Nodding to Greek Mythology, WorkForce Software CEO Tilts at Industry Giant

Morini sparks growth at time-and-attendance player by targeting Kronos, going global and working on culture.

In Greek mythology, Kronos was the god of time and a titan. But then his son, Zeus, killed Kronos to become king of the gods.

That’s sort of how Mike Morini sees the segment of the workforce-management software business in which his Livonia, Michigan-based company, WorkForce Software, is engaged. Kronos, the company, is the god of the time- and attendance-software business, and it’s Morini’s job as CEO to cut the reigning power down to size.

“Kronos is Kronos, but we are Zeus, and Zeus slayed Kronos,” Morini told Chief Executive. “That’s a good reminder for rallying our team. Kronos has market share, but we are Avis—we try harder.”

Indeed, WorkForce revenues have burgeoned to more than $100 million a year from $61 million in 2018 and the customer count to about 1,100 from 700 in that time. And the company has just launched a new version of its product, with what Morini called “new architecture and a user layer that is global-scale and market-changing.”

So WorkForce is emerging as a favorite of many of the world’s largest multinational brands in helping them track and calculate employee hours and pay, leaves of absence, regional differences in union agreements and the growing number of gig-type agreements with new generations of workers—all the preliminary work to ensure that employees and contractors get paid accurately and on time.

Morini said that WorkForce was among the first workforce-management platforms in the cloud and that the ease and convenience of using it gave the company big technological advantages over Kronos. In fact, SAP selected WorkForce as the platform in this space that it would re-sell. Morini has been CEO of WorkForce since 2015, after serving as COO of enterprise-resource-management giant SAP.

But getting WorkForce Software on a path to tilt at Kronos has been a five-year process that only began when Insight Venture Partners bought out the founders of WorkForce Software in 2014. There are about 300 employees in Livonia, about 700 worldwide, and among other things Morini had to shake up a culture in which some holdover employees “didn’t want to grow the company and didn’t want the accountability. So we spent a lot of time in the early years finding people who wanted to be on the new ball club and run to the new message.”

The new message was all about putting what needed to be in place to scale WorkForce’s platform and operations globally so that it has a shot at slaying Kronos. “We had to update support techniques and how we hosted the product and our methodology,” for example, Morini explained. “I likened it to having a house in the best neighborhood on the best corner lot and a great school district—but just not updated inside. We had to remodel the house a bit.”

Cultural transformation has been required so that WorkForce’s growing global ranks became more effective messengers. For example, Morini said, WorkForce managers now proactively preach “putting the customer first, then making it happen, and then celebrating your success. There wasn’t enough celebrating going on when we had wins and not enough diligence when we had losses. That’s changed. I’m really pleased with the engagement of the employee base.”

Morini boosted engagement by translating it partly as fun. For example, the company takes groups to Dave & Buster’s for cornhole tournaments and Nerf gun fights.

And while building the company’s worldwide footprint requires Morini to keep two other offices besides at Michigan headquarters, and to be on the road a lot, he and his C-suite companions are “in constant communication and collaboration. Every other week we require the whole team to ‘meet’ on camera, not just [by voice]. And at least once a quarter we have a meeting in person. We have two offsites a year for planning with the extended leadership team, and many weeks I conduct one-on-ones.”

Ego suppression among the leadership team is important as well. “All everyone wants to do is win; they’re not worried about the role they play that day,” Morini said.