Even before the pandemic prompted a large-scale shift to remote working, Albert Williams was looking into how employers might better manage employee rewards.
In the past year, however, finding new ways to incentivise employees has been brought to the fore as many employers grapple with the ins and outs of managing a distributed workforce.
Williams is the founder of Perkforce, a Cork start-up that is developing an application to automate and streamline the management of benefits and perks.
Some of the most common benefits offered by employers in Ireland currently include pension cover, various forms of paid leave, work-from-home subsidies, health insurance, life assurance, employee assistance programmes, childcare and subsidised canteens, Williams said.
“One of the most surprising things I learned through my own research was that quite a lot of employees aren’t even fully aware of the benefits and perks available to them,” he said.
“Our plan is to load the benefits companies already offer onto the Perkforce platform and reinforce what’s already available with their employees.
“Then, we’ll build on that, adding more perks, like discounts for shops and restaurants, VIP experiences at spas, gyms and tourist attractions.
“There are loads of potential options and opportunities to help operators in the hospitality and retail sectors who have been badly hit by the pandemic.”
Self-service functionality built into the Perkforce platform will allow employees to choose the perks and benefits best suited to their needs.
“We’ll generate real-time reports for the companies, so they can see what is and isn’t working. They’ll be able to put their own stamp on what they’re offering and align their benefits and perks with what actually matters to the people they employ,” Williams said.
He is piloting Perkforce with several employers in Cork in financial services, technology, manufacturing and education, ahead of plans to launch the app commercially in the Irish market in mid-2021.
“Ireland is an ideal market for trialling a new product like Perkforce, but because it’s a Software-as-a-Service product, we’ve designed it to be scalable. It’s not restricted to any one region, and we want to launch in other markets as soon as possible,” he said.
Williams set up Perkforce in March 2019 after working for 20 years in software development, technical and management roles for companies, such as Dun & Bradstreet and Aramark Ireland.
He has so far invested €270,000 in his start-up, including his own money and funding from Local Enterprise Office South Cork and Enterprise Ireland.
“Perkforce became a client of Enterprise Ireland last year and that was a game-changer. With their support, we were able to ramp up development and fill critical skills gaps,” Williams said.