December 07, 2000, 3:14 PM — Competition for top talent remains at an all-time high, despite the slowing of the
dot-com economy. In order to attract and retain key personnel, employers must offer not
only the highest salary possible, but also the best working environment and good
benefits. Hard benefits, such as stock options and health insurance, and soft benefits,
such as gyms, office concierges, and gourmet cafeterias, cost big money. Wouldn't it be
great (from an employer's perspective) to offer a benefit that everyone wants -- and
that doesn't cost anything to deliver?
According to a Unisys employee survey, employees want two main types of benefits:
those that will save them time, and those that will save them money. A convenience
often offered by employers is the ability to buy something, such as insurance,
uniforms, or work-related items, and then deduct the cost from future paychecks. As we
move more towards a digital economy, the concept of a paycheck will become more fluid,
and we'll be able to spend it transparently -- allowing this small convenience to be
expanded to any sort of purchase.
Kirk Watkins, CEO of e-Duction (see Resources) offers such
a service. His company lets employees draw against future paychecks like a no-interest
credit card at no cost to employers.
"Major corporations allow their employees to payroll-deduct group auto insurance
premiums, homeowners insurance, or even a gym club membership," Watkins said. The next
step is to allow employees to payroll-deduct any sort of purchase they want. Employees
have long been able to buy work boots through their employer and pay for them out of
their next paycheck -- but some employees would like the convenience of being able to
buy a set of wine glasses, dinner out at a fine restaurant, or just a bag of groceries
on the same basis.
The Pennsylvania-based company started out as a payroll deduction service firm that
allowed hospital employees to purchase uniforms and equipment. e-Duction has
repositioned itself, and in the first quarter of 2001 will broaden its service to
encompass any type of purchase. The new e-Duction card will take the form of a major
credit card, and will be accepted anywhere credit cards can be used. "For the employee,
they get ubiquitous use of the card anywhere in the world," Watkins said. "And the
employer doesn't have to track every single purchase in triplicate paperwork."
The average American carries $6,500 in credit card debt and pays up to 20 percent
interest. The e-Duction card is interest free, which means the employee saves a bundle
on credit card interest.