Ultimate Software merges with fellow HCM platform Kronos Inc.

By Rick Bell

Feb. 20, 2020

Call the merger of Ultimate Software and Kronos Inc. one of those surprising, not surprising deals.

The Feb. 20 announcement came as a surprise. But then, they’re both owned by the same private equity company. Their HCM software — Ultimate Software’s human capital management and Kronos’ workforce management — play together nicely, although it would be an interesting comparison to put them both side by side and analyze their similarities and differences.

Also, both Ultimate Software and Kronos tout their employee culture as huge selling points. Earlier this week Ultimate was ranked No. 2 on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list, while Kronos clocked in at No. 52. Ultimate Software also took the Gold in the 2019 Workforce Optimas Awards’ Corporate Citizenship category.

Kronos Inc.
Kronos Inc. CEO Aron Ain will head up the merger between his company and Ultimate Software.

In the press release issued just after 10 a.m. Central time, one of the first points made was their vaunted corporate cultures. “Combining two exceptional, highly compatible cultures will create a company that is People Inspired” (their italics, not mine).

Kronos Inc.Considering this is a merger of like organizations, the dreaded “duplication of efforts” specter hangs heavy. Are layoffs, buyouts, rightsizing or downsizing in the future of this new marriage? During this honeymoon period they are saying all the right things, noting that the combined organization will have 12,000 total employees “with further plans for growth including the addition of 3,000 employees over the next three years.”

 Aron Ain, longtime Kronos chief executive officer, will be the CEO and chairman of the combined company – “guiding an experienced executive team comprised of leaders from both Ultimate and Kronos.”

There was no mention in the release regarding the future of Ultimate Software CEO Adam Rogers, who took the full CEO title in January 2020. Rogers does offer up this quote in the release: “The combination of Ultimate and Kronos paves the way to deliver the next generation of employee-facing solutions that will set the standard for the workforce of the future. This merger will enable our more than 12,000 inspired people around the world to deliver innovation in human capital management faster than ever before. Both companies remain fully committed to their core strengths as well as to the combined benefits that the new company will bring to employees and customers.”

Ultimate SoftwareThat could very well be the case. With the meshing of cultures, perhaps no department or staff member will be downsized. Maybe they’ll reskill portions of their workforce.

Still, for those of us who have been through a merger or acquisition, the reality is people leave. Some leave voluntarily because it’s not a good fit anymore, or they’re simply laid off.

I hope and pray that the people at Ultimate and Kronos —  which according to the release will remain headquartered in Weston, Florida, and Lowell, Massachusetts, respectively — will retain their jobs and blend into one big, happy, 12,000-employee company with room to grow.

Now that I think about it, when I requested media credentials to cover Ultimate Software’s user conference in early March, PR maven Kelsey Donohue mentioned that I shouldn’t miss the Tuesday general session. 

I checked the agenda. Michelle Obama is speaking on Wednesday. That’s pretty awesome. But I could not find the keynoter for Tuesday. I didn’t really give it much thought, but now … the conference and especially Tuesday’s opening session takes on a whole new level of verrrry interesting.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director.

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