This article is originally published in Startup Daily.
Given the adage that a business is only as good as its best employees, it’s no wonder that a range of Australian startups have emerged over the years to help employers in finding and retaining them, from early upstarts such as Seek through to new players such as Vervoe and BetterView.
Another recently launched offering is Career Money Life, a marketplace platform looking to help companies keep staff engaged and happy by helping them curate HR programs through which staff can pick and choose relevant services from a variety of curated providers.
The platform was founded by Sandy Hutchison, formerly the Asia Pacific HR director for Marsh & McLennan Companies, and Andrew McDonald, who started his career with the Boston Consulting Group before moving into the startup world.
Over her years in HR, Hutchison saw that while many HR managers and departments want to help people have the best possible career experiences, they often don’t have the tools or time they need in order to do this.
“I always felt that I was providing a less-customised experience for people at my respective organisations, and as a result, my employer’s brand and talent engagement and retention often suffered as a result. Yet, it was clear to me that the time and effort required to deal with multiple suppliers, both from a HR and procurement perspective, meant that it was often impossible to offer employees a more tailored and personalised experience,” she said.
“When I was made redundant in 2013 and had a truly personal experience of how life-changing career transition services can be, I realised that this was my opportunity to ensure that others, forever more, had access to breadth of services and assistance I received, and that HR teams could easily offer this.”
With this in mind, Hutchison linked up with McDonald and began work on Career Money Life, with its aim to empower employees to design their own “unique and customised career journey”.
The platform works by having employers sign on and determine the types of HR programs they will offer, from Employee Assistance Programs to Career Transition programs, offering up services to cover an employee’s career, money, and life.
Under the career banner this includes services such as career coaching, interview practice, business startup advice, board courses, and mentoring; under the money banner are services including financial planning advice, budget management, debt consolidation, and insurance advice; and classed under the life banner are the likes of medical health checks, stress management, mindfulness training, and yoga.
Within the scope of a program, employers are then able to select specific services for employees to access through a branded platform, or leave it to them to choose based on their own requirements or wants.
From there, employees can purchase services from the platform, up to the pre-set allowance determined by the HR program budget; unused allowances can be rolled onto future programs.
“Giving employees the benefit of choice in this way helps increase their career satisfaction, which in turn increases employee engagement and talent retention for organisations; something that historically has been an issue for them,” Hutchison said.
Despite her experience in the HR space, Hutchison admitted that getting companies to try something new and untested was “incredibly challenging”.
“It took us a long time to get our first clients, with those coming from trusted relationships and innovative leading HR people who saw the value in our offering. However, the sales cycle with large corporates is slow, and HR is no exception. We have learned to be patient, but also passionate about our offering and persistent with following up,” she said.
“This combination is no quick fix, but has worked for us in steadily building an impressive client list including large airlines, fast-growing startups, financial services firms, government departments, a national mining company, as well as medium size businesses.”
As clients have come on board, Hutchison said the Career Money Life platform has evolved to suit their needs. One thing the team quickly noticed was that users needed tools and advice to help them make informed decisions around which services to pick up, which led them to create a content management system through which they publish program-specific content that can be customised to an employer’s needs.
They also realised that employees would often want to keep buying particular suppliers’ services directly, leading Career Money Life to build in payment functionality to enable split payments between the organisation and employee.
With 68 percent of its more than 300 suppliers across Australia and New Zealand women-owned businesses, Hutchison said Career Money Life vets every supplier admitted onto the platform, with user feedback sought after each interaction.
“Suppliers can’t see each other’s services on the platform, so it is a real time competitive marketplace, which ensures fair prices and good quality,” Hutchison added.
“However, the most important quality we look for in our suppliers is their values alignment. We want suppliers who are passionate small and medium business owners who are as excited as we are about supporting people through the big life changes, like career change, having your first child, or transitioning to retirement.”
Despite the range of outplacement firms in the market, Hutchison believes Career Money Life is well-placed with its focus on allowing employees to spend their allocated funds on the services that matter to them.