HRExaminer Radio

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HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Lisa Sterling, Executive VP, Chief People Officer, Ceridian
Episode: 173
Air Date: April 29, 2016


Lisa Sterling is the Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer for Ceridian. Lisa’s focus is executing the global people strategy combined with leading the vision on the Dayforce Talent Management offering. Lisa originally joined Ceridian in June 2015 as Vice President of Dayforce Talent Management, responsible for global product strategy for Talent technologies; managing relationships with industry experts and alliance partners; leading product management and positioning go to market strategies, and executing on current and future product offerings.

Lisa has over 17 years of experience in people, process and software design and execution. Her broad range of expertise covers recruitment, onboarding, performance, development and retention technologies. In addition to her focus on people and technology, Lisa serves as a thought leader to the market and to Ceridian’s talent clientele.

Prior to joining Ceridian, Lisa ran the Talent Technology Solutions organization for Mercer. Previous to that, Lisa worked at Kenexa as a Partner and led the design and deployment efforts of the organization’s performance, succession and career development solution. She was also instrumental in driving the product strategy of Ultimate Software’s talent management offerings in her role as Head of People Engagement.

Lisa has a true passion for people and products and uses all available avenues to influence and promote new ways of bringing the two together in a way that drives business outcomes.

Lisa holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Audio MP3





Begin transcript

John Sumser: Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner Radio. I’m your host John Sumser, and we’re coming to you live from beautiful downtown Sebastopol, California. Today we’re going to be talking with Lisa Sterling who’s the executive VP, Chief People Officer, at Ceridian. She is an interesting woman who has the most complex job of any woman in this business, I believe at this point. She’s responsible for both internal HR at Ceridian and product management. We’re going to learn a lot today, Lisa how are you?


Lisa Sterling: I’m fabulous John how are you? I love the music by the way, that was wonderful.


John Sumser: Isn’t that great? Isn’t that great?


Lisa Sterling: It is.


John Sumser: It’s a good way to start the day. I’ve done about 170 or 80 of these interview shows and I look forward to the music every time still, I was lucky to get it. Why don’t you take a moment and introduce yourself to the audience Lisa.


Lisa Sterling: Absolutely, well as you said, my role here at Ceridian is kind of two fold. I have the pleasure of overseeing all of our people programs, so I get the pleasure of protecting and taking care of 5,300 people and families from an HR perspective. Then I also have the privilege of working with our R and D organization to really drive future strategy around the talent management offerings of our product day force.


Really unique opportunity, I think it’s something a lot of companies probably think about but aren’t quite sure how to put into place. It’s something that we’re really passionate about here at Ceridian that we want to make sure our product and our own internal people programs align really well. For us it kind of made sense to have one person leading it.


John Sumser: You’ve been all over the place in this industry, that’s the other thing that’s really interesting about you is that you are so well rounded. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you’ve been.


Lisa Sterling: Yeah, absolutely. My first entry into what I would consider kind of the HR, talent management space was way back out of school working for a small consulting firm here in actually the blooming metropolis of Lincoln, Nebraska, called Talent Plus. They were kind of a spin-off of the Gallop Organization. Learned a great deal about behavioral assessments and really understanding the unique things about people that make them up. That you cannot teach or train.


That is sort of intriguing, understanding people and how they work and what was important to them, expanded then into going to work for Connexa which again, spin-off of gallop here in Lincoln, Nebraska, but got into the technology side. Really entered into what was then called the “Applicant Tracking Market.” Got into that, moved into engagement surveys so really got a really good experience kind of from a technological standpoint. As many people who are listening to this know, I worked for Ultimate Software and that was really my entry into what I would consider the HCM space.


The true full HR system of record, payroll systems and then shortly before coming to Ceridian, I worked for Mercer. That was my opportunity to get more into the consulting side. I still was involved in technology, but it was much more around technology that enabled consulting practices, so it allowed me to see kind of the whole HR side back in the day. The technology side and then more of the consulting arm. Then got the opportunity to land here at Ceridian.


I feel like this is the first role in my career where I truly have brought all of the knowledge that I have gained over the past, well I’m not going to say how many years because that will age me. Over the past number of years this is the role where I feel it’s all coming together and I’, being able to call upon all those different experiences and education that I’ve had.


John Sumser: What an extraordinary career, so when you were little, did you imagine this was what you were going to do? I have a hard time …


Lisa Sterling: Does anybody imagine this is what they’re going to do? No, when I was little and actually all the way up through graduating from high school, I was really bound and determined that I was going to be a corporate attorney. I love to talk as you know John, and I thought what better way to get to use my voice everyday than to argue points for big corporations. Somehow I landed here.


John Sumser: I think this is closer, I believe that what attorneys do for big corporations is not argue at all. They just provide [inaudible 00:05:12] risk assessment.


Lisa Sterling: That’s true.


John Sumser: You’re probably way more able to meet your dream in this job. You wear these two hats, what does a day look like when you’ve got two hats? It seems like sort of the devil on one side and the angel on the other side sort of situation. Where sometimes the right answer is X and that sometimes that’s exactly the wrong answer.


Lisa Sterling: Oh absolutely, I mean there are some days I’m honestly not sure which side is the angel and which side is the devil. I think that the one thing that in 6, 7 short weeks that I have really kind of sort of understand, is that I need to open up my mind to really think about what’s really important to each of these areas. I’ve always had the product side in my head and so as we built product it was always about, you’ve got to create the most simple of experiences, you’ve got to create the most engaging user experience. You want it to really be X. Well the reality of it as we all know, a lot of traditional HR programs, policies, things of that nature, aren’t as simple as we want them to be.


It’s given me an opportunity to really sit back and look at one, or processes internally. I think that’s probably one of the things that, I know just speaking to other CHRO’s and HR professionals, that they struggle with is, they don’t have the deep understanding of how product really works. They understand what they need in a system, but how those inter-working components all come together to deliver the solution, they don’t understand that. I think that’s one of the values that this role provides for Ceridian specifically for us as a customer, as well as hopefully our customers. As we move forward, is that we understand what the product does and so it helps us understand too how do we change our own internal processes.


As I was sharing with you before, we have, we use our own product. We use Day Force at Ceridian, we believe in drinking our own champagne. We have components of the product that we haven’t used in the past because we created such complexity around our processes, that we couldn’t even fit well in our own product. Over the course of me being in this role, we’ve already started to redo some of the experiences that we have in our programs and our process to really fit the technology.


I think, like you said, there’s the devil and the angel on both sides. There are also days where as a consumer now of the product, I’m pushing, “Now let’s do this in the product, let’s do this faster. I need this to make my team’s life easier and make our employee’s lives better.” Yeah, I butt heads with myself every single day but I think we’re already seeing improvements because of this opportunity.


John Sumser: What an interesting experience. I don’t know of anybody who is in a product job in the HR Technology Industry, who has had to discover the need for and lead an organizational transformation project. That’s got to be extremely interesting. I’m jealous.


Lisa Sterling: Well any day you want to come help me with that you feel free to do so.


John Sumser: Well, you know that’s an interesting idea, I really am astonished. I really hadn’t thought about it that way but you know the implementation process when you bring the state of the art of technology up to speed is the worst part of the business. Nobody on either side of the equation likes it.


Lisa Sterling: Right.


John Sumser: That may be, I’ve never thought of it, it may be because the people who lead product in product organizations have no idea what it’s like to do that, so that never effects product design.


Lisa Sterling: Well I think that you bring up such a valid point and I can say, I’ve seen this consistently in every organization that I’ve worked with in working with the R and D teams, many, I should say almost all of these folks they’ve never been in my shoes or one of my colleagues shoes. They’ve always been a developer and analyst or a product manager. For the one piece of advice I could really give organizations, and we’re doing this internally at Ceridian, is if you’re in a product or R and D type of role. You’ve got to have understanding of the business that you’re building product for.


I’m seeing that there’s a transformation happening at Ceridian already, in that we are bringing … I spend time with developers, I spend time with some of our product managers, to help them understand what our experiences are today and what we want them to be for our people. Then they have a better understanding on how to go back and build that capability into Day Force in a way that makes actual, consumable sense, I think that, I realize that’s a really large undertaking and it’s a big effort.


We take these people off the floor so to speak, from developing code, to have them understand this. My belief is that if I spend the time upfront having them understand what we do in terms of our team, I will get the return on investment tenfold because they’ll go back and they’ll build me something that is really consumable and usable. That meets my needs and the needs of out other 2,600 customers who use Day Force.


John Sumser: That’s interesting. This is a really profound argument for never allowing third parties to install your software. I’ve never thought of this before, but what a great opportunity you have.


Lisa Sterling: Absolutely. Yes, I think there’s a lot of things that we can do to fundamentally shift the way people think about this. The way people implement technology and even on the HR side, the way people thing about experiences, and processes and policies. There’s a lot of opportunity for change and new adoption of new ideas if people are open to it.


John Sumser: That’s great, so you know there’s a segment of the audience that tunes in that won’t have the slightest idea who Ceridian or what Ceridian does.


Lisa Sterling: You mean everybody doesn’t know who we are John?


John Sumser: Well, you know, I understand that when you get to the airport they roll out the red carpet to your privet jet and that everybody who works at Ceridian has a private jet, but I don’t think everybody else gets how powerfully influential the company is.


Lisa Sterling: First of all, I want to know who these people are that the private jet, because I am not one of those people darn it. I was at the back of the plane last night. NO, good point, in a nutshell, we’re a leading provider of cloud based HCM technology. We focus very heavily on HR, payroll, tax benefits. Get into obviously the workforce management. All of the components around recruiting, on-boarding, performance management, document management. I would say the thing that we are absolutely most known for, especially in communities of peers of yours John, is around compliance.


That is an area where we consistently are ranked incredibly high on all of the different analyst reports and it’s the thing our customers tell us over and over is that when they think of Ceridian or they thing of Day Force, depending on if they’re thinking of product or company. The first word that comes to mind is compliance and it’s something that as we’ve continued to expand our footprint into other areas beyond pay, time, benefits, workforce management. It is always the foundation of what we do and we will never waiver from that. It really allows us to put our customers in a very secure place to know that we are keeping them compliant with a lot of the crazy things that this country and other countries continue to do to us in terms of taxation and other key areas.


John Sumser: That’s great, so who’s the target customer at Ceridian?


Lisa Sterling: That’s a great question, I would have said two years ago, our target customer really was just that small to mid-market area that you know, 500 to 5,000 employee mark. It’s still definitely a huge sweet spot for us and we have a very significant percentage of our customer base that falls in that range. However, we’re really starting to see the uptick upstream. Moving into the companies, you know 7,500, 10,000, 25,000 people as the product continues to scale in size and functionality.


We also from an industry perspective, I would say we have a really strong footprint in the retail and hospitality. We have one of the most robust workforce management capabilities on the market. Definitely the retail organizations have gravitated toward the robust scheduling that we have. I would say that those are the two main customer focuses, but like everybody else there’s always that shift as the product matures and continues to expand.


John Sumser: In your mind, you’ve been all over the industry, what makes Ceridian different?


Lisa Sterling: Gosh, I hate to say this because it sounds entirely cliché, but it really is , it’s the culture, it’s our people. It starts at the top. I mean there’s probably people on this call that knows Ceridian from 10 years ago, and we were a service bureau. Nobody would have ever described us as a cloud based technology company. If they did they obviously, probably had no understanding of what those terms really meant. We have transformed significantly and you can see this in everything that we do in terms of our product. Our ratings, even on Glass Door, if you look at where were back as recent as 2012 to now, and I think what makes us different is our leadership too, it’s the people that we work with, but it’s the leadership team that David Ossip has put into place.


I’ve never worked on an executive team that get’s along so incredibly well and we challenge each other. Our people challenge each other, they’re not satisfied with status quo. I think it’s also our speed of deployment. If you look at it from a pure technological standpoint, one of the main reasons I came here to run product is how fast we bring things to market and how consistently we hit our committed roadmap items. Those are things that a lot of companies cannot say that they do. I think it comes down to our leadership, our culture and people, and our ability to build things quick and get them out to our customers.


John Sumser: David Ossip is quite an interesting guy isn’t he? I don’t know of other executives at that level in the industry who are as focused competitors as he is. I think the best way to give you how I see that. David is an avid cyclist to say the least.


Lisa Sterling: Yes.


John Sumser: I’ve known him to get to a new town, he rides expensive bikes, and rent a bike and take an afternoon to ride up to the top of the highest mountain in the area.


Lisa Sterling: Yes.


John Sumser: This is not my idea of a good time. My idea is to have somebody carry me to the top of the highest mountain in the area.


Lisa Sterling: There you go.


John Sumser: He’s got that level of aggressive focus that’s just electrifying when you’re around it.


Lisa Sterling: It is. And I can honestly say , the passion that David has for the success for every single person at this company and for the success of our product, is … I’ve never seen that in this space. You think about a CEO, I mean obviously for people that don’t know him, he’s a serial entrepreneur. He’s had incredibly successful businesses over the course of his career. He’s not that old by any means. He, I don’t even know how to put it into words, he just has a deeper understanding, not only of our business, obviously as our CEO, but also of the technology.


I mean David will stand, and you’ve seen him, stand in front of our customers and demo the product for them. I think, and people will say, “Why does your CEO know so much about the product?” Well because he helped build it. I think it actually puts us in a really competitive space because David know what the product can and can’t do. He knows, and he’s always thinking about what it should be doing in the future. That’s really powerful when he can stand up and help his R and D team. He’s lived their life, he knows what they’re going through. He can make the suggestions.


At the same time, he’s uber smart when it comes to the business. He knows what we need to do to get to where we want to be in 2020, 2021 and beyond. Working beside him is phenomenal and I can say we have a phenomenal working relationship and I wish more organizations could have their CHRO and their CEO work the way that him and I do. We are in lockstep with one another. Going back to the old days, I have a seat at the table, my voice is heard, not just by him but by the rest of the executive team and my organization is not looked at as a cost center.


I mean, David looks at us as a fundamental component of the success of this company. Again, I think if there’s something that people could learn, it’s how to build a better relationship between the CEO and the CHRO, because when two are working together the opportunities are limitless in my opinion.


John Sumser: What a remarkable experience you’re having there. What does the future look like for you? What are the things that are on your agenda for this year in the two areas that you manage?


Lisa Sterling: Yeah, I think from a product perspective, it’s really continuing to extend our footprint. Both in terms of current capabilities that we have but really entering into some new spaces and taking a different approach to that. As you know John, we’ve entered into the talent space that’s really about, I’ll use Holder’s term as trans-boarding versus just on-boarding. That’s been a huge priority for us at Ceridian, is how do we bring a different type of experience to not just new people entering our organization but people that are moving within the company and moving out of the company, to create the technology component of that that moves well beyond the provisioning and the task management. Really helping people get assimilated to organizations and to new opportunities. That’s been a huge priority and will continue to be this year from a product perspective.


On the people side, there’s a couple of real key areas. Well, I kind of look at them in a few areas. I focus on people, practice and product, that’s really the way I kind of outline my responsibilities. In terms of people, it’s continuing to drive the person experience at our company. It really is about creating greater flexibility in the workplace. We’ve got a very tenured organization and a very young organization depending on where you’re kind of at. It’s really thinking about how do we create the flexibilities that are necessary for those populations. It’s also, we’re very focused on the overall inspiration and commitment of our people and that really comes down to how do we help people understand what their future looks like here?


Where are the different traditional and nontraditional opportunities that people can utilize to get an education and exposure so they can continue to grow here and not leaving and go to some other organization,. Then kind of the bridge between them is this whole concept of drinking our own champagne. We function as a customer of Ceridian. I have the same customer success model set up, that our customers do outside of us. That’s a big focus for me this year is bringing those two together and having us live and have Day Force at Ceridian for our own people.


John Sumser: Astonishing, Astonishing.


Lisa Sterling: It’s a lot.


John Sumser: Yeah, Yeah, I think you’re going to learn some amazing things and what a hard goal to have set for yourself, that’s going to be a very rich learning experience. What are some of the interesting new features that are popping up in the Ceridian product?


Lisa Sterling: Yeah, great question, so couple of big things this year. I think some folks that do follow us know that last year Ceridian made an acquisition of a small start-up called Related Matters, and they had a product called Team Relate that really looks at kind of how do you build trust and communication and efficiencies between people. To really drive more effective teams. We’ve brought that Team Relate capability into the foundation of Day Force so it really does give people an opportunity to gain greater self-awareness of themselves. Then also really understand how to better interact with and communicate with their peers and colleagues. The goal of that really is to provide opportunities to work better together and to produce better outcomes by really building more efficient relationships and interactions.


The other piece that we’re really excited about and we’ll be doing a lot of focus on at our Insight conference that’s coming in July is this concept of HCM anywhere. David is a big believer in while we need the systems that we all build, people in general don’t necessarily want to be logged in to an HR system all day long. They want to utilize the systems that their used to using and have the HR data make itself appear in those applications. That’s a big focus that we’ll be showcasing later this summer and are really excited about. It’s really a way to think differently about how we give people data and where we give it to them at.


John Sumser: Listen, that’s such a great idea. The very notion of what you would do is leave the system that already knows how long you’ve worked so you can go to another system and enter information about how long you’ve worked. What sort of silliness is that? The idea that HR is somehow separate from the work that you do is something the software that people use puts forth everyday and what you’re talking about is the very logical future of HR Technology. Which is that it integrates with the rest of stuff that disappears.


Lisa Sterling: Absolutely, absolutely, and … Sorry go ahead.


John Sumser: No, it’s all yours.


Lisa Sterling: I was just going to say and I think too it’s the way you just explained that was phenomenal, being able to use the system that knows what you’ve already worked versus going and entering it. I think we also talk about, there’s so much focus in this space on analytics and reporting. Two years ago there was this concept of big data, we talked about prescriptive and predicted analytics. Again, in many instances we are forced to go to in a very nice situation, one system, in the reality, multiple systems to get all that different data. That’s another piece of this whole concept around HCM anywhere, is the O data integration. How do we enable HR professionals or payroll professionals or benefits professionals to get direct access to the data they need and they desire in the tools that again, they’re more familiar with.


Because let’s face it, I don’t want to learn how to write a sequel script, that’s one thing I don’t have a goal of on my career path. I’ll be the first to admit that and please don’t ever ask me to try and write one or you know we’re going to be in trouble. That’s, in many instances, these systems that are out there, make it really cumbersome for those of us that need data to get it. This whole concept of O data integration really allows us that opportunity in a secure manner, get access to the HCM data that we need, but get it out of our system very easily and put it into tolls that we’re very familiar with.


Whether that’s a PowerPoint, excel, a PDF, ectera and so I think there’s so many different avenues in my opinion where this concept can go. I think again we’re just tipping … We’re just getting to that tipping point right now, there’s a lot of expansion there that the team is looking forward to, but that’s one of the biggest things we’re doing in 2016.


John Sumser: Fantastic, so we have blown through our half hour, it’s been an amazing conversation. What are a couple of things you’d like the people in the audience to take away?


Lisa Sterling: Oh, I think first of all, number one, living in the world that I have lived in I do think it’s really important for both HR professionals and the product professionals to spend the time to get a really good understanding of what each other does. I know that, again, I know that’s hard, it’s time consuming but the value that that experience brings is tremendous and I think it would help both organizations do their jobs more effectively and would cut through some of the chaos that we create for one another.


I think the other thing is don’t be afraid to think outside the box. When David and I first started talking about this role and we socialized it with some folks internally they thought we were crazy. People were like, there’s no way you can bring those two roles together. Granted I haven’t been doing it for a significant amount of time but it’s working. We’re already seeing benefits of it and so whether it’s combining roles or using technology differently. I feel more empowered now than I ever have in my career to be disruptive and to step out from where I’m comfortable and misbehave. Because the innovations that come out of that and the ideas that come out of that are absolutely tremendous.


John Sumser: Fantastic, so would you take a quick moment and reintroduce yourself and tell people how to get a hold of you.


Lisa Sterling: I would love to, so again, Lisa Sterling here at Ceridian. You can catch me at email or I’m always on Twitter and it’s just Lisa M, as in Marie, Sterling. Give me a call, direct mail me, I’m always open to having good conversations.


John Sumser: Thanks very much, it’s really been kind of you to show up and give us an insight into what you’ve been doing. Thanks so much.


Lisa Sterling: Hey, my pleasure, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to share the phone with you, I appreciate it.


John Sumser: Yeah, this has been great, so you’ve been listening to HR Examiner Radio and we’ve been talking with Lisa Sterling who is the executive Vice President, Chief People Officer and Head of Product for Ceridian, what an astonishing job she has. Thanks for tuning in, hope you have a great weekend, take it easy.

End transcript

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