Meet Xander: How Ultimate Software’s Newest AI Keeps Employees Happier and More Engaged at Work


Xander Employee Perception AIMention the term AI in a crowded room and you’ll get all kinds of reactions. From Hal the Robot references to serious questions about machine learning, artificial intelligence is something everybody’s thinking about. In the HR space, everybody knows it has potential to change the way we work. The real question, however, is: how can AI make a difference to your HR processes today?

At the HR Technology Conference earlier this month, we attended a demo of Ultimate Software’s new AI function, Xander. Xander is one answer to that bottom line question. According to Ultimate Software, its goal is to:

Help every employee continuously and confidently improve themselves and their organization.


Ultimate Software’s AI philosophy is that AI shouldn’t replace people or automate tasks. Instead, it should help people do what they want to do, but can’t. And that’s why they created Xander.

What Does Xander Do? 

The platform analyzes employee sentiments to help companies improve employee satisfaction, performance, and retention. The goal is to help employers understand, anticipate, and act on employee perceptions:

  • Understand—Give employees tools to tell you about their experiences and interpret their responses.
  • Anticipate—Monitor key retention drivers using heat maps to determine what is going well and which areas need improvement.
  • Act—Xander provides feedback based on the results and suggests actions you can take to improve perceptions.

How Does It Work?

Xander is a combination of AI products, not a stand-alone technology (view a demo here). It uses several tools to achieve the goal of continual improvement:

  • Sentiment Analysis—Identifies emotional drivers behind employee comments and categorizes them as positive, negative, indifferent, enthusiastic, confused, angry, frustrated, nervous, etc.
  • Machine Learning—Xander learns how employees are feeling based on the way they communicate, and it produces more accurate results than human analysts can.
  • Natural Language Processing—Rather than relying on check boxes or traditional rating systems to gauge employee perceptions, natural language processing can pull data from the natural language used in text-based survey responses, reviews, and social media posts.
  • Action Recommendations—Using the data gathered from employee responses, Xander predicts behavior and recommends actions. For example, if high performers are stressed about management, they may be at risk. Xander can identify where managers are missing opportunities to support those employees and recommend actions to boost engagement.
  • Name Redaction—The system is programmed to redact names so that you can keep your finger on the pulse of the company in a non-threatening way. The goal is to identify weak areas and action opportunities, not to call out specific employees.

Xander Sentiment Analysis

Ultimate Software’s bottom line philosophy has always been “People First.” With Xander, they’re taking that concept to a whole new level. We look forward to seeing continued innovation with AI concepts across other HR activities like recruiting, onboarding, and succession planning.

Ready to find an HR technology solution for your business? Our HRIS Comparison Tool helps you compare and contrast software platforms based on your unique requirements.

HR Tech Conference 2017: What’s Next in AI for Human Resources?

Human Resources and AILast week, the CompareHRIS team attended the annual HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. As the go-to conference for all things tech in the HR space, this conference gives attendees the inside track on what’s coming next for recruiting, employee engagement, performance management, and core HR software (and more).

The major topic of discussion in Vegas last week was AI/machine learning. We heard about intelligent analysis and data predictions in the form of predictive analytics, performance management tools, chat bots, emotional intelligence, and more.

We’ll give more details in the coming weeks, but for now, let’s take a high-level look at the big trends in this field.

Who’s Using AI for Human Resources?

You couldn’t walk down the hall at the HR Tech Conference this year without hearing buzz about AI. Just about every session we attended touched on the concept and its ramifications for the HR space. The expo floor was filled with companies touting new product developments, like this chat bot example we saw in the Digital Disruption mega session on Thursday:

Vendors like Ultimate Software have already begun building AI capabilities into their software platforms, and the startup corner showcased new companies honing in on specific applications and functions. Here are a few highlights from the expo floor:

Ultimate SoftwareUltimate Software unveiled their highly anticipated AI technology innovation, Xander. Xander uses natural language processing, sentiment analysis, and data to analyze employee feedback, make predictions, and recommend actions that will support both employees and managers.

HireVueHireVue has created an intelligent video scoring product that assesses job candidate video interviews using an AI algorithm. The technology looks for behavioral cues like eye contact and facial expressions to assess candidate fit for a position or culture.

Entelo EnvoyEntelo Envoy screens candidate databases for matches using data and predictive analytics. It uses machine learning to perform unbiased searches designed to identify not only which candidates qualify for your position, but also which ones are most likely to be interested in the job.

Are You Ready for AI in Your Workforce?

Plenty of other software developers are jumping on the AI train as well, giving companies a lot of options for expanding their current capabilities. However, not every company is ready to capitalize on new software. Here are three things you’ll need to have in place before AI can truly make a difference for you:

  • Data—You must have a good data foundation in place before you can leverage AI. That means fully integrated data storage, clean data records, and strong data entry processes. For example, do you enter the same piece of data in more than one place? Do you have duplicate records? If not, how can you improve the integrity of your data to prepare for new technology?
  • Culture—Technology is moving at an overwhelmingly fast pace, and employees aren’t keeping up. It’s time to move past discussions of technology adoption and focus instead on integrating technology into employee workflows strategically so that it becomes second nature.
  • Reskilling—Advancements in automation often mean skill shifts in the workforce. If you automate data analysis, how can you retrain the employees who currently perform those tasks to use their skills in more effective ways? Reskilling requires a fresh look at your learning management and training programs, with a shift toward adaptation and flexibility rather than simply training for a specific task.

As Leapgen CEO Jason Averbook reminded us in Bill Kutik’s session, placing a new layer of technology on top of a flawed foundation is like putting frosting on a moldy cake. Before you buy the frosting, take a good, hard look at the cake so you can savor the final result.

What’s Coming Next?

Artificial intelligence for HR is admittedly still in its early stages. Josh Bersin predicts that we will soon see significant advances in AI for many HR applications including personalized coaching, performance management, data interpretation/predictive analytics, employee services, recruiting, learning management, and more.

It’s a brave new world out there. AI is already extremely relevant to HR. And soon it will be indispensable.

Are you ready?

When you’re ready to update your HR software, we make it easy for you! Our HRIS Comparison Tool matches your company with the right software product based on your specifications.

What’s New at the 2017 HR Tech Conference?

Our CompareHRIS team is heading to Las Vegas for the 2017 HR Tech Conference next week. We’re pumped about the speakers, exhibitors, and vendors we’ll get to meet, as well as the awesome tech and sessions we’ll get to experience.

But we’re also heartbroken for the city of Las Vegas as they recover in the wake of Sunday night’s tragic shooting. As we pack our bags and laptops, we invite you to join us in holding the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

What’s Happening at the 2017 HR Tech Conference?

Next week’s conference promises to knock it out of the park with topics like these:

  • Women in HR Technology
  • How HR Tech Can Foster a More Diverse, Inclusive Workforce
  • Harnessing the Power of a Connected Workforce: How to Maximize Talent With Continuous Performance Management
  • Building the Perfect TA Tech Stack
  • Connecting HR Technology, Analytics, and Employee Experience Design
  • Digital Transformation in HR is Today, Not Tomorrow

And of course, we can’t wait to hear Josh Bersin’s closing keynote address discussing digital HR and technology architecture.

If you’re not able to make it this year, we promise we’ll give you the scoop on what we learned and our biggest takeaways—so stay tuned!

A Different City

As the HR tech community heads to Las Vegas next week, we’ll be flying into a different city than the one we thought we would be visiting. We want all of our colleagues and friends in Las Vegas to know that we support you and we’re standing with you in your loss.

Many thanks to all of the 2017  HR Tech Conference speakers, vendors, and organizers for what promises to be an enlightening and inspiring week!



Looking for more information about HR Technology? Our one-of-a-kind HRIS Comparison Tool helps you compare software vendors based on your unique specifications! Check it out! 


These 5 HR Metrics Will Transform Your Workforce Management Strategy

Workforce management metricsHow do you make decisions in the HR department? Do you go with your gut? Or have you started following the growing trend toward data-based decision-making?

We have reams of data at our fingertips these days, and using that data to make better decisions seems like an obvious choice. But it’s not always easy to pull out meaningful information from the digital stratosphere—the kind that helps you understand your workforce and improve performance.

In a forest of data, sometimes it’s hard to find individual trees.


Why It’s Tough to Track People Metrics

Managing people isn’t like managing products. Employee satisfaction and productivity can’t always be easily quantified, and many companies struggle with knowing what to measure. Let’s look at three reasons companies don’t succeed with HR analytics:

  • They don’t have an integrated data system. If you’re storing data in multiple places, it’s difficult to pull that data together into a meaningful report. That’s why many HR software platforms use a single database to store and track all your data, whether it’s coming from payroll, core HR, or your ATS. Platforms that use a best-of-breed model have also made great strides in data integration, giving you immediate access to the key metrics you need. Whichever model you choose, be sure you have the functionality to access key data easily.
  • They don’t gather enough data. If you don’t collect the data in the first place, you can’t analyze it later. This can be difficult if you have an outdated HRIS or you’re still operating with spreadsheets. If you’re ready to take the next step with data analytics, you may need to consider updating your workforce management software first.
  • They don’t know what to measure. Now we’re getting into the subjective realm of workforce analytics. Which metrics matter? Which ones will give the insights you need to make better decisions? That’s what we’ll look at next.

5 HR Metrics For Better Workforce Management

Once you have a robust HR software platform in place, you can gather and track data to improve the effectiveness of your workforce management strategy. Take some time to put together your key performance indicators based on your business objectives, your organizational goals, and the information that matters most to senior leaders in your company. Remember, your goal is to track data that can help you make better decisions for individuals, departments, and the company as a whole.

To get you started, we’ve put together a list 5 HR metrics that will help you keep your finger on the pulse of your workforce:

  1. Productivity

Before you can accurately gauge this metric, you’ll need to decide what productivity means for your company. Is it hours logged? Calls made? Sales closed? Projects completed? Carefully consider how you monitor employee productivity, and track performance over time.

  1. Employee Satisfaction

When measured alongside productivity, employee satisfaction can indicate how engaged your workforce is. Performance reviews help you rate employee satisfaction, but you can also use tools like performance assessments, teambuilding initiatives, and incentives to see which employees are happiest at work. Use mobile alerts and email reminders to get feedback when you need it.

  1. Voluntary Turnover

Tracking turnover rates can be helpful, but measuring voluntary turnover (people who leave your company by choice) can give you an even better look at whether your employees are satisfied in their roles. Keep your eye on numbers, but also consider conducting exit surveys to ask employees about their reasons for leaving.

  1. Training Efficiency

Is your training program getting the job done? Measure training expenses per employee, and create a checklist of training goals for each employee. Monitor increased productivity over time as trainees complete their goals and compare against your training costs to determine whether your training program is meeting expectations.

  1. Retention Rate Per Manager

Just about everyone tracks retention, but can you break down retention rates by manager or department? This will help you identify any weak points in your organizational structure, and let you know whether your managers could benefit from additional management training.


The right metrics can help you improve talent acquisition, performance, retention, profitability, and much more. But it all starts with the right software. Do you have the tools you need to create a strong workforce management strategy?


Are you in the market for new workforce management software? Find your perfect match with our HRIS comparison tool!

Introverts At Work: How to Help Every Employee Reach Full Potential

Introverts at Work in Idea BulbThere’s no getting around it: the modern workplace is designed for extroverts. From the interview process to open-plan offices to networking events to promotional processes based on assertive behavior, it can be a tough maze for introverts to navigate. But as author and speaker Susan Cain reminds us in her well-received TED talk, The Power of Introverts, the loudest talker doesn’t always have the best ideas. Introverts bring a unique set of talents to the table—skills that businesses desperately need.

But how do you help your less vocal employees reach their full potential in a work environment where the loudest voice gets the most recognition?

Here are three ways to foster a culture of growth for every employee.

Give Workers the Freedom to Be Themselves

In our extrovert-leaning culture, leadership is often associated with assertive, dominant behavior. But Cain points out that introverts make excellent leaders because they tend to assess risk more carefully, give other employees the opportunity to share and implement ideas, and foster a culture of creativity. The argument isn’t that introverts are better leaders than extroverts. It’s that each personality type brings different strengths to the table. By giving both extroverts and introverts at work the freedom to be themselves, the organization as a whole will benefit.


  • Reconsider your office dynamics. Do introverted employees have a quiet space they can work? Do extroverted employees have plenty of opportunities to interact and bounce ideas off team members?
  • Evaluate your interview process. Do you weigh extroverted characteristics more heavily? Do you hire based on gut feelings or non-biased evaluations? If your process leans toward extroverts, consider adding an introvert to the interview team.

Teach Managers to Recognize and Challenge the Potential of Introverts at Work

The employee review can be an intimidating experience for introverts. When managers judge quality of work based on how well an employee interacts with others or expresses himself verbally, introverts often get the short end of the stick. Part of being a good manager is recognizing the strengths in every employee and harnessing those strengths to create a more engaged, productive team. That doesn’t mean trying to make introverts be more extroverted (or vice versa). It simply means understanding what every employee brings to the table and connecting him or her with the resources to succeed. For introverts, that may mean listening more, not interrupting, and respecting their need for space.


  • Rethink the employee review. Teach managers to assess quality of work and productivity during the review process rather than giving too much weight to personality characteristics. Of course, if the personality itself is creating conflicts with fellow workers or causing productivity snags, that should be addressed. But managers should recognize that a quiet worker isn’t necessarily antisocial, just as a gregarious worker isn’t automatically self-serving.
  • Recognize that different is good. Train managers to value strengths that differ from their own. An extroverted manager may tend to interact primarily with the other extroverts on her team. But by doing so, she would be missing out on a significant portion of the talents and ideas she has at her fingertips.

Hire and Promote Based on Merit, Not Self-Assertion

This may be the hardest thing to change because we often make decisions based on our gut feelings—even when we don’t know it. Still, it pays to take a close look at your hiring process and incorporate merit-based assessments and blind tests where you can. The very qualities that cause introverts at work to recede into the background (like listening instead of talking or preferring a book to a social gathering) often make them excellent leaders and thinkers.


  • Use blind tests to reduce bias. Blind tests assess employees anonymously, giving employees a chance to evaluate the skills and abilities of the individual rather than judging someone based on external factors. Many tech companies already use them, and other industries have begun adopting these practices as well.
  • Think twice before promoting. That extroverted individual who always seems to have the most ideas may be the best person for a promotion—but he may not. Be sure you have considered all your options and that you recognize both the strengths and weaknesses of your team members before you extend an offer.

It’s important for all employees—both introverts and extroverts—to take time for self-evaluation. When we recognize the talents of every team member, we can build a workplace where the extroverted ideal is challenged and improved by truly collaborative teams.

Improve your employee review process and foster cultural connections with an updated HRIS! Start your search today with our interactive HRIS comparison tool