A few years back, ADP Canada, provider of HR management software and services, was offering an in-house discount program to employees.
But it wasn’t ideal, according to Elizabeth Williams, director of brand and communications at ADP in Toronto.
“We used to manage it ourselves, which you can imagine is pretty time-consuming and it’s difficult to do. And most employee discount programs don’t really belong to anybody, so they move around from finance to procurement and marketing, and back again.”
As a result, the company decided to switch to a provider based in the United States. But this too presented challenges, as many of the discount offers were only available south of the border, and there were issues around compliance with Canada’s French language requirements, says Williams.
New program introduced
So, ADP did a request for proposals — looking for a good cost, quality and service delivery — and decided to go with Venngo and its WorkPerks program, says Williams.
“They give a lot of local discount offers, which was important to us. We have offices across the country, and you want to make sure people can access local stuff as well as national discounts, and then they can also handle all the bilingual aspects for us, so we didn’t have to worry about that compliance.”
Since the program is all cloud-based, ADP didn’t have to worry about installing or integrating anything, she says.
“Really, it’s as simple as rolling it out to associates to go and get, and then reporting comes into the program manager every month, so there’s really nothing for us to do.”
The program is “super simple” to use, says Williams, as employees just go online, set up an account (which takes about 10 minutes) and then they can browse through the categories and items available online. They also receive notifications about specials and top offers, with direct links to the discounts.
“It’s really easy not just to use but it’s easy to communicate to our employees because I handle the internal communications, and I can tell you every time we bring on a new program, there’s a lot of heavy lifting in terms of making sure people know about it and they use it,” she says.
“And with the automated emails that come from the vendor, it’s really a no-brainer, we don’t really have to do a lot of active promotion.”
Williams herself buys a lot of VIA rain tickets, which involves going to VIA’s website and entering in a discount code at the checkout to receive the requested e-tickets.
“Really, the purchase experience is more to do with whoever you’re buying it from rather than through the WorkPerks platform,” she says.
Any special offers tend to be seasonal, says Williams, around Christmas or Mother’s Day, for example, and there’s a good mix of discounts, she says, from big ticket items such as fitness memberships or insurance to smaller discounts such as 20 per cent off restaurant meals or 10 per cent off dry cleaning.
“It’s day-to-day as well as big ticket items, and that’s really one of the intriguing things,” says Williams, adding the most popular items are in insurance and telecom, followed by movie tickets and dinners out.
New offers are always popping up and users can stay on top of that through the e-newsletters, which are all compliant with anti-spam legislation, says Joe Parent, vice-president of sales and marketing at Venngo in Toronto.
Employees can also use a mobile app to see new discount offers, he says.
“That way, because it’s so geographically based, they can just pull up the app and wherever they happen to be, they’ll see the offers that are close to them physically.”
The program has 1,000 or more discounts available for employees and their families, including 300 discounts on health and wellness-related products, he says.
“It not only helps promote the use of those kinds of things, it also makes physical well-being more attainable by making it less expensive, and it can also take things like a company-provided health spending account and stretch those dollars further, because rather than paying full price for that massage therapy, you can use your Venngo WorkPerks and save 15 or 20 per cent on those services and make that health spending account go further — so it helps employees and employers.”
New vendors seem to be added monthly, says Williams.
“They work very hard to keep it relevant and fresh. I would think this is the kind of program that if you didn’t do that, it would get stale pretty fast.”
The reporting from Venngo shows what people spent and what they saved, along with what categories they are looking at — not just what they are buying, says Williams. The PDF reports include a variety of metrics, such as: how many accounts were created in a month; the total number of users; how many employees opted to receive the newsletter, and the open rate of newsletters; and site visits, page views and redemption clicks.
“It’s pretty robust reporting, which is good,” she says.
The reports show at a high level how an employer’s discount program is performing, says Parent, “so how many employees have signed up and are using it; what kind of activity in terms of site visits; a summary of the most popular types of perks, both by dollar volume and activity level; and top-level estimates of the savings for their group.”
Venngo also provides specific testimonials from employees on the different ways they saved, he says.
“(Employers) can see and hear firsthand from their employees how they’re using and taking advantage of that program. It’s not strictly an ROI in terms of dollars; it’s similar to so many other things within the total comp package. If you look at an EAP or other benefits programs, it’s not necessarily about making sure that every employee takes advantage of the EAP, it’s the fact that it’s available to them and they see value in it when they want it,” he says.
“So, yes, there’s some financial measurement but, at the end of the day, that’s not the only measurement — it’s about providing the best possible overall experience for their employees.”
The return on investment is pretty clear in terms of usage rates, says Williams.
“Just looking at usage and penetration, we’re making the assumption folks are pretty happy with what they’re getting, given that 85 per cent are actively participating — that’s probably about as good as it gets in a mature company for a perks program like this,” she says.
“People are saving a lot of money, and we know that anytime you can reduce the financial stress of people, that’s a good thing for engagement and emotional health. So the ROI for us is in terms of ‘Are they using it?’ and then the assumed benefit of that is that our engagement is good, our retention is good. Those are the usual reasons you’d put in a program like this.”
Overall, discount programs are a really good way for employers to offer a perk that is immediately valuable to employees, says Williams.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining the benefits of saving money. It’s turnkey so there’s not a lot of heavy lifting on our part. People save money right out of the gate and they see how they save money. (With) a lot of benefits programs… people understand intellectually the benefits but you don’t always see it right away — it can take a while for the claim to be processed or for something to kick in. But here you can go online and see ‘Oh look, I just saved money.’”
In the last month, 1,800 employees active with the program at ADP saved about $29,000, so that’s pretty substantial, says Williams.
“It’s just an obvious way to offer a good perk, and these are the sorts of things that help us with retention, they help us attract good quality candidates and it’s a really tangible benefit of working for ADP.”
A discount program is a great addition to a total compensation plan or strategy “that includes cash as well as non-cash benefits, health care, employee wellness, physical, financial and mental well-being, and this is something that helps with all those things,” says Parent.
It makes sense for employers that “take a more holistic approach to how they care for and compensate their employees,” he says, and can be a differentiator in a competitive job market.
With financial worries cited as a number one stress for many employees, there are the spinoff benefits of a discount program, such as reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, says Parent.
Venngo’s program is also being offered as part of ADP’s outsourcing services WorkForceNow for smaller and medium-sized employers, says Williams.
“This is something that a lot of them wouldn’t normally think to put in, and the labour market is getting tight, so these little companies have to find new and more creative ways to attract good talent in the first place, and to hang onto it, when you’ve got bigger companies who can maybe outbid you. So this is a turnkey way… to put in a high-value and a high perceived value program for their prospective employees.”
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