Vivian Maza was on maternity leave when she was informed that her employer, ADP Inc., was shutting down the division she worked for and she would not have a job to return to. Armed with two months of severance pay, Maza decided to take a bit of a risk for her next job: She joined an unknown start-up company that was operating out of a single cubicle at a law firm that was donating the space, taking a 50-percent pay cut from her previous salary.
That was 27 years ago. Today, Maza is chief people
officer at Ultimate Software, the start-up in question,
which has grown from a four-person operation (Maza
was its fourth hire) to a 3,800-employee global operation,
with a state-of-the-art headquarters in Weston, Fla., and
a glowing reputation as an employer of choice.
“I tend to look at things as opportunities, not problems,
and I was confident that if things didn’t work out at
Ultimate, I’d find work elsewhere,” she says. “But I trusted
[Ultimate founder and CEO] Scott Scherr and I felt
empowered by him.”
During her long career at the helm of Ultimate’s
HR department, Maza has indeed been empowered
by Scherr to launch a head-spinning variety of
employee benefits, programs and perks that have
helped the company (which makes HCM software)
land in the top 25 of Fortune’s Best Companies to
Work For list in each of the past six years, coming in
at No. 7 this year.
“Our philosophy is that employees come first,
customers come second and shareholders are third—in
the rest of corporate America it’s usually the other way
around, but we believe that if we take care of our people,
they’ll take care of us,” says Maza. “And they have.”
Ultimate’s retention rate is at an enviable 96 percent,
and it has a 4. 6 stars (out of a possible 5) rating on
Glassdoor, with 92 percent of the reviewers agreeing
they’d recommend the company to a friend. Maza
cites the “People First” culture she’s helped to build
at Ultimate as a key ingredient of its success, along
with its impressive array of employee benefits. These
include 100-percent paid healthcare and dental benefits
for employees and their dependents; a 40-percent
company match for 401(k) plans with no cap on the
matching amount; restricted stock units granted to all
employees on their first day with the company; tuition
reimbursement; and free meals and on-site services
such as massages and acupuncture. Its 12-building
campus in Weston (which Maza helped design) includes
a 650-gallon fish tank, an indoor basketball court (see
the above photo), a putting range, on-site gyms and
lactation rooms for new moms.
BY ANDREW R. McILVAINE
Taking Care of the ‘UltiPeeps’
students, recent grads and others interested in a tech
career. “We hire about 90 percent of our interns, and
they start coding from day one,” she says. “We tell
them it’s the worst job to have out of college, because
every other job they will have after they’ve worked at
Ultimate will pale in comparison.”
Maza’s favorite part of her job, she says, is the
ability to effect positive change in people’s lives.
“We’ve helped people build their lives, build their
dream houses, make an impact,” she says. “I’m a
giver—my happiness comes from making other
Scherr has full confidence in his long-serving chief
“Viv is an advocate for our people, both formally
and informally—she speaks to them and for them,”
says Scherr. “I couldn’t have asked for a better HR
Category: Organizations with fewer than 7,500
Title: Chief People Officer
Company: Ultimate Software, Weston, Fla.
Key HR Challenges: Building a “People First” culture
from the bottom up, helping the South Florida-based
technology company compete against Silicon Valley
in the war for talent.
Key HR Accomplishments: Helping the company
win repeat accolades as a great place to work
through a variety of perks, benefits and supportive
company culture, keeping turnover at a low 4
“We consider ourselves the Google of the East,”
Given its position in a demanding, work-intensive
industry, it makes sense that Ultimate provides this
level of support for its employees (or “UltiPeeps,”
as they’re known). The red-carpet treatment begins
during the company’s onboarding process when new
hires receive a themed welcome package sent to their
homes and continues with a two-day “Ultimization”
event held each month at headquarters, in which they
meet with Scherr and other top officials and are taken
out for lunch at Capriccio’s, a nearby Italian restaurant
that’s long been a favorite with UltiPeeps.
The goal isn’t simply to make new hires feel
welcome, says Maza, but to help them feel as if they’ve
found a home away from home.
“We’re upfront about it: We want you here from hire
to retire,” she says.
Perks aside, however, one of the things Maza
is most proud of is the company’s “communities of
interest” for LGBT, veterans, women employees, and
one she just recently launched for cancer patients,
survivors and caregivers. This last group, launched
at the suggestion of a California-based employee,
provides support meetings and resource sharing and
care packages for UltiPeeps who are affected by cancer.
In addition to providing employees with a forum and
support, the COIs also give back to the community
through fundraisers and volunteer activities.
Maza points to her own experience as one reason
she believes COIs are so vital.
“I was a single mom who raised two kids on her
own, so I understand what it’s like to struggle with
balancing work, family and having a career,” she says.
Maza also helps lead the company’s efforts to foster
the next generation of talent through programs such
as TechSTARS, an internship program for college
Ultimate Software’s Vivian Maza
takes pride in her role helping
the company achieve consistently
high rankings in Fortune’s Best
Places to Work list.