Employees are the life-blood of any agency and the happier and more satisfied that the employees are, the better shape that the collection agency is in. At the recent Mid-Atlantic Collectors Association Northeast Debt Collection Expo on Atlantic City, those at the event discussed the best ways to take care of employees and the types of incentives that work best at motivating them and improving morale.
One agency, for example, hires food trucks and ice cream trucks to come to their location every month or so, and the agency provides the employees with free food and snacks.
A key component of a successful employee motivational program, however, is to make sure that the agency is giving the employees things that they want. Harry Strausser, the former owner of Remit Corp. and now the corporate vanguard for Eastern Revenue, told a cautionary tale that he learned the hard way. When he was running Remit, Strausser and his team would name an Employee of the Month. Along with winning a bonus, the employee also received the chance to go out to a fancy dinner at a steakhouse with Strausser. This program went on for years and years until one day, a veteran of the company came up to Strausser, said that while he very much appreciated what Strausser was doing with the Employee of the Month award, asked if the winner had to go to dinner with Strausser?
“He said, ‘Do we really have to go to dinner with you,’ ” Strausser recalled. “He asked if the winner could take their significant other out instead.”
One agency executive said that to make sure the incentives and awards were what the employees wanted, they actually asked the employees for a list of their favorite things, such as their favorite restaurant, their favorite hobbies, and more. And every time an employee has a birthday or anniversary, the agency can pick something from the list and make sure they are getting something the employee wants.
The power of testimonials and thank you notes from individuals can go a long way to maintaining morale on an agency floor and helping win more customers, so one agency exec said they offer $150 bonuses to any employee that gets a testimonial from an individual making a payment.
John Formica, a former executive from Disney who gave the keynote address at the Expo, suggested a book “1001 Ways to Reward Employees” as a great tool for executives. Formica said to give the book to the employees and ask them to pick what they want from the list.
Another agency executive has an award that goes to the employee who collects the largest payment of the day. The award moves from one desk to the other as the highest payment of the day is made. The executive said that employees start making calls early in the day because they want the award and because the first payment that comes in during the day is, by default, the largest.
One final note from Strausser, who said that you should never underestimate the power of a pat on the back. A lot of times. Strausser said, employees don’t want money. They want to know that they are doing a good job and that the work is appreciated.