“Paid time off is meant to reduce stress,” says Rob Whalen, co-founder and CEO of PTO Exchange. “It’s a benefit that’s part of your overall compensation. You should be able to own it and self-direct it…period.” PTO Exchange offers a patented platform that gives companies an inclusive and flexible service that allows employees the ability to self-direct their accrued paid leave for whatever reduces their stress—ranging from student loan repayment, education support, healthcare or retirement savings, to travel and charity. “There are five different generations in today’s workforce, and everyone’s needs in life are different,” says Whalen. “Whether an employee is planning their retirement or trying to pay off student loans, we have a solution that everyone can leverage for their individualized needs.”
In an interview with CIO Applications, Whalen shares his insights into how his company is able to bring a world of difference to the way paid time off benefits are utilized by employers and employees.
How has PTO Exchange been able to steer innovation in the HR landscape?
Studies by numerous research groups suggest that today’s workforce is too stressed to take time off. In the last 10 years, the productivity of the U.S. has increased because employees do not disengage from their work, thereby not utilizing more than 30 percent of their earned PTO annually. As a result, their accrued PTO keeps adding to an employer’s liability. Organizations, therefore, are in need of a solution that gives employees the ability to make alternative use of their accrued PTO. Aiming to solve this challenge, we were able to break away from traditional practices and develop a patented solution that enables employees to exchange PTO for a variety of benefits, like paying travel expenses. The range of our offering does not end there. You can use PTO Exchange to invest money into your 401(k) plan, thereby saving for the future.
At the same time, our platform also encourages a culture of sharing within organizations. An employee can share their accrued PTO with another employee in need.
We were able to break away from traditional practices and develop a patented solution that enables employees to exchange PTO for a variety of benefits
Can you shed some light on your onboarding process?
We have a simple, easy-to-use platform that can be seamlessly integrated with any payroll system. When we onboard a new client, we spend a considerable amount of time to understand the culture of the organization, and how can we best support them with our solution. The PTO Exchange platform is customized likewise to suit the requirements of a company. For example, if your firm has a large fraction of baby boomers, your employees might be more interested in spending their PTO on their 401(k) plan. If you are a millennial-dominant company, your employees might be keener on using their PTO to pay debts, loans, and credit card bills. You can turn off specific modules within the platform as per the needs.
Alongside, we also have a robust policy engine that helps a company set policies to foster a particular behavior. For instance, one of our clients wants to ensure that their employees take time away to disengage from work and always have a minimum set of hours for emergencies. So, we set the parameters in the policy engine to ensure that the company’s employees are taking two weeks of PTO for vacation and keeping a minimum prior to them utilizing any unused PTO within the exchange.
Once the platform is implemented, the training is straightforward. Most often, we provide online training and also prepare customized learning videos for a company to train its future employees.
Are there specific industries that your solution caters to?
PTO Exchange is industry-agnostic. Anybody offering PTO to their employees can leverage our platform. On a broad scale, we have customers from industries like health and insurance, retail, financial institutions, and the scientific research realm. We are starting to extend our offering to the public sector as well. Simultaneously, we are also partnering with various HR companies to provide our solution to their clients.
Could you share a client success story with us?
A company had reached out to us to help their employees when hurricane Harvey had hit the coasts of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico—where the company’s support centers were situated. To help the employees of the company, the CEO and the employees used PTO Exchange to share their PTO. The CEO himself shared six weeks of his PTO. Since the pay rate of the CEO was much greater than those in need at the support centers, the CEO’s six weeks’ worth of PTO helped a large number of those employees. In fact, the CEO mentioned that the platform helped the company redefine their culture, and the CEO earned a great deal of trust and respect from his colleagues.
What are PTO Exchange’s future endeavors?
We believe benefits should be portable, so we are also looking at the gig economy. Presently, we are investing a considerable amount of time and effort in developing a solution for the gig economy through our sister company, Portable Benefits. Through these solutions, we aim to strike an impactful difference in providing better PTO benefits to employers as well as employees, both W-2 and 1099.