As more people from around the world hear about Bridge, one question I get asked more often is, “So what is Bridge?”
Let me answer this: Bridge is a People Technology Company. What that means is that we are committed to using technology to improve the productivity and rewards of people, specifically, of workers, those putting energy into generating value.
I’ll share my thoughts on Productivity in another post, but I would like to share on what we believe to be the right way of rewarding workers, something we call Emerging Access.
Emerging Access means helping people grow (emerge) through better options (Access) and equal opportunity (Access).
We wanted to go beyond the current very transactional, purely material, highly impractical, and, frankly, very uncreative, ways of rewarding workers. Basically, when scoping the field we saw the following situations:
1. No Rewards
2. Salary-Based Rewards
3. Performance-Based Rewards
4. Material Rewards
The No Rewards situation obviously is not sustainable because the competition for great talent is harder than ever. This is possible in industries that utilize redundant labor, but don’t expect any dynamism from people who are not rewarded commensurately. This is particularly true for contractual employees. There is an extreme example of this, where employees are not only not-rewarded, but negatively exploited, such as when companies charge employees for disbursements of their own salary (yes, this happens quite often). So the guy who is already taking home very little is charged to withdraw his own pay. If you’re a company that’s ok with this, shame on you!
The Salary-Based Rewards situation is limited by annual schedules. In a fast-moving world, with people less and less willing to wait, working all year for a potential 2-5% salary increase when being expected to deliver 10-20x is not only NOT motivating, it gets discouraging. Despite that, this is the basic arrangement full-time employees rely on for rewards, and can be built on.
The Performance-Based Rewards are a great way to link Productivity with Rewards, but it usually on credits one kind of performance, such as beating sales targets, hitting production quota, or being on time consistently. I personally think it’s a good idea to utilize performance-based incentives as part of your overall compensation plan, but just keep in mind that to get the best out of a worker, you can’t have them running around with blinders just trying to achieve one kind of metric. Today’s company needs more collaboration, more agility, and more resourcefulness, hardly the qualities of someone who is narrow-minded.
Material Rewards, which include things like gift vouchers and flexible benefits, are also well-meaning, tax-maximizing ways of rewarding workers. One of the things I like about this is the options it gives workers. This is a step in the right direction. The main reason why I, personally, don’t choose it is because we, including me, tend to value material things over abstract things. For example, given the choice between taking a rest leave and converting that leave into points for buying a new phone, I, and I would think most people, would opt for the phone. I don’t want my team trading in much-needed rest for more “things”. I want them recuperating, creating margin in their life, having experiences out of the office, and truly recreating. People are more than just “make money to buy things” beings. Materialism has a way of making us live to work to afford things. I want my people experiencing the richness of life, and realizing that there are amazing things we can create and huge needs one can address. You will only recognize these if you move away from purely material motivations.
But the biggest thing going against these situations is simply this: Senior management is not incentivized to increase rewards commensurate to productivity. Why? Because they’re incentivized (meaning their own salary and bonuses) are mostly hinged on profitability, and how does a company become more profitable? By increasing productivity (sales, output) at a rate that’s higher than expenses (including cost of labor). So management is constantly faced with a “us or employees” decision.
So what should a company, a leader, whether CEO, Team Leader, or HR Manager do? How do they bridge seemingly competing ideas of rewarding employees more and increasing profitability.
The “AND” of Rewards
(Caption: Bridge Access users can enjoy incredible shopping options on Lazada among many amazing choices.)
At Bridge, one of our values is Understanding, captured by the statement, “In a world of “OR” look for the “AND”. So we developed a way to reward employees without costing employers, and without trapping them in a purely material mindset, we call our platform Bridge Access.
Here’s how it works: Employers make Bridge Access available to all their employees completely free. Employees can now enjoy low-cost loans (removing the lender-borrower relationship between employers and employees), low-cost placements (which includes savings, investments, and insurance), and low-cost purchases (from popular sites like Lazada, FoodPanda, and more). All these low-cost options are geared towards one thing: generating savings for the worker, who we also incentivize to put into forced savings, investments, and insurance, achieving not only material gain but financial inclusion AND financial security as well.
Here’s the end goal for every worker: Lower debt, higher savings, AND still be able to afford the life you want.
Again, this doesn’t cost the employer anything. They don’t even guarantee any repayments. They’re simply a partner in giving their own employees more access.
Other than basics of loans, placements, and shopping, Bridge Access has Bridge Points, a non-monetary way of rewarding employees who exhibit good behavior, from coming in on time to regularly donating to a chosen cause (we want to teach them to give too).
And we’re just getting started. There are more amazing merchants on the platform and scheduled to go live. The best way to do learn more about the platform is to make an account and try it out. It’s easy and free.
I’m going to get personal here, and business is personal, especially when we’re talking about lives and livelihoods. I have a one year old, and every day I think about the kind of future I would for him, the future I can prepare for, and the future world he’s entering. I think about these because I care for him. He is valuable to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard leaders and companies say, “People are our most valuable assets”, only to watch how they treat their people. So much for valuable. You don’t treat someone who is valuable as disposable. You don’t reward someone who is valuable with the bare minimums. You cultivate them, train them, develop them, encourage them, prune them, and, of course, truly reward them. You develop them to be their best version of themselves (as seen by their productivity) and you are overjoyed to see them succeed and enjoy life.
Personally, I love seeing my team’s vacation photos, especially when they’re with their family. I love seeing them trying new experiences, traveling, and resting. And I love enabling them with ways to access these things. I love it so much, we built a company to help other companies enjoy it too.