Digital workplace technology and workplace culture are inextricably linked in today's companies. Look no further than the news that UKG, the HR technology giant created from the merger of two human capital tech specialists in 2020, is acquiring Great Place to Work Institute, which calls itself "the global authority on workplace culture."

Terms of the deal, announced on Sept. 1, were not disclosed. Privately held UKG, short for Ultimate Kronos Group, was born from the merger of Lowell, Mass.-based Kronos, best known for its time and attendance and workforce management products, and Weston, Fla.-based Ultimate Software, whose cloud-based UltiPro product integrates HR services and delivery with talent management products. That merger, completed in April 2020, created a 12,000-person company with about $3 billion in revenue.

At first glance, Great Place to Work seems like an odd fit for a technology company focused on scaling and delivering HR services in the cloud. The San Francisco-based organization, founded in 1990, is best known for its Great Place to Work Certification that feeds a number of "Best Workplaces" recognition lists, including Fortune magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work For and People's Companies That Care. More than 11 million employees and stakeholders across 50 countries provide feedback on their employers through Great Place to Work's survey tools to measure employee experience, according to the institute.

UKG Chairman and CEO Aron Ain laid out the vision in the press release statement announcing the deal. Organizations that achieve Great Place to Work certification outperform their peers in productivity, customer service, retention and engagement, he said, adding that UKG has "decades' worth of proof" of that from their own participation in Great Place to Work programs. Now, with the acquisition, UKG sees an opportunity to shift the company's mission by integrating Great Place to Work's workplace culture data into UKG's product portfolio.

"Today marks the day that we move from an organization with our own culture primarily at the center of our brand identity, to one focused on helping others build remarkable cultures and become recognized as superior workplaces themselves,” Ain said.

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Michael C. Bush, Great Place to Work Institute's CEO, will continue to lead the institute post-acquisition. He underlined the connection between technology and culture that appears to be driving the deal. "By combining our employee-centric insights with UKG’s leading HCM solutions, our potential is limitless to help tens of thousands of companies around the world build more productive, more inclusive workplaces with higher levels of employee and customer loyalty,” he said in a press statement.

There's been a renewed focus on employee experience amidst the disruption of the COVID-19 era, and digital workplace technology is the frontline for many employer initiatives. According to the 2021 State of the Digital Workplace report, a survey of more than 500 executives conducted by Reworked, more than three quarters (77%) of organizations consider the digital workplace extremely or very important, up 21 points from 2020. The study also showed nearly half (46%) of organizations saw increased employee interaction through technology tools as a result of the pandemic. For many, tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are the way collaborative work gets done.

UKG clearly believes that technology is only part of the answer as companies ponder an increasingly digital future. Cloud-based, user-friendly products are key to a more efficient company, but they only go so far. UKG is betting that Great Place to Work Institute's tools to assess and benchmark workplace culture will give it a competitive advantage in the race for a better employee experience.

"The time has come for companies to expect more from their [human capital management] providers, and we plan to lead the charge," said UKG President Chris Todd in a statement. "As an HR technology provider whose motto is ‘Our purpose is people,’ we’re serious about continuing to find ways to help our customers create better, more personalized, and more consistent employee experiences for every person at their organization, no matter who they are or what they do."

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