How PACE achieved 1,200% ROI with End-to-End HCM Cloud Technology: An Interview with Yessica Cancel

Yessica Cancel is the Chief Operating Officer serving PACE Center for Girls, Inc. based out of Jacksonville, FL. She joined PACE in 2011 in an organizational development capacity. Prior to joining PACE, Yessica spent a significant part of her career in the for-profit sector working with an ocean transportation carrier as Vice President of Organizational Development. The move to PACE was a convening of experience and passion as Yessica began her career as a high school teacher working with at risk populations. Yessica has a B.A. in Multilingual/Multicultural Education from Florida State University and a Master’s Human Resource Management from the University of North Florida. She is a Certified Compensation Professional, as well as achieved the SHRM-SCP and SPHR designations.


1,200% ROI Achieved With End-to-End HCM Cloud Technology Who has ever heard of HR technology yielding a 1,200% ROI? And what does that even mean? Hear details of how PACE Center for Girls, a nationally recognized social impact organization, achieved more than 1,200% ROI on its new HCM cloud solution for an average annual benefit of $1,894,087. With UltiPro, the company achieved a 50 percent reduction in turnover through more rapid and meaningful analytics for decision making, an improved employee experience to inspire confidence in HR, and more trust and credibility from employees, leading to an annual savings of $1.3 million per year. Find out how the organization achieved all this, while also realizing dramatic increases in productivity for payroll managers, benefits managers, recruiters and HR.


As an HR Technology Conference Insiders blogger, I conducted a Q & A with Yessica to learn more about how PACE is achieving such an excellent return on investment with new HR cloud technology.

Yessica, what do you enjoy most about working for PACE?

That is a tough question for me!  If I have to choose one thing that I enjoy the most, it would have to be “the experience.”  The PACE philosophy of “valuing all girls and young women, believing each one deserves an opportunity to find her voice, achieve her potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity, and grace,” truly speaks to me and my core values.  We practice this philosophy in all of our interactions…with ALL people, not just girls.  This is an underpinning to our culture, which personally, allows me to do what I do best every day and make an impact in our society.

What were some of the HR challenges that drove the decision to seek a new HR technology solution for PACE (Ultimate Software Ultipro)?

What wasn’t a challenge?  We literally could not run one payroll without errors as a result of the system set-up, manual processes that required 20 different locations to have to snail mail new hire and termination paperwork to the headquarters, missed benefits enrollments, erroneous deductions.  What was even worse was that culturally, it was “accepted” that HR would mess things up.  That was the organization’s norm and no one questioned it.  They would simply spend a lot of energy and resources fixing it all on the back end.  The cost was that all credibility in our HR function was lost.  We were looking for a true partner to help us, not only with a tool, but to shift our culture.  To raise our standard so that we could truly live our philosophy and values and guiding principles.  We embarked upon an amazing journey with Ultimate.  We could have never imagined the outcome.  I will be sharing both the quantitative outcomes as well as some of the more subtle outcomes that ultimately talk to culture during the presentation.   We are firm believers that culture is a differentiating factor.

How has Ultimate Software’s Ultipro helped PACE’s talent acquisition efforts?

At PACE, we like to look at things holistically.  We provide holistic services to our girls and have come to the realization that doing so in all of our work pays off.  Nothing lives on its own in an organization, including our talent acquisition process.  We began by gathering some basic data, like turnover, which was at an astounding 60+ percent per year.  The issues were not going to be fixed by just focusing on our talent acquisition efforts.  We created a strategy that would “treat” the whole organization in an effort to hire the right talent, retain the right talent, and develop all talent.  As we all know, you only get one chance for a first impression.  By creating a more streamlined and automated process, we were able to attract better talent, which has led to increased internal promotions and lateral moves as well as incredible retention of the right people.  I will be sharing some of our internal key performance indicators in the session with Adam, including our latest turnover and people moves stats!

How has Ultimate Software’s Ultipro helped PACE to simplify and save time with reporting?

Our previous system was not designed for ease of data extraction.  It was simply designed to perform basic HR functions.  Our implementation team with Ultimate ensured we were thinking bigger picture when implementing Ultipro.  They would many times say… “think about how you want the information to come out.”  That truly helped us think differently about the design and step back to think about the kinds of reports as well as general data we would need to pull from the system to provide to other departments as well as external partners.  As a not-for-profit, we are accountable to hundreds of donors, foundations, and government agencies to ensure the investment they have made with PACE is being accounted for appropriately.  In many organizations, that is something that is done through finance…in the PACE world, 85 percent of our total expense is payroll, which means our system needs to provide error-free information at a moment’s notice.  In our past life, we would extract data into a huge excel file and then spend hours manipulating it.  This process was prone to human error so we had multiple check points.  Now, we trust the data, are able to do quick quality checks, and turn around any requests in a timely manner.

What are some of the ways Ultimate Software’s UltiPro has helped improve the employee experience at PACE?

This is my FAVORITE thing to talk about!  Many see Ultipro as a tool, which allows for processes to be completed in an automated fashion….and it is an amazing tool that allows for efficient and effective processes, BUT, it is so much more.  Ultipro is a tool created by an amazing organization that wants to create long-term partnerships.  They take the time to get to know your organization so that the design is customized to not just meet your immediate needs, but to grow and adjust in alignment with your organization’s vision and strategy.  They truly invest in the partnership.  That is what actually led to the amazing ROI results we achieved. We were able to partner with someone who could help us build and support an amazing employee experience.  A partner who could understand our values and the culture we are striving for and could align its solutions with us.  Adam and I will be diving more deeply with examples of how this actually took place during our session.

Implementing new HR technology requires a thoughtful change management plan to ensure a smooth transition. What advice can you share with others regarding creating a transition plan for new HR technology?

Change is difficult for everyone.  My advice regarding a transition plan is to make it FUN!  Engage users very early on by creating some mystery or intrigue around the upcoming change.  Make it a game, give clues as to what is upcoming, and then have a big reveal with treats and prizes.  Create a theme that you follow through in all aspects of the implementation, name the system, integrate the training with the theme, etc.  Beyond the fun and marketing, ensure you have a group of early adopters across all departments who can help gain buy in as well as be your super users and on the ground support.  Consider phasing in each module.  Once employees become comfortable with the look and feel of the system, additional modules are easier to adopt.

One of PACE’s principles is INVEST IN THE FUTURE “We work to create an environment that fosters the long-term growth and development of our girls, staff, agency, and communities. We believe this is necessary to create results that have lasting impact.”  How is Ultimate Software’s Ultipro helping PACE to achieve this value?

PACE focuses on aligning with partners who share similar values.  Ultimate supports us in Investing in the Future in multiple ways.  First, it provides a tool that was designed with the employee experience in mind and supports our approach to working collaboratively and transparently.  Second, and probably most important, Ultimate invests in our program by volunteering at our local centers, providing opportunities for our girls to experience and explore careers in technology, teaching our girls how to code, and also funding our work, which ultimately impacts current and future generations of girls and women.  We are immensely grateful at the comprehensive partnership that has been developed.  Ultimate truly walks the walk!

Want to learn more?  Yessica Cancel will present at the 2018 HR Technology Conference: 1,200% ROI Achieved With End-to-End HCM Cloud Technology | Wednesday, September 12, 2018: 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM