and workforce management practices that address challenges of the future of work today by connecting employees to their work and their colleagues. Our technologies will develop strong leaders and teams, providing insights that promote better business outcomes, and helping organisations develop people-centred HR programmes and effective operations.

The pandemic has accelerated the arrival of the future of work, presenting new challenges for businesses and employees, not only where we work, but how we work. Greater demand from workers and greater complexity in business structures now presents us with the opportunity to reboot work and build a better version instead of a return back to normal. Our technology enables this and assists retailers in transforming their HR, workforce management and HCM processes.

Kronos had been around for over 40 years; I have no doubt we will be around for decades to come!

Any final thoughts?

Here’s a timely quote from one of our customers regarding COVID-19: Central England Co-operative, Mark Pickerill, Group Manager, Central Support

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, we used our new Kronos solution to ensure all our colleagues were paid accurately for the additional shifts they worked due to the surge in demand at the start of lockdown. We were able to swiftly flex our labour model and demand forecasts to reflect the change in buying behaviour, with 95% schedule accuracy. Our Finance team has visibility of labour costs at all times, so they can plan accordingly.”

To find out how UKG can help your retail operation, follow the links below.

WebLinkedIn  / Twitter

You can also see Neil on the 21 September in London at THE RETAIL HR SUMMIT: Book HERE

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