Interview With Jack Martin: Employee Recognition And Incentives
Jack Martin is a founder of Buffalo-based J. Fitzgerald Group Marketing Communications and Payback Incentives. Jack is responsible for client services, new business development, and development of the Payback Incentives program, an online incentive and employee recognition tool that provides instant recognition and instant gratification for employees, sales teams and customers. We got a chance to chat with Jack..
Editor: Why should HR use online employee incentives programs? Indeed, why should an HR person go to the trouble of setting up all the infrastructure and getting everyone’s buy-in to it versus say increasing commission levels?
Jack: From an HR perspective one is typically dealing with the general populous of the organization – whether it’s a handful of employees or tens of thousands of employees. You are trying to improve behaviour, improve morale, and influence things within the organization so the company can be more efficient and also reduce turnover. We all know the high cost of interviewing hiring and training a new person and the risks associated with an individual who leaves or wasn’t the right hire and what that cost is to an organization. So the incentives, the online incentives for HR specifically are built to be an added benefit to the employee. Similar in HR to retirement programs, health insurance plans, or any other offerings that the company uses to attract and to retain employees.
With our program what we’ve done is we’ve reduced the administrative burden considerably so if a company is currently doing an incentive program where they are manually managing the programs through excel sheets and going out and purchasing incentives, then deciding who gets them, and distributing it. We’ve taken all of that out and automated it so that it’s simplified. For companies that have never done incentive programs, there’s an educational element that ‘hey we need this and here’s why.’
Our system is built for companies that recognize that an incentive program does increase morale and engage employees, and it rewards them for appropriate behaviours. And then it also takes away all the tracking and importing etc. out of the hands of someone and puts it online to simplify everything.
With Payback Incentives, we’ve created a program that any company any size can use, not built just for big behemoth companies, and it’s not specifically made for small companies with 5-10 staff. It is built for both.Normally you’d be paying a fortune to an online incentive provider. It’s like we’re giving away the tickets to the movies you just have to buy the popcorn to give out to everybody. It’s pretty simple and straight-lined, and that’s how we like it.
Normally you’d be paying a fortune to an online incentive provider. It’s like we’re giving away the tickets to the movies you just have to buy the popcorn to give out to everybody. It’s pretty simple and straight-lined, and that’s how we like it.
Editor: How do HR pros manage an employee incentive program without hassle? Ease of use and setup.
Jack: The important thing to remember is that HR people are, generally, doing so many different roles. They are doing the hiring, interviewing, exit interview, firing, and mostly managing many different things. The last thing they need is something that is going to become burdensome. Typically, what we found is HR usually isn’t excited when someone suggests using an employee incentive program as they see it as another thing they have to deal with. A lot of incentive programs can be very cumbersome; which HR then finds it’s difficult to get off the ground. But if HR is looking at employee recognition as just another anchor dragging them down during their day then they are not going to do it.
That’s why when we built Payback Incentives, we looked at it from an ease of use standpoint from everybody’s perspective. You don’t just want all these crazy, overwhelming things to figure out and control. It is designed to be up and running in the background, and the administrator can go in and purchase points and review reports. They can also do other things such as making approvals and denials of entries; they can manage people’s roles within the organization, but they can also push some of that out to others.
We simplified employee incentive programs for HR professionals because again, the last thing we want to do is be another burden on top of their day.
Editor: What sets Payback apart from the competition?
Jack: The most obvious way is the cost. Similar programs would require a setup fee, a consulting fee to figure out what you want, then the software is custom built which is usually very expensive, and finally they sometimes lock you into contracts with minimum purchases. With Payback Incentives, we said, ‘let’s take everything we have learned over the past ten years about employee recognition and sales incentive programs and automate those features and give them to companies for basically free.’
The entry level starter plan is completely free you just have to buy the rewards that you’re going to be giving to employees. The advanced version is $99/month, and there’s no per-user fee. No minimums no contracts it is just used as needed. It’s good for companies that may only give out rewards once or twice a year. They can just sign up by month, or by three months, and then stop using it until the following year. It is that simple.
The other thing is that we’re constantly adding new features and upgrades to the program. We’ve taken suggestions from our client base, and we collate them into priority lists, and we build those features and don’t charge anything additionally. Our program is only going to get better and betters as more companies use it and provide feedback on what they’d like to see or what would be a great feature for our company. And chances are if it’s going to be good for one company it will be good for another company.
Editor: Tell us a little bit about a typical company or industries that Payback seems to be popular in at the moment?
Jack: There’s not one type of company that we have found using Payback for Employee Recognition. It is across all verticals, client types, and company sizes. We have a client that has an office with ten employees, and we have clients who have staff with tens of thousands of employees. And they are all across the board regarding types of companies. Examples range from credit unions to medical companies and investor groups, restoration specialists, spas and more.
It really has proven to be what we wanted: a universal incentive program that provides the capabilities to a company of any size that have usually been reserved for the big behemoth companies that will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Those behemoth companies are the ones that most of our competitors want while I’m completely satisfied with going after the ones that are providing something for everyone. I mean there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.
Editor: So it’s a ‘tool for the people’?
Jack: Yes, absolutely. Payback Incentives is a tool for the people; it’s something that delivers instant gratification to the employee because they are rewarded points in which they can go in and spend right away if they want – but they don’t have to! They can certainly store them up.
They can literally be recognized this morning, go in and pick something from the e-gift card catalog and have it instantly delivered. Then they can go online and shop with it or take it to the store or whatever they want. From an administrative perspective, it’s a tool for the people there as well because we have taken that tedious task out of their hands. They no longer have to sit and wait through paperwork and decision making: who deserves what, who did what, and start to pull numbers. So it’s really something that both sides of the aisle can benefit from tremendously.
Editor: Name three exciting new features coming to Payback in the next 12 months.
Jack: First, we are going to be revamping our sales program. So that is going to have quite a few bells and whistles as far as things that are going to improve the functionality of sales incentive programs, so file matches and direct uploads.
Second, we are going to be adding a social media component for Payback. We won’t necessarily be building our own social media application, but we will be allowing a lot of communication amongst teams and sales forces. That is something we are excited for.
Third, we have been investigating a bunch of other options as far as pay outs. Because obviously with sales programs, you’re dealing with much bigger dollar amounts. Not everyone will want to trade in for 1000 dollars of gift cards so we will be doing things cash based and working to add in new incentives into our system as well.
We want our company to be ever-evolving to match what companies out there are looking to do as competing for employees and sales forces becomes more intense. We have to make sure our program matches the goals of those HR departments and sales departments.