Founded in 1985 by Sylvana and Andrew Siegel, Payday Inc. has grown from two employees to 55 and is now the largest independently owned payroll company in New Mexico. Specializing in payroll processing, human resource management and employee benefits, Payday has offices in Arizona, New Mexico and Tennessee that serve both small and large businesses.
Although his company was growing and doing well, Siegel has been driven to find ways to rise to the level of "extraordinary" in customer service and efficiency. After much research, including participation in a three-day training at the Ritz-Carlton facility in Atlanta, Siegel created his own 12 rules for customer service. "What I found," says Siegel, "is that it does not work to simply demand that employees follow the rules."
"In the past, our selection and hiring process began with checking the facts on applicants' resumes. In interviews, we knew that people usually say what they think the employer wants to hear. So we'd make our best judgment and then operate on what I call 'the hope theory'," Siegel explains with a smile. "We would 'hope' we had hired the right person."
After meeting with Michael Bouton and learning about Viatech Global's objective assessments for selection and hiring - and the employee development processes built upon them - Siegel was convinced that he needed to explore this better way to "get the right people in the right seats" within his corporation.
Payday began the Viatech process by having every employee take a 12-question, anonymous survey. The questions measure employees' view of the company for the top reasons people leave their job. Payday employees gave the company a score of 3.57 on a 5-point scale. "Well, that wasn't bad," says Siegel, "but we wanted to be better than the average company so we began to systematically address the problems."
First, they used Viatech's job benchmarking process to get clarity on the skills and the personality needed to get each job done in a superior fashion. "We spent a half-day on each position, using a small focus group of people who knew the job from various perspectives," says Siegel.
Then, each employee took a quick series of online assessments that mathematically scored their attitudes, values, motivators, behaviors, and those traits sometimes referred to as "emotional intelligence." Each employee's scores were compared with those produced by the job benchmarking process.
Siegel changed his own work habits after looking at his report. "I learned that I'm terrible at organizing," says Siegel, "you almost can't get a lower score. I used to spend almost every Saturday at the office trying to get the paperwork I'd collected all week into the right files." He looked at his scientific assessment and made changes. He now has an assistant whose organizational skills are exemplary, and he is able to relax and recharge on weekends so that he can do what he does best: create new opportunities for the business to grow.
"We did lose some folks when it became clear that their personality and unique abilities did not fit their job," notes Siegel. "But, we soon began to see huge results in job satisfaction throughout the company." In just over a year, the company's score on that 12-question survey jumped to 4.5 on the 5-point scale.
In addition to reducing turnover and fostering more satisfied employees who are truly engaged in the corporate mission, Viatech's "Spontaneous Excellence" process at Payday has improved communication and employee development.
"We have a much better understanding of how each employee best accepts communication based on the assessments," says Siegel. "When we understand what motivates an employee and what he or she naturally loves to do, we all become better managers."
Managers can be flexible in providing work incentives. For example, they can take into account that some employees value time off more than a salary increase.
There are other company-wide motivators that make everyone feel good about their job and the company. "When we get a client to go paperless," says Siegel, "we all know that we are saving paper and saving fuel to deliver paperwork. We are helping the environment, and now we celebrate that."
Siegel has also invested time in making it clear for everyone exactly how the company makes its profits. Employees receive bonuses based on how the company as a whole performs. "We have team members who now step up to help someone who is overloaded," says Siegel, "because they know it cuts into company profitability when we have to pay overtime. And that makes a difference in their own bonus."
Siegel no longer has to worry about demanding good customer service from his employees. With detailed assessments for current staff and future hires, they know how to make sure their payroll processors have the delicate balance of people skills and task detail the job requires.
"We do not hire anyone without the assessments," Siegel says emphatically. "We are committed to the process. Once we hire new employees, we know how best to coach them - when to help and when to let them fly."
Siegel meets one-on-one with each of his managers at least once a month, and the managers also meet in groups. "As each person makes progress, we refine the goals," says Siegel. "We call it peeling back the onion."
"What we've done in only 18 months," he says, "is wonderful to experience."
Payday Plus services from Payday Inc. now include "Employer Advantage," a range of tools and training for the selection, hiring and development of high-performing employees.