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Billion-Dollar Culture: How Investing in Employees Helped Kronos Triple in Revenue

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When it comes to being an amazing workplace, Kronos wrote the book — literally. On the heels of being honored in the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards as a Best Place to Work last year as well as a Top CEO for the third consecutive year, Aron Ain, CEO of Kronos Incorporated, released his book “WorkInspired: How to Build an Organization Where Everyone Loves to Work” in November of 2018. Just a few weeks later, he received even more good news: Kronos made the list of Best Places to Work in 2019.

“It certainly wasn’t planned, but the timing is absolutely perfect. When I think about it, the timing is also connected,” Ain said. “The Kronos culture is driven by the mission that employee engagement is a growth strategy for our company. That mission has been a focus of mine since becoming CEO in 2005. In this journey to codify our workplace culture and invest in programs, policies and benefits to truly make Kronos a Best Place to Work, our global engagement scores climbed to an all-time high. Our revenue also tripled to $1.4 billion — that’s no coincidence.”

The idea of investing in culture as a way to improve your bottom line is a key theme throughout Ain’s book, and evidence of it are everywhere throughout the company. In the past couple of years, Kronos has implemented such policies as unlimited time off, student debt repayment assistance, expanded parental leave, a new global headquarters along with office renovations around the world, manager training programs and many more. With such a clear commitment to their employees, it’s no wonder that Kronites leave reviews like “Best Decision I’ve Made — Personally and Professionally“.

We recently chatted with Ain to learn more about his advice on kicking company culture into high gear, why employees love coming into Kronos every day and the industry transformations on the horizon — here’s what he had to say.

Glassdoor: Congrats on your win! What does it mean to have your employees honor the company as a 2019 Best Place to Work?

Aron Ain: It means everything. To learn that — through their own words — Kronites believe we’re a Best Place to Work is incredibly humbling. It’s also a testament to the commitment of thousands of Kronites around the world who work hard every day to create and strengthen our wonderfully engaged and motivating environment. It’s validation that we created a place where people love to work. The affirmation of our success in this critical and strategic area inspires me as CEO to continue to provide the kind of environment that promotes engagement, creativity and inspiration; to keep building a workplace where employees can grow, succeed, serve our customers, take care of their families and achieve goals in every facet of their lives.

Glassdoor: The timing of this year’s award couldn’t be better, as you just released your book WorkInspired. What was the impetus behind you writing this book, and what did you learn along the way?

Aron Ain: As engagement rose and accolades like Glassdoor’s rolled in, I was encouraged by many people in my life to write a book about the Kronos story and what I’ve learned as a leader. My initial reaction was, “Who would want to read a book written by me?!” The answer I kept hearing was that it could inspire other organizations and people managers to follow our lead by sharing the Kronos model. We could encourage others to build great organizations by also focusing on their people.

Kronos is the only company I’ve worked for. As I grew into leadership positions and, eventually, CEO, I saw the impact my everyday actions had on the people I managed. People managers often underestimate the impact they have on the performance, engagement and careers of their team. My hope is that WorkInspired provides an ah-ha moment for people managers to realize just how much their behaviors matter while also outlining a guide for organizations to consider when they make engagement a growth strategy.

Writing the book also did something that I didn’t think was possible: It’s given me even more energy to remain focused on enhancing our culture. Interviewing Kronites, revisiting our successes and history, sharing employee stories, seeing the impact we’ve had on people’s lives and the lives of their families and reflecting on how much we do to build this inspired culture has been energizing. It’s been an incredible lens to view our future goals and picture where Kronos goes from here. It’s challenged me to think and lead in different ways.

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Glassdoor: One of the things you really highlight in your book is that employee engagement isn’t just a nice-to-have — it’s essential for growing your business. Can you talk a little bit more about how you discovered this?

Aron Ain: That’s a good question. I’ve long felt that having a fully engaged organization would help us produce better results. In my heart, I always knew that great people create great organizations by producing better products and delivering better services — and when great people are inspired and bring their full selves to work, the results are magical.

When I became Kronos CEO, I had the opportunity to put these beliefs into action. And wouldn’t you know it, as we executed on my strategy, our turnover went down, our engagement went up and our business results soared. When managers led with courage and humility, retention and performance on their teams improved. Candidates began flooding our careers page with interest, and our financial results skyrocketed. When you watch this happen it is impossible to ignore the impact of employee engagement, and you realize it’s more than just a “nice-to-have.” Building an organization where people love to work significantly improved our bottom line. What could be better: great financial results and fully engaged employees!

 Glassdoor: What steps have you taken lately to double down on company culture, employee engagement and employee feedback?  

Aron Ain: Being a Best Place to Work has been a company-wide strategic initiative for several years. We invest in being a great place to work as we do any other annual strategic initiative, like goals around product development, customer success and global growth. To put that strategy into action, each year we identify new and innovative ways to improve the employee experience.

In 2016 we used the implementation of myTime (Kronos’ unlimited paid time off policy) to roll out a suite of other new benefits, like student debt repayment assistance, expanded parental leave for moms and dads, adoption financial assistance, childcare financial assistance and even college scholarships for children of Kronites. It was a thoughtful strategy to use the savings from moving away from accrued time-off and reinvest into new programs for employees.

In 2017, we opened a beautiful new global headquarters in Massachusetts while also renovating offices around the world to create workspaces that were befitting of our company and culture. We also rolled out perhaps the most impactful program to date, the Kronos “Manager Effectiveness Index.” As part of our bi-annual global engagement survey, employees rate their direct manager on 19 questions that map back to four key behaviors we’ve identified that make up a great manager at Kronos.

We now have proof that manager effectiveness drives engagement, and retention, while formalizing a program that both develops great people managers and holds leaders accountable for modeling desired behaviors. And we reward being a great manager at our annual Courage to Lead program, which recognizes our best managers globally — as nominated by an employee essay contest — in a formal and meaningful award ceremony.

People join companies because of what they hear about that brand — in large part thanks to what they read on Glassdoor — but they often leave because of their relationship with their manager. So we’ll continue to focus on creating a place where everyone can have a great manager through our Manager Effectiveness and Courage to Lead programs.

Glassdoor: This award speaks volumes about the company but also signals to job seekers that this is an amazing place to work. Why should job seekers apply for an open role at Kronos? What are two to three benefits, practices or traditions that are unique to your company?

Aron Ain: Our focus that everyone deserves a great manager, myTime unlimited time off and student debt repayment programs are areas that we believe are truly innovative — and ones that excite candidates. Our offices spaces and technology tools provided to Kronites to do their jobs are second-to-none. And people at Kronos truly care about each other, our customers and our communities.

Once you’re known as a Best Place to Work, well now the challenge is, “How do you keep it that way?” Beyond having a strategy around being a great place to work, we also compensate employees for modeling WorkInspired behaviors. In annual performance reviews, 60 percent of a Kronite’s rating is based on what they did that year, while 40 percent is based on how they did it: how they worked with others, how they innovated, how they communicated and collaborated. Above all, how they modeled our core competencies. We believe this is a unique approach to performance.

Now is also the most exciting time in our 41-year history. We’re growing at a speed and pace that we’ve never seen before. We’re chartering new ground with new products and services while building even deeper relationships with customers. And with company growth comes career growth opportunities. Recently we have hired over a thousand people each year, and we’re looking for great people to join us on the ride.

Glassdoor: What kinds of roles are your company prioritizing right now? What types of innovation are you investing in within that specific department?

Aron Ain: Our company is made up of leaders and top performers in all areas. Our goal is to hire great people. Each role is important in its own way. From finance to product development, from HR to support and everything in between.

The fastest-growing parts of our business include product development, cloud operations and customer success. We continue to grow our HR/payroll software footprint, including looking to hire employees with HCM expertise and experience. Data scientists and software architects are also high on the list.

In all of these roles, we urge employees to “Innovate Everywhere.” In fact, like being a Best Place to Work, it’s another one of our key company strategic initiatives. Kronites are inspired to innovate in their jobs each day, whether they’re in product development or marketing or finance or anywhere. Let’s challenge each other to always improve. One of our professional services Kronites in Australia was the person who came up with the idea for our innovative and ground-breaking implementation methodology that we use around the world today. It all started with an idea and the confidence and trust to share that idea.

We also innovate in big ways. Four years ago, we set up a start-up within Kronos. They were tasked with one objective: Create a product that would put Kronos as we know it today out of business. We wanted to put ourselves out of business before someone else did. That small internal start-up eventually swelled to hundreds of engineers and culminated last year in the most anticipated product launch in company history: Workforce Dimensions. In its first year of availability, Workforce Dimensions customer adoption exceeded even our most optimistic expectations by 50 percent.

Glassdoor: Glassdoor is all about transparency and helping people everywhere find a job and company they love. What insights can you share about the interview process at Kronos? What types of questions do you ask? What types of soft skills do you look for?

Aron Ain: We value our candidates’ time and aim to be completely transparent throughout the interview process — after all, trust and transparency make up the core foundation of our culture. We consider those first touch points with candidates, from the application process to their first phone screen, as day one of the employee experience. We match the expectations job candidates have after they’ve read our Glassdoor reviews and seen the lists we’ve made.   

We also arm recruiters and hiring managers with behavioral competency interview guides. Since we judge Kronites not only on what they do but how they do it, we place equal emphasis on behavioral and technical competencies. Relationship building, collaboration and communication are some of the key behavioral competencies, and we ask various questions to understand the candidate’s value system.

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Glassdoor: How are you using Glassdoor to attract the types of candidates you’re looking for?

Aron Ain: There are both direct and indirect ways Glassdoor is used. From a direct standpoint, we actively maintain our page with news, photos and videos to update candidates on the latest happenings at Kronos. We regularly direct candidates to Glassdoor so they can learn about our culture and derive their own opinion on whether Kronos is a place where they can thrive based on the reviews they read. And we of course, we post jobs on Glassdoor that provide a solid, steady flow of applicants.

Indirectly, we see the impact Glassdoor has had on candidates and our overall brand perception. It’s used every day by people to make decisions on their interest in Kronos without us ever touching them. That’s not only job candidates, but potential customers as well. Whenever I’m speaking with a potential customer, I always, always talk about the great people at Kronos and the impact being a great place to work will have on them, the customer. It matters. And organizations are increasingly looking at the Glassdoor scores of potential partners and vendors as part of the overall decision process.

Great businesses are powered by great people, and great Glassdoor scores can help prove this is the right company to trust with your business.  

Glassdoor: You’ve worked at Kronos since you first graduated college. What has kept you at the company over the years? What advice would you give to companies focused on retention?

Aron Ain: Simply stated, I love working at Kronos and always have. I love the challenge. I love the growth opportunities. I love the culture. I love how our products have a direct benefit on our customers’ business outcomes. I love working closely with customers and partners. I love growing globally and bringing our Kronos message to the world. The people I work with inspire me every day, and they give me great joy.

Advice I’d give to companies focused on retention is this: Understand that great employees have choices where they work. If you do not focus on their needs at all levels, they will pursue opportunities elsewhere. Retention is not just about pay. It is about trust, communication, collaboration, work-life balance, confidence in the future and working for a great manager. Do these things well and you recruit and retain your people. It’s hard work, but the results are simply magical.

Glassdoor: Besides celebrating your 2019 Best Places to Work win, what’s next for Kronos?

Aron Ain: We’ll keep the celebration going! We’re focused on the next 40 years of Kronos success. We’ll continue to celebrate, appreciate and acknowledge our great team members. Continue to innovate. Continue to grow in our core markets and expand in new areas. Continue to put customers first and invest in long-term relationships. We’ll keep our focus on learning new things and making sure to have fun along the way. After all, why does work have to be so serious? Of course, we’ll continue to take care of each other and the family of families we’ve built.

Check Out “WorkInspired: How to Build an Organization Where Everyone Loves to Work” on Amazon Today

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