When sales and profits start to fall, a CEO’s knee-jerk reaction may be to push their people harder to achieve results; writes Louis Efron in Forbes.
While this tactic may work in the short term, it is detrimental to the long-term success of an organization. It breeds low engagement, high turnover and a lack of trust in the future sustainability of a company. Instead, skilled CEOs diagnose the foundational problems in their business and treat the cause instead of the symptom.
One CEO whose change leadership has transformed his company’s employee metrics and future trajectory is David Ossip, who was recently listed on Glassdoor’s Highest Rated CEOs list. When he took over as CEO of the global human capital management technology company Ceridian a little over three years ago, he inherited a highly disengaged workforce, a Glassdoor rating below 2 and declining business results.
“My take home after a hard look at Ceridian was that the organization had to reinvent its culture in order to drive proper employee engagement, in turn improving our customer engagement scores and market share,” Ossip recalls.
Ossip had a monumental task ahead of him. Unhappy employees cost organizations and the U.S. economy over $550 billion per year. The problem impacts top and bottom line results and every other business metric that matters. Skilled and purposeful leadership with a deep understanding of what engages people is required to turn around this problem.
Ossip considers himself an entrepreneur at heart, not a corporate executive. He has a successful track record of building startups in the Human Resources space. He met the Ceridian organization shortly after he started his last company, Dayforce, in 2009. Dayforce owned strong workforce management technology for scheduling, planning and tracking employees. Ceridian’s large market presence and great reputation in services placed it at the top of its industry, but it lacked strong innovation and technology. With no new products in its pipeline, it lost market share. The combination hurt both employee engagement and customer satisfaction scores—two key metrics that can make or break the success of an organization.
“When I saw Ceridian, I saw a good opportunity to create something special by taking world-class software and pairing it together with an established organization that had no new product pipeline,” Ossip recalled. A partnership was formed in 2011 with a re-launch of Dayforce under Ceridian’s brand. “We had forecasted 100 customer purchases and ended up selling 483,” Ossip proudly recalls.
The following year, a market survey determined the industry pain points. The survey highlighted that HR professionals were frustrated by the lack of integration and communication between HR computer applications. None of the systems spoke to each other and it made the HR practitioners’ day-to-day difficult by slowing down and limiting business outcomes. The solution: extend the Dayforce technology into the payroll, benefits and other talent management modules so the entire employee experience could be captured and tracked through one application. The market expressed strong interest in the solution, but the move only made sense if Ceridian acquired Dayforce. Ossip accepted the role of CEO of Ceridian once this occurred.
Ossip’s first executive meeting yielded one key consensus: Without high employee engagement, Ceridian could not drive the other changes it wanted and required. Employee engagement had to become the organization’s core focus. Ossip, his team and Ceridian embarked on a disciplined approach to turn the company around. Ceridian, founded in 1932, had a strong history of execution, but forgot why it existed in the first place—its purpose—and the values that drove the business. Plus, not much of the original culture at Ceridian had evolved beyond 1960.
A Need For Change
Ceridian originated as part of IBM. Due to anti-trust laws, the unit was spun out and acquired by Control Data Corporation. In 1993, the company was transformed into Ceridian by the then-CEO. “I think at the time he wanted to create a legacy,” Ossip says. The company was highly diversified and profitable, but lacked focus. It resembled an old bank—barriers halted communication and promoted a more rigid method of planning and decision-making, all without employee feedback. The structures of the company prevented change instead of driving it.
“If you have an organization that can’t change, you will become extinct,” Ossip insists.