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HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Jayson Saba, VP of Market Strategy, Ceridian
Episode: 122
Air Date: October 14, 2015


Jayson is the Vice President of Market Strategy at Ceridian. In addition to leading market research and industry relations, Jayson supports Ceridian’s global marketing strategy and press relations. Prior to joining Ceridian, he was the lead analyst covering core HR, Workforce Management and Outsourcing at the HCM practice of Boston-based Aberdeen Group. During his tenure, he wrote and published over 100 research papers and benchmark reports. Before Aberdeen, Jayson helped develop and launch a suite of self-service retirement benefit tools at Fidelity Investments. In addition to his research, he continues to blog, speak at HR events, and contributes to leading HR and industry leading publications such as The Economist, CIO, HR Executive, HRO Today, PayTech, Talent Management, and Workforce Management magazines. His blogs have been featured on TLNT, ERE, Wired, the Huffington Post and others. Jayson also gives lectures about HR issues and technology to graduate and undergraduate students at universities and colleges, including University of Massachusetts and NYU. Jayson earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of New Hampshire and a Master of Business Administration from the McCallum Graduate School of Business at Bentley University.


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Begin transcript

John Sumser:                        Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner Radio. I’m your host, John Sumser, and we’re coming to you from beautiful downtown Occidental, California, a little mountain village of eleven-hundred where innovation got it’s real start in the state of California. Today we’re talking with Jayson Saba who’s the Vice President of Market Strategy at Ceridian. Jayson is one of these colorful characters who’s been around the industry a while. He started as an analyst working for Aberdeen and he’s moved on to being the guy who executes the best analyst strategy of anybody in the HR technology industry. Jayson, how are you?

Jayson Saba:                          I’m very well. Thank you for having me, John. Very honored to be with you today.

John Sumser:                        Well, thanks. It’s great to have you. Introduce yourself to the audience and tell them a little bit about how you got where you are.

Jayson Saba:                          I’m Vice President of Market Strategy here at Ceridian. I actually started my career before Aberdeen in HR. I love HR so much. I’ve always gravitated towards roles that have a degree of customer service, of dealing with people, and HR was perfect for me. Believe it or not, that was validated by a test I took at the career center in grad school many, many years ago. An opportunity came about in the midst of my business school program. I ended up taking the coordinator role and it wasn’t long before how I realized how tough a job HR is.

One of the stories I like to tell is I was responsible for payroll at that position and I used to do the regular payroll. Then I had another person, she was kind of a generalist, and she did everything from recruiting to benefits. Part of her job was also to do the bonus and commission checks. One day we’re sitting around and this guy comes in and starts reeming her, laying into her, almost abusing her because there was a miscalculation in his tens of thousands of dollars commission on his quarterly variable pay. After he was done, we’re all embarrassed. We’re sitting in the middle of this office. It was a fairly mature start-up I would call it. He left.

I turned around and said, “Let me get this straight. This guy’s been here for about four years and you’ve cut him over a hundred twenty checks to be exact and we’ve gotten about a hundred and nineteen of them done perfect. Has he once thanked you for that?” She shook her head. I said, “Has he thanked you for making sure that his family benefits and his healthcare is done right? Has he ever thanked you for finding and recruiting a strong team for him?” He was a sales manager and that helped him meet his numbers all the time and earn him a nice comp line. She shakes her head. “Has he thanked you for keeping him out of trouble with the IRS? The State Department of Revenue?” You know where I’m going with this. I get home and I went to my wife and I said, “When I’m done with my program, I really want to figure out if there’s a job out there that will help me help HR win.” That took a couple years and finally I landed at Aberdeen.

This is where I would say I really fell in love in my career. I was an analyst taking lead on all the core HR workforce management and outsourcing we’ve done there. For four years, everything I’ve written or produced, over one hundred reports, was all about helping HR win, helping HR get recognized, and really trying to make their work life better. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here at Ceridian. We want to make sure we get the recognition. We want to make sure it’s a good thing to go to work whether you’re HR person, a payroll person, or an employee or an executive.

John Sumser:                        You are a VP of Market Strategy. What in the world does that mean? What is your job?

Jayson Saba:                          Ceridian is transforming our industry. I tell me team that we’re at the heart of that. My role revolves around three key responsibilities. First you mentioned it early, our analysts relations program. This is by far, I feel it’s the most exciting part of my job. As a former analyst, I get to interact with colleagues at a completely different level because I’ve been there, I’ve done that. Every time, every conversation I have, I learn so much. You’re included in that company of course, John. I have to be very honest. I get to have very honest conversations, very transparent conversations about their research, about the future of our industry, and what we’re doing to shape it as a company.

The second part of my job is I run our competitive intelligence efforts. We constantly test if our efforts are getting the intended goals, be it our product itself, be it our product marketing, be it our sales process, our pricing, the customer experience. Everything we do my team ensures that we’re doing it at a higher level, at least provide the insights to the firm that we’re doing it at a higher level.

Lastly, I consider myself a human capital management advocate. I work with HR practitioners, whether they’re our customers or not, to ensure they’re recognized for their efforts. My team helps nominate them to awards, speaking opportunities. I contribute articles as much as I can to industry publications and websites. I personally still go out and give sessions at national and even regional HR and payroll events talking about some of these best practices and helping them drive change within their companies. This gives me an opportunity to talk about what they’re doing and what’s keeping them [inaudible 00:06:33], but also it helps me be credible internally within the company because I feel like I bring this complete, three hundred sixty view of what we’re doing of our environment, whether it’s the analyst piece, whether it’s the actual customer and the ground piece, or whether it’s interacting with our executives. I’m kind of lucky that way.

John Sumser:                        You’re part of an amazing marketing team. I’m not sure that there’s a marketing team as diverse as yours anywhere else in the industry. Talk about what it’s like to be part of that team.

Jayson Saba:                          As you know, I kind of want to give a little bit of a history of Ceridian here. You’ll see how that will fit into what we’re doing and why it’s so exciting to be part of this. As you know, we’ve been around since 1932 and we were originally part of our IBM data services, which is a [inaudible 00:07:45] payroll business. This company’s been around for seventy, eighty years and as the industry’s involving and the company in 1990s re-branded to control data corp and then in the 1990s was renamed Ceridian. The strategy was, up until I want to say 2008, 2009, was to build this portal-based product and to keep our payroll on the mainframe and start plugging into different cloud applications.

In 2009, Ceridian team was introduced to a gentleman by the name of David Ossip who’s currently our Chairman and CEO. He had just founded a company called Dayforce. That product had won HR Tech Product of the Year. Ceridian and Dayforce were talking and the plan was to use Dayforce as part of this portal integration but it quickly became apparent that that strategy is not where the future of our industry’s going. We ended up changing our strategy and we ended up building a ground-up, single-application cloud payroll workforce management and HR benefits. Now we have talent management pieces. We did so many surveys that validated this. One of the surveys we did of companies was, “Do you want a single application or do you want integrate portal?” The response on the a scale of one to five, a four-point-eight out of five was the average. People was a single application. They don’t want to pay other companies to do what their IT people were hired to do: integrating a bunch of acquisitions, integrating a bunch of partnerships, relying on fragile interfaces, and so forth.

As part of this transformation, we had an opportunity, especially our marketing team to almost be a marketing team for a start-up within a stable, very cash-positive company. It’s nice to get to try different things. It’s nice to be part of this as the company now grows. People may not know this, but we’re one of the fasted growing cloud companies and our revenue has gone from zero to several hundred million dollars per year. Our Dayforce application is obviously what we thank for that. As we brought in the expert to use from Ceridian, people who knew what it was like to be an HR person, people who knew what it’s like to be a payroll person, people who understood compliance. Then we had this very, very strong technology team with the Dayforce acquisition. We can put together a very, very nice marketing plan or marketing strategy because the product is so strong, because the product resonates.

The single application, in my opinion, has changed the industry and the way people talk about HR technology. You’ve seen that. We’ve changed how people talk about even other vendors, how they talk about their products. We’re proud of that. I’m personally proud to be part of this transformation. My team is very excited about it and the way we run our marketing team under the leadership our of CMO Alan, whom you know very well. It is such a fun group to be part of. Everybody just excels at a different level, whether it’s our events team, whether it’s our [legient 00:11:52] team, obviously [inaudible 00:11:55] relations, product marketing. We’re hiring some top-notch people from all around the industry. Now people want to be part of this winning team. That’s fun. That’s fun. That makes your job as a marketer much, much easier.

John Sumser:                        That’s great. Talk a little bit more about the application itself. What are the things that the Dayforce application does?

Jayson Saba:                          The Dayforce application, I’ll tell you where we were. Obviously I talked a little bit about how the product came about to market. At this point, we have over two thousand customers, way over two thousand customers, signed to the product. Many, many hundreds live and more than two-thirds of them are live. The product itself is a single application. It’s a single platform. As I mentioned before, we’re talking about the integration. You look at the evolution of [inaudible 00:13:02] HR technology vendors. They either come from a services world and then they build the technology, but they still go to market as a bureau, as an HR services company. Where we differentiate, we bring in this very strong technology platform. A single codebase, a single database. It’s a one user experience. With it, we also bring a strong history and a strong services environment, whether it’s your payroll taxes, whether it’s your garnishments, whether it’s your benefits. All of that we bring in ACA management obviously now is a big topic. We bring in that piece.

The product itself is global. We are in over sixty countries. We have one of the best, if not the best, global payroll solution on the market within the Dayforce application. Our whole thing, and our CEO says that all the time and David believes that ultimately what we want to do is we want our product to be the application of choice for the employee. If I’m interviewing at John Sumser INC, one of the questions I want to ask in the interview is, “Do you guys use Dayforce?” That’s ultimately how we envision this rolling out because the product is so easy to use. It’s built for the employee. It’s single user interface, whether you’re checking your time sheet or looking at your schedule or changing your address or adding a dependent. It should be the same exact experience as you interact with the manager as a candidate when you go through the recruiting process or as you discuss your performance with your manager or as the HR and payroll person go in and do the workflows and check the boxes. That’s really what our goal is.

We’re proving it. The traction that we’re having in the market and the awards that we’re winning and the recognition that we’re getting and more importantly, the recognition our customers are getting, it’s really, really fun to be part of this. Anytime I talk to somebody, I’ve been here just over four years, officially making Ceridian my home for the longest out of any other place I’ve been. I say every year it’s just better and I look forward for the next six months. I look forward for the next twelve months. I look forward to the next eighteen, twenty-four months. It’s just so exciting. As you can tell, I’m a little bit excited.

John Sumser:                        That’s great. Just to sort of gel the things that you’ve been saying, what exactly makes Ceridian different from its competitors? You’ve mentioned several things: a service level and the single application approach. Is there something essential to Ceridian that makes it profoundly different from everybody else?

Jayson Saba:                          Absolutely. At the core of everything we’re doing here is what we call our brand promise. Our way. Really our way starts with having a laser-focus on our customers. There are really four values as part of that. One is being customer-focused. Two being very transparent in everything we do, whether it’s with our customers, whether it’s with our employees, whether it’s with our partners. Being very diligent, being prepared, understanding what are the attributes for success, what’s going to help us get there. We talk about optimism. Optimism is what we call a behavior that is influenced by preparation. Obviously you can be the biggest optimist, but if you’re not prepared you’re a borderline fool. We have to make sure that we can influence that. We’re prepare for everything we do. We’re agile. We’re responsive. Part of Ceridian in the past, maybe before 2012, 2011, it was a little bit of a different company. Now we’re more agile, we really care about employment engagement, and our CEO talks so much about that. Employment engagement is really at the core of these values.

We talked about transparency. In our opinion, it goes hand-in-hand with employee engagement. In addition to the ongoing conversations that we have where employees and managers talk about their performance and development, we do two employee surveys per year. Every thing that comes out of those surveys gets communicated back to the employees. We say based on these surveys, the five things that Ceridian will be working on and then we tell them where we are on these five things. As a result, you go to the GlassDoor right now. Go to the GlassDoor in … If you have access to GlassDoor in 2012, if you happen to look at us and where we are now, our CEO just won Top CEOs in Canada. I think we’re a case study in change management in how we transformed the company and how we kept employees engaged through this transformation.

A lot of it starts with the managers, ensuring that the managers understand what we’re doing and ensuring that they understand what the employees need. It’s fun to grow. As I mentioned, we’re growing in leaps and bounds, but we also need to ensure that employees feel part of this growth, feel part of this team, continue to be engaged as part of this transformation.

John Sumser:                        You’ve got this incredible customer program at Ceridian and you have incredible relationships with those customers, but give me a couple of your favorite stories about how customers are innovating.

Jayson Saba:                          We have our customer success program and our award-winning customer success program led by Howard Tarnoff, an industry veteran who’s been around for a long time. Sorry, Howard. He understand our industry very, very, very well. It has really innovated the way we do things. Our customer program is exceptionally called XOXO, hugs and kisses. We have over twelve hundred advocates signed up as part of this program. We don’t talk about our customers as references. We talk about our customers as advocates. The number one thing we do as part of this program is to ensure these interactions are separate from the interactions that they have with their account managers, their support team, any of that. These conversations are meant to make sure the customer is happy.

Some of my favorite stories. I was at [Insights 00:20:44] earlier this summer and was talking to one of our customers. He says to me, “Jayson, if it wasn’t for our XOXO hub, I don’t know what I would do. There’s so many best practices that I learned from other Ceridian customers.” He said, “Since we’ve implemented Dayforce, I can go home at 5:00 the day we do payroll. I was never able to go home at 5:00 the day we run payroll.” Some of these things they just start thinking about what the program can do for them, whether it’s getting them ready for the implementation, whether it’s learning for best practices, whether it enables them to recommend and encourage us to add new features. At [Insights 00:21:36] our CEO put a list of twenty or thirty product enhancements and he called out each of these customers who came to the table with their enhancements. Our program allows us to do that. They’re out there talking to other colleagues in HR about how Ceridian helps them do their job better, how Dayforce is making their life easier, and we make sure that we’re bringing more and more people to the fold.

At the end of the day, we’re nothing without our customers. We’re nothing and we understand that. The XOXO program really enables us to do that and enables us to makes sure we give back to them and not just using them as reference capital.

John Sumser:                        Reference capital, nice. Who is the target customer? Anybody who walks in off the street is a Ceridian customer or do you have specific [inaudible 00:22:36]?

Jayson Saba:                          The way I look at it is any company who’s looking to transform the way they serve their employees is a Ceridian customer. We serve companies. Obviously we tend to do very well. From an employee side, we have a few hundred employees to we have companies with over fifty thousand, over sixty thousand employees. We see our value most in companies who have a good sized hourly workforce. In the US for example, sixty to seventy percent of the US workforce is considered hourly labor. We tend to do well there. Industries like retail, hospitality, manufacturing, healthcare, non-profits. They choose us because of our strengths in managing the hourly labor and also keeping them compliant. We’ve been quite strong in North America and the UK and growing at a [inaudible 00:23:35] pace with our Dayforce HCM application globally.

The way I talk about this is look, if you are looking to provide a better experience for your employees in how they interact with HR, if you’re an HR person looking to make your job easier, if you’re an executive who’s looking for complete visibility into your labor cost, into your turnover, into employee engagement, we’re definitely the system for you. If you’re looking for a system that is on premise that relies on massive IT backbone or if you’re looking for an outsource product, maybe we may not be the company for you. At the end of the day, if you are looking for a true [inaudible 00:24:45] into HCM application where the goal is to make HR more efficient, to give the employees a better experience, and to ensure managers have better visibility, we’re the company for you. We bring in a very strong service wrapper, which a lot of the technology companies out there can’t do. There’s some technology companies out there that don’t even do their own implementations. We try to differentiate like that.

John Sumser:                        That’s interesting. Do you have thoughts about what happens when you don’t do your own implementations?

Jayson Saba:                          I don’t want to get too much into that. It’s really for us all about partnership. It’s all about being a true partner to the customer and make sure we resolve customers’ needs. We have a very strong ecosystem of partners across the board. You’ve been to our user conference. We have partners that help us do change management. We have partners that do other pieces that we may not have. At the end of the day, we want to do what’s right for our customers and that helps us differentiate.

John Sumser:                        That’s great. We have exhausted our time together. Just as a quick check point, what should I have asked you that I didn’t ask you?

Jayson Saba:                          What should you have asked me? I really can’t think of anything right now. As you know, with the big show around the corner for us, maybe the question would be, “Are you guys going to be at HR Tech?” The answer is yes, we will be at the HR Technology Conference in Vegas this year. If you go to the Expo floor, you’ll see the big blue tower. It should be very close to the front. You won’t miss it. I’ll be there with some colleagues or you can go to our website,, and check us out. I really want everyone who’s listening to this program to really have a good idea what we’re doing, to understand what we’re trying to accomplish here at Ceridian.

John Sumser:                        That’s great. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here, Jayson. Would you reintroduce yourself and let people know how they can get in touch with you.

Jayson Saba:                          It’s Jayson Saba, Vice President of Market Strategy here at Ceridian. I can be reached at J-A-Y-S-O-N-dot-S-A-B-A at or you can tweet at me or tweet with me. My Twitter handle is JaysonSaba. J-A-Y-S-O-N-S-A-B-A, one word. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody and I’m looking forward to the next year. It’s a very exciting time for our industry for sure.

John Sumser:                        Thanks very much. We’ve been talking with Jayson Saba who’s the Vice President of Market Strategy at Ceridian. The Ceridian story is one that you should get to know. It’s a story of a prime mover in our industry who has transformed themselves into a significant player in the modern marketplace. Thanks again for being with us Jayson. It was good to have you. Thanks for checking in and listening with us this morning. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner Radio. I’m John Sumser and we’ll look forward to seeing you the next time around. Have a great day.

End transcript

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