This article was written by Mike Lesher and was originally published in the Spring 2019 edition of the RMAI Insights magazine, a biannual publication for, by, and about the receivables management industry. For more information about RMAI, please visit rmaintl.org.
Empowering employees while keeping them on track for success brings unique challenges for the Receivables Management industry. As business leaders, we are faced with the need to motivate employees and help lead them towards success.
Effective management, invested employees, and a productive workplace, all of these combine to foster an office culture that either cultivates harmony or breeds discord. Organizations with a growth mindset strive for high rates of employee satisfaction through multiple facets of employee fulfillment to empower employees. Companies who have found the “secret sauce” to lower, or nearly eliminate attrition, have most often done so through repeated trial and error. Just as with any successful, and sometimes arduous, journey, once the biggest hurdles have been overcome, reflection provides insight into maintaining long term growth.
By reverse-engineering action steps, management can sift effective from ineffective activities and sustainable from unsustainable methods to fuel a cohesive environment that encourages opportunity and growth. While the strategies discussed below have worked for our company, our region, and our niche, they were discovered through series of ideas and successive action plans, and may not be the right fit for every company.
The Right People
Building an engaged workforce begins with recruitment. In the recruitment process, management seeks to identify key indicators when making hiring decisions. Within Douglas McGregor’s theory of human work motivation and management are Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X relies primarily on external rewards, penalties, and supervision to complete assignments while Theory Y uses job satisfaction to initiate tasks independently and work without direct oversight. Simply stated, Theory X works hard enough to not get fired and Theory Y works for their own satisfaction.
Free from micromanagement, Theory X workers will not succeed to their potential when provided the responsibility of self-scheduling most of their day. However, Theory Y employees enjoy autonomy and find success within this model. They reap great rewards within the defined boundaries of compliance, frequently maximizing performance rewards and avoiding compliance-driven penalties altogether, simply due to the intrinsic motivation to satisfy, if not exceed, standards.
Hiring industry veterans and recruiting from established pools of talent are two methods of increasing chances for more well-rounded employees. When recruiting, it is key to add the right personalities and attitudes to the team. Versatile professionals strive to achieve personal results while working cohesively within the team. Setting clear expectations of new employees during training sets the tone and expectations from onboarding.
Rewards vs. Penalties
Effective management promotes autonomy, inspires innovation, and drives revenue growth through trust. Clear guidelines, defined standards, and straightforward policies and procedures combined with the freedom to set 80% of their personal daily work schedule motivates employees to continue self and team development, even in a career with a traditionally high turnover rate. Balancing appropriate rewards for performance with fair and unbiased penalties for non-compliance, employees frequently outperform management’s expectations.
Internally motivating collectors with performance-based rewards accelerates the company’s revenue as well as the collector’s pay. However, it is just as important to deter non-compliant behaviors through compliance-based penalties. Rewards for performance include a lucrative pay structure and performance incentives. Penalties for non-compliant actions such as verbal violations, lack of noting accounts correctly, not following standard process flows, breaking the law, and disclosing information to third party persons impacts a collector’s bottom line and could also result in disciplinary action and/or termination.
It’s All in the Details
Burnout and disengagement are indicators of management’s lack of attention to non-financial rewards that motivate employees. Considering that the office is where workers spend the majority of each day during the work week, providing the right tools and creature comforts impacts overall job satisfaction. Quality chairs, phones, and headsets can affect productivity. Filling vending machines with quality, organic, and handmade products of a superior variety and providing the staff with the highest quality coffee and condiments make workers feel appreciated. When it comes to motivating employees, many times it is the simplest and smallest things that get the biggest results.
Sometimes You Just Need to Ask
Every business is different, and sometimes, you just need to ask your employees what they want. Asking that question of employees through the years can create white noise, especially when you hear the same responses year after year. However, if you listen closely, you may find nuggets of gold in what your employees have to say. When the little things can make the biggest difference, sometimes just listening and letting them know you hear them is enough to make your business more attractive than your competitors to retain your current employees and attract top prospects.
Getting Down to the Numbers
Employers can provide the finest of the small details, but if employees do not feel fairly compensated, attrition will be high. Employees calculate their personal level of career fulfillment against monetary compensation. While it can be challenging to strike the right balance and provide just the right extrinsic motivation to maintain a healthy balance within the overall work culture, properly compensating employees empowers them to reach peak performance.
Providing a maximum amount that a collector can earn per year can be motivating- until the collector reaches the salary cap. Then, the catalyst for evolvement diminishes. Providing a direct to collector model with a high commission rate and no wage ceiling attracts, retains, and motivates employees. Not restricting call-ins is another way collectors increase their earning potential. During the recession, while many companies were decreasing salaries, compensating staff through an aggressive compensation package prevented turnover and drove growth even during difficult times.
With a standard collector’s compensation rate of 30%, the maximum compensation rate is 45%, if all accelerators and extra client SPIFFs are achieved. At these rates, over half a dozen employees are earning more than 6 figures annually and another dozen are earning between 75-100k a year. Like an annuity rather than a shot clock, collectors are not limited in the time they are able to collect. Fair but generous compensation empowers employees to continually strive for a growth mindset within themselves, set goals and surpass them, and contribute to the overall positive office culture.
Creating Success in Your Niche
While this model works amongst the team we have built with Central Portfolio Control, Inc.’s blended products, it is not a one size fits all. What works in one region, one company, or even one team, may not be as successful in the next. The key is to attempt different things, keep what works, change what doesn’t, and refuse to settle for mediocrity.
About Mike Lesher
Mike Lesher is the Vice President of Operations for Central Portfolio Control, Inc. Mike joined Central Portfolio Control in 2006 after attending business school, working for a local agency, and establishing himself as a top collector and Manager for the group. He worked as a Collector until 2008 when he was promoted to a Department Manager and took on the responsibility of managing a team that handled specialty clients. In 2012, Mike was promoted to Vice President of Operations where he has been essential to the growth, compliance, and forward direction of CPC.
About Central Portfolio Control
Central Portfolio Control is a full-service, nationally licensed collection agency focused on the recovery of distressed accounts receivable. The Company manages accounts on behalf of creditor clients while maintaining the highest ethical and legal standards regarding collection activity. Central Portfolio Control is a consumer-focused organization that employs proven processes of compliant collection and recovery to deliver exceptional customer service and bottom-line results. Founded in 1998, Central Portfolio Control is headquartered in Minnetonka, MN.