Sabina Bhatia
Chief Customer Officer Payactiv

Sabina Bhatia as the Chief Customer Officer is an ambassador for the voice of Payactiv clients and their employees. Her tenure spans from the early days of Payactiv when the company had less than a hundred clients to now reaching thousands. She has worked in multiple areas of the company and she has been instrumental in the evolution of Payactiv as the industry leader in Holistic Financial Wellness.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Sabina Bhatia from Payactiv about sustaining the livelihood of the hourly worker.

Some Conversation Highlights:

For paycheck-to-paycheck to predatory loans and things like that. What’s your take on how we’ve tried to solve this in the past that’s kind of failed?

This is what we are seeing today, and it’s the whole idea behind the hourly worker and the essential worker. The definition has changed during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, or even during the pandemic, essential worker was your healthcare, hospital, senior living. But then during the pandemic we realized, right, that any worker who had to leave their home and was helping us run the economy, it could be your package handler from Amazon or FedEx or the grocery store cashier, all of them were running our economy. So the essential worker really became that 70 million Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, but also making a huge contribution in helping us build the economy. And that is the employee base that we are serving. And that is the employee base our businesses are coming to us and trying to find innovative solutions to help that base.

An hourly worker comes in, in the morning, they clock in, they work whatever six, seven hours and they clock out. William, do they get paid that day? No, they do not. They have to wait for two weeks, sometimes three weeks, if they’re a new employee and the payroll runs in arrears to get their first paycheck. Now, this person is making 14, $15 an hour, and that is gross. They cannot wait to get paid. Now what has happened in the past, and it still is happening is, when they don’t have access to that liquidity that they have already earned, but it is unpaid, they’re paying overdraft fees, they’re going to pay their loans being six, 700, 800% APR to get a hundred, $200 to get by for the week for two weeks.

 


 

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Listening time: 26 minutes

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Music:   This is RecruitingDaily’s recruiting live podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup:   Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to RecruitingDaily podcast. Today, we have Sabina on from Payactiv, and we’ll be talking about sustainability of the livelihood of the hourly worker. So a wonderful topic. And I can’t wait to learn about Sabina and Payactiv and just kind of get into this topic. So let’s jump right in. Sabina, would you do us a favor and introduce both your and Payactiv?

Sabina Bhatia:   Thank you so much, William, for having me. What a great platform for us to spread the word about what we are trying to do, our mission and our end goal. My name is Sabina Bhatia. I am the Chief Customer Officer at Payactiv. Let me tell you a little bit about Payactiv. Payactiv was invented, the whole idea around earn wage access, also known as EWA, you’ll hear that a lot, was invented by our CEO, Safwan Shah and launched over a decade ago. The purpose of Payactiv was really to improve the financial stability and livelihood of the paycheck-to-paycheck hourly worker. So, that is the end goal. But there are many pieces of that that come together to make it a holistic mission, I would say. William, it’s not just what we do, but it’s how we do that is important. But I hope that just a few one-liners are helpful to start our conversation.

William Tincup:   Hundred percent. Paycheck-to-paycheck, this isn’t all. I think a lot of folks think that they’re above it and they’re not. And you see a lot of, I guess, what people have historically seen as predatory loans and things like that. What’s your take on kind of how society, how we’ve tried to solve this in the past that’s kind of failed?

Sabina Bhatia:   So, great question. This is what we are seeing today, and it’s the whole idea behind the hourly worker and the essential worker. The definition has changed during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, or even during the pandemic, essential worker was your healthcare, hospital, senior living. But then during the pandemic we realized, right, that any worker who had to leave their home and was helping us run the economy, it could be your package handler from Amazon or FedEx or the grocery store cashier, all of them were running our economy. So the essential worker really became that 70 million Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, but also making a huge contribution in helping us build the economy. And that is the employee base that we are serving. And that is the employee base our businesses are coming to us and trying to find innovative solutions to help that base.

I love to talk about what we are doing, but based on numbers and stories. So, let me just show you a use case.

William Tincup:   Sure.

Sabina Bhatia:   An hourly worker comes in, in the morning, they clock in, they work whatever six, seven hours and they clock out. William, do they get paid that day? No, they do not. They have to wait for two weeks, sometimes three weeks, if they’re a new employee and the payroll runs in arrears to get their first paycheck. Now, this person is making 14, $15 an hour, and that is gross. They cannot wait to get paid. Now what has happened in the past, and it still is happening is, when they don’t have access to that liquidity that they have already earned, but it is unpaid, they’re paying overdraft fees, they’re going to pay their loans being six, 700, 800% APR to get a hundred, $200 to get by for the week for two weeks.

I mean, think about this, this employee is stressed out, is constantly thinking about, how am I going to pay this bill? I hope I don’t get evicted. I hope my utilities don’t shut off. An employer, having an employee like that in their headquarters, in their stores, catering to their clients like you and me, right, it’s a very disengaged worker. So we are here to serve that employee base.

So now, what is the solution we are proposing? Solution is, give them access to their earned, but unpaid wages. So today through Payactiv, it is a zero cost benefit to the employer, but the employee, they can access 50, 60, 70% of their earned but unpaid wages between pay periods, as long as it is earned, hours are completed and they can just take care of their business and not have to think about money while at a checkout counter or dropping my package or at a hotel taking care of my baggage. They are not disengaged. Financial needs, the basic needs, at least are taken care of. So this is the difference that we are seeing. And we’ll get into the conversations as to what’s really happening at the employer base and why this is such a popular benefit, but I hope that was helpful.

William Tincup:   Oh, it’s super helpful. One of the worries with paying, again, kind of, I think, as Uber driver and Lyft drivers, at the end of your shift or at the end of your ride, you can tab out, moving that into both the hourly worker, but also the professional worker. I think economists at least have voiced a fear that exacerbates the problem. I mean, in the sense of these are folks that don’t save and are already struggling. If they have access to the money that they’ve earned, which is to your point earlier, they’ve earned it, they should be able to have access to it, will they actually spend it on their bills or will they spend it elsewhere? And will it create more problems?

And it’s an interesting argument, but it’s still an argument that basically says, no, the business is going to hold your money because you don’t know how to spend your money. It’s a parental relationship, all right? But it is. And I know you’ve heard this from folks, that it’s like, well, this is all great, but what if we give them the money and they waste it, then what? Will they come back and will we have created more problems than we were trying to resolve?

Sabina Bhatia:   So talking about numbers, right? So we run plenty of surveys with two million plus users on our platform, that, what are you using your money for? Okay? So, let’s just hear it from them. What they’re really using it for is just your basic necessities. The livelihood needs, right, food, fuel, auto, shelter. That’s what they’re really using their money for. Right? It’s not like they’re going on vacations. Listen, they can’t go on a vacation because when they go on a vacation, they don’t get paid for those hours. It’s not like you and me, right? I can take three weeks vacation, I’m a salaried employee. I can still get paid.

But for them earning those 12, $13, what they are doing is, first thing, the livelihood needs are being met. And once you meet that, think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right, once you meet the livelihood needs, once you meet the livelihood wants, that’s really, when you get into that financial wellness, okay, love and belonging. I now have self-esteem, I have confidence, I have achievement. I can work towards those things and actually create a financial wellness mindset for yourself. That’s when morality, creativity, acceptance, and community, you’re a healthier person. But it’s the livelihood needs that people are taking care of.

And it’s not just users, William, we actually have a lot of support from 2000 plus customers who are saying that, listen, the pandemic has changed things for us. We can’t think like that anymore. We want to take care of our people. The whole concept of human resources, right? Seriously, if human resources says, Hey, Sabina, do you want to step into my office and let’s have a conversation. The first thing is, oh my God, did I do something wrong? But no, that’s not what it’s about. Human resources is actually a source of resource for humans. And so, during the pandemic, what has happened and employers recognized, is that once again, survey results, 95%, William, that’s a big number, okay, 95% of hourly workers are interested in working for an employer who provides earn wage access.

In fact, close to 80% are willing to switch to an employer who offers earn wage access. So, history says an hourly worker and the employer has a very transactional relationship. Meaning, this is your skillset, this is what you’re going to fulfill on a daily basis and I’m going to pay you an hourly wage for it. Okay? It’s a different community from your salaried employee base. It’s not working like that anymore. Our really workers are saying, I want a benefit that is aligned with the rest of the organization. And employers are saying, you are the employee base that is closest to my customer. Right? Every time I walk into a grocery store and a cashier wraps up my grocery and I run my card and I leave, that person is talking to me. The employer does not want that person to be disengaged. Right? So employers are actually very supportive. So, that whole paternalism and what they’re using their money for, we are way beyond that, William.

William Tincup:   I love that. And I’m glad. First of all, yes. Take us into kind of the world of hourly workers today because there’s a perception years ago that hourly workers are essentially, kids getting out of high school, kids in college, those early stage career was basically the hourly market, most of the hourly market. And that is obviously not the hourly market of today. It’s totally transitioned, especially with the gig economy and people wanting to work differently. And this is pre COVID and during COVID, right? People just wanted to work differently. I mean, I have a dear friend of mine that has six different gigs and he works when he wants to work, and he doesn’t work, and he has benefits through a company and life is good. There’s a week where he just doesn’t want to work. He doesn’t turn on any of his apps, doesn’t work.

And he chooses that. He’s in his forties and he chooses that. If I would’ve said that to somebody 10 years ago, they would’ve looked at me like I was crazy, but that’s more and more people are kind of choosing the way they work. What are you seeing with all your customers? What are you seeing kind of the hourly mix? What do the hourly workers look like these days?

Sabina Bhatia:   So there are roughly 1.2 billion, nearly a third of the global workforce that are freelancers.

William Tincup:   Mm.

Sabina Bhatia:   Right? And we have about 70 million Americans hourly workers living paycheck-to-paycheck.

William Tincup:   Right

Sabina Bhatia:   Now, what is interesting is that this employee base, they want their pay faster and outcome based. You yourself used the example of Uber, right? I’ve finished this drive, I finished my day’s work I want my money. Right? So that instant gratification is becoming very, very important because of this employee base. So you have to cater to that employee base, right? You can’t have them waiting for two weeks. It’s just not going to work. Right? You’re going to keep losing employees. Most employers that we work with, their turnover’s 80, 90%. Because of the pandemic, turnover is one issue employers are telling us that I can’t even hire people. So, that is my bigger problem.

So once again, it just keeps going back to, if you’ve earned it and you need it, you should be able to access it. And this economy has taught us that they really want a benefit that is catered to them. In addition to that, you have the hourly workers that are living paycheck-to-paycheck, William, that are also unbanked and underbanked.

William Tincup:   Right.

Sabina Bhatia:   So if you are unbanked and underbanked, I can’t pay bills online through my checking account because I don’t have enough money there. Right? I don’t have liquidity going into my checking account, so I have overdraft fees. Right? So they are struggling to make any progress with savings for the future. So once again, comes that innovative, flexible benefit that you have to provide these employees.

William Tincup:   I love that. I love that. What industries are you seeing kind of where this traction the most is, again, I don’t want to lead you in any direction, but is there any one industry that’s just really taking this and being really innovative with it?

Sabina Bhatia:   Well, you are taking me to a direction to tell you that when we started Payactiv, we said that we are going to serve every individual, right, irrespective of the size of the company or the industry. Irrespective, right? Once again, if you’ve earned it, you need it, you should be able to access it. So we do serve industries across the board. I would say the top industries that are hurting the most today are retail, your BPOs, your call centers and healthcare, right? Healthcare is just going to be an issue in the long run. And one, because of the pandemic, but also because they have a large population of hourly workers that have a very relevant role, like caregivers. Right? A caregiver who’s taking care of my 90 year old grandma, I don’t want too many different caregivers to take care of her.

So I want that caregiver to be happy with the employer. Right? So that relationship between the caregiver and the client is very, very important. Same thing with hospitals, hospitals can’t afford it today to lose employees, right? Now you have Omicron, how are you going to cater to those things? You also have a lot of people who didn’t take care of regular healthcare because of the pandemic. You have to serve them too. So I would say healthcare is big out there, senior living, retail is obviously big out there and logistics, the package handlers, the warehouse facilities, they are hurting a lot. So we are definitely out there helping them out.

William Tincup:   So let’s talk a little bit about the retention of the hourly worker and see, obviously this could be a retention strategy to help them not live paycheck-to-paycheck, but I wanted to get kind of your take on the kind of the great resignation and kind of what you see in retention of hourly workers and people just opting not to work in certain hourly jobs, for whatever reason. What are those intersection points that you see with your customers?

Sabina Bhatia:   It goes back to the numbers that I had mentioned. Yes, the great resignation story and demanding flexible wage access and looking for new jobs, has created a very high demand for an innovative benefit that is inclusive. Right? So, the 95% number I gave you, the workers that are interested in looking for an employer who provides EWA cannot be ignored. Now, retention, we have done a lot of studies on the impact that a benefit like this and our benefit mixed with the employer base and results are 89% would be willing to work for a longer period of time for an employer who offers EWA. We’ve seen an impact of 30, 35 to 40% on retention of hourly workers when an employer offers earn wage access and the Payactiv benefit to their employee base. So the impact is huge.

William Tincup:   Oh, I love that.

Sabina Bhatia:   And it can be quantified across the board. Doesn’t matter industry size.

William Tincup:   Where do you see hourly workers this year? Where do you see the trends with [inaudible 00:   20:   07] because we’re talking about sustaining the livelihoods. What else do they need, if we were creating magic wand and we could do what we needed to do with hourly workers to get them to a better place, what would that be for this year?

Sabina Bhatia:   So, we talked about the gig workers. We talked about the hourly workers. We talked about the essential workers, right? You have to provide them a all encompassing platform. We actually call it the livelihood platform. It has to be a platform that takes care of what they need for survival, but you also have to provide them a platform that allows them to sustain. So you have to have the long term goals attached to your platform, just an instant gratification, taking care of a short term need is not enough. So EWA does fulfill the basic needs, but our platform is really an all in one digital wallet platform. So, we have a whole marketplace of discounts. Now, don’t look at discounts as discounts, think about it as savings. An employee today can go into our app and get savings for prescription discounts.

You know how expensive prescriptions are and how many hourly workers actually have an insurance program that supports the kind of prescriptions they need? Right? How many of can actually afford to take an Uber ride, right? Or let’s say, go grab a movie, right, go and see a movie. They can get discounts on all those things on our platform. But here is a very important thing. We built a platform where it has three stories attached. It is the live, which is your earn wage access, right? Just own your day.

William Tincup:   Right.

Sabina Bhatia:   Grow. Once you’ve taken care of your basic needs, we have a savings and a budgeting tool, goal based savings. What are your goals? For what you want to see? You can do that on our platform.

Now, third thing is called connect. So live, grow and connect. Connect has become so essential for the employer as a tool to communicate with their hourly workers. Employers tell us that, my hourly workers are all over the place. I don’t know how to connect with them. I can’t send them a newsletter on email. Right? So our connect platform supports that for company announcements to pick up shifts, send them reminders, send them alerts. If there’s a hurricane coming, what do you need to do to take care of emergencies? Things like that. So we built that platform to create a benefit that is a digital wallet, and really serves the long term purpose of the hourly worker. And that is what they are looking for, William.

William Tincup:   I love that. You’d mentioned the unbanked earlier. How much of that 70 million is unbanked? Just, if you don’t know the precise number, just your take on it.

Sabina Bhatia:   I would say, think about the unbanked or underbanked who either have a bank account that doesn’t service them hundred percent. So no bill pay, you can’t get a check. If you get an overdraft, right, William, you and I can call in and get that excuse. It’s not going to be excused for them, right? Now, your 70 million Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, there is a high percentage that’s dealing with those struggles on a day to day basis. So in a year, they end up paying about $1500 in just these kind of fees.

William Tincup:   Right. Penalties, yeah.

Sabina Bhatia:   Yes. And that is your unbanked and underbanked.

William Tincup:   Wow. That’s incredible. So let’s kind of wrap up with the things that you see for the rest of the year for Payactiv. So, let’s just kind of go into the world because it’s February. We got the rest of the year to kind of think about, where do you see this going if COVID ends and we go back to normal-ish, what does that look like for Payactiv and it’s customers?

Sabina Bhatia:   So normal-ish.

William Tincup:   Yeah. Normal-ish

Sabina Bhatia:   Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, we are building that platform that I discussed, using Maslow’s hierarchy index. Right?

William Tincup:   Right.

Sabina Bhatia:   As to how it works. Short term solutions cannot be your only goal in your path to success. It just cannot be. You have to provide a long term growth. And it’s not just providing that perfect benefit. It’s not just what you’re doing, but how you do it is very, very important. So, Payactiv is the only certified B Corp in this industry holding us to a higher standard of social responsibility. And what that really means, William, is for us, purpose and profit are equally important. We are going to make a quantifiable impact on communities, on users and the employer base.

You cannot not just have a platform that helps the hourly worker to survive. It has to help them sustain their life and really live the life you’ve earned. You’ve helped us build this economy. You’ve got to participate in the progress of this economy. And that is where our head is. We are building the platform, we are growing the platform and the traction from employers is escalated because that is what they want. They want financial wellness for their people, not be a short term solution.

William Tincup:   I love it. As you said, it’s survive and thrive. We got to get them over to survive because they’re struggling just to go from paycheck-to-paycheck just to survive. That’s the Maslow hierarchy of needs. Now, if we can move them from survival to thriving that helps everybody. It helps hourly workers, but it helps our economy, it helps everybody. So Sabina, thank you so much for coming on the RecruitingDaily podcast. This has been wonderful.

Sabina Bhatia:   Thank you so much, William.

William Tincup:   Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.

Music:   You’ve been listening to the recruiting live podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles, and news at recruitingdaily.com.

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William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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