Four years ago, three friends started a small business detailing cars to make some money while they attended school.

Soon, Vivint hired the three to detail cars for employees at a discounted price as an employee “perk,” and companies like Qualtrics, doTerra, Instructure and more followed suit.

“It was really flexible around school and we were making good money from it. But we’re always looking for bigger and better, and we got kind of sick of being out in the sun or in the snow,” Trevor Larson, one of the three friends, said.

As Larson and his friends, Jackson Horn and Andrew Hollis, worked with more and more HR professionals, they began to see a trend.

“HR people have the best intentions to give the employee an amazing experience,” Larson said. “But they get so impeded by administrative tasks that they can rarely ever get to the things that they want to make an impact ... they don’t have the tools or resources to get to recognition and perks and different things in those areas.”

Horn said they continued to ask HR professionals what they could do for them around work-culture related things, leading them to look beyond on-site services like car detailing to see how some companies would leverage their company size to get discounts from local places.

“We thought, if these companies are able to do this, what if we were able to do that even better?” Horn said.

Together, Horn said, the friends thought they could build a network of companies and be the ones to reach out to restaurants, hotels and the like to get steep discounts, which they could then package for HR professionals.

“We’ll be kind of the extension for the HR team,” Horn said.

Under the company name “PerkNow,” with Larson, Horn and Hollis all serving as co-founders, the new software company grew slowly, until they landed “anchor” accounts with companies like doTerra.

“It just kind of grew organically from there,” Horn said. “And it led us to keep asking the question, well, what other culture and cultural initiatives can we help HR out with?”

Another problem PerkNow saw within companies was the desire to reward employees with things like gift cards — but employers were often stuck getting gift cards at the last minute, and employees ended up with rewards they didn’t really want. With the help of developers, PerkNow developed a system to automate employee rewards, reducing the workload for administrators and enhancing the employee experiences.

Through PerkNow, companies can also give individual employees such as managers the ability to recognize their team or other employees with a “monthly budget” that the manager can award. Through the software platform created by hired developers — none of the co-founders had prior tech experience — the employee receiving the email receives the reward, and then they can choose whatever gift card they want, which is then downloaded onto their phone.

This month, PerkNow decided to rebrand as “Nectar,” letting companies know they’ve sweetened the pot with two more features to their software: employee voice and peer recognition.

“As we’ve expanded into other areas within HR, and within company culture, (we’ve been) very pigeonholed with (PerkNow),” Larson said. “Instead of being stuck in this one pillar of what we do ... we felt the rebrand is necessary now rather than later.”

The name is symbolic, Larson said, springing from the idea that bees are the “epitome of good organization.”

“It’s the idea that bees, they go out and they have to collect nectar individually, and then they bring it back in. Nectar is actually the building block of honey,” Larson said. “So it’s kind of the same concept of, if you ... bring out software into your company, we can help create a sweet culture.”

Helping employees feel heard is one of the keys to creating a sweet company culture, according to Larson, Horn and Hollis. Through their software platform Nectar, HR administrators can send out “pulse” surveys more frequently with just a handful of questions, such as three to four questions every couple of weeks or every month.

“That way, you’re getting real time feedback from employees, so that you can constantly be innovating and improving,” Larson said.

Based on research by Nectar, the software platform has a number of top questions to ask employees that can be sent out in a campaign in less than a minute, and can be scheduled in advance. Through Nectar, employers can view their “employee engagement score” and see trends over time, enabling companies to better address areas in need of improvement.

In addition to shorter, more frequent surveys, Nectar has a mechanism for employee feedback that involves a two-way anonymous chat.

“Let’s say an employee leaves open-ended feedback like a comment in the survey. HR can go in (there) and they now have an inbox to see what people are saying and they can respond back. It opens a chat that’s two way and fully anonymous,” Larson said. “So internally they can resolve things versus employees going (somewhere else) because they have no internal channel to voice their feedback or their suggestions.”

The ability for employees to feel heard, Horn said, is the most valuable part of the employee voice aspect of Nectar.

“It’s cool to see employees being able to ... contribute and HR can respond and really build this culture of transparency within the company,” Horn said. “We find the most value in allowing employees to feel like they have a voice.”

The other relatively new addition to the platform is a peer recognition component — expanding employee recognition beyond leadership or management to employees.

“Instead of doing top down recognition ... the company puts together a budget to allow all employees to get a certain monthly allowance that they give to each other,” Larson said.

The idea, Larson explained, is employees can attach whatever the recognition is — complimenting a co-worker on their hard work or leadership and so on — with a point award.

The points employees have in their budget don’t accrue over time and can’t be used for themselves, encouraging employees to recognize their co-workers every month. When one employee recognizes another, it shows up in an internal recognition feed for the whole company to see.

Once employees accrue points, they can pick a reward like a gift card, or company swag.

“All that is built in to create this cadence or frequency around people recognizing each other for positive behaviors,” Larson said.

Having all of these things in one place, according to the founders, is one of the things that makes Nectar unique. Instead of companies need to use multiple platforms for perks or employee engagement, they can just use Nectar. And, the core product is free. The company continues to make a profit thanks to commissions from perks used and gift cards redeemed.

“Our goal and our mission with this is, these (kinds of) tools are so cost prohibitive currently, that we want to open it up and get to as many companies and as many employees as possible,” Larson said. “It’s almost like democratizing recognition and employee feedback.”

Horn clarified there is still a paid version of everything, but companies can use the core product for free as long as they want.

“We wanted to make the employee experience better and we feel like this is the best and easiest way,” Horn said. “The fat that we’re getting money from the gift cards on the back end ... makes it so more people can get better rewards, and (helps) us fulfill our mission from the beginning to just help employees.”

Check out the platform by visiting http://nectarhr.com.

“(We want to) get this into as many hands as possible,” Larson said.

Carley Porter covers northern Utah County and business for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at cporter@heraldextra.com.

Carley Porter covers northern Utah County and business for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at cporter@heraldextra.com.

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