People Spotlight – Meet Senior Account Manager, James Hickling
It’s all about the people. That’s our ethos. Why? Because the people that make up any company are important. So, what about our people? Who are the names and faces behind our brand and values that make us peoplevalue?
To give you greater insight into who we are, we thought we’d shift the focus onto our own people for a special blog series that uncovers the people of peoplevalue. Introducing our first People Spotlight…
James Hickling, Senior Account Manager
James Hickling is our Senior Account Manager. With a strong background in field marketing and communications, James has held a number of key roles over the years, from customer services, operations and logistics through to client and account management.
Having been a valuable part of our team for 4 and a half years now, James has a great deal of experience in coordinating and managing our employee engagement solutions. Since he’s been with us, he’s helped to co-ordinate the implementation of over 25 different schemes, both ereward and advantage. Day-to-day, James manages over 20 of our clients from a range of different sectors including automotive, legal, security, power and energy.
But, when he’s not doing that, he’s either playing or watching football, frequenting the nearest pool table or spending time with family and friends.
What are your main responsibilities as an Account Manager at peoplevalue?
“For a start, the main focus is to try and guarantee the smooth and successful operational delivery for all of my clients’ schemes. It’s absolutely key for myself and all Account Managers to understand our clients’ needs, their goals and objectives and what they’re trying to achieve from an employee engagement perspective. Once we know what they want to deliver to their workforce and understand some of the challenges that they are up against, we can then really align our solution accordingly, to ensure they can meet those objectives.
Another really important aspect of my role involves taking a very proactive and diligent approach to communicating with my clients as regularly as they require to make sure that together we are constantly reviewing and delivering upon actions in order to add as much extra value as we can.
It really is all about having a fun, strong and cohesive working relationship with all of my client contacts so that I can help them get the very best out of our solutions.”
When you first meet a client, what are your key objectives?
“Usually we are given a very helpful client handover from our sales team, prior to our first meeting or call. This covers key contact information, their roles and responsibilities, any previous employee benefits or reward and recognition activities that we know of, what their current needs and objectives are, and, significantly, when they want to launch their new scheme.
From there, it’s my job to discuss these areas in greater detail with the client, as well as get a personal understanding of the structure, work force demographic and geographical spread of their business. Further to that, one of the key areas of focus is to gain knowledge of the client’s internal comms channels, what avenues we have available to us, what works, what doesn’t and how we can create a buzz around the new scheme.
Another aim is to understand the different roles and responsibilities within the business from an HR, IT, comms and branding perspective, as these will all affect the decision-making process when implementing certain aspects of the scheme.
It’s also crucial to keep front of mind what their launch aims and expectations are moving forward, in order to create a timeline and project plan very early on so that everyone is working from the same page.”
What happens pre-launch?
“We have a standardised process for all of our clients to ensure that all key activities are completed in a structured and timely fashion ahead of the launch. But, as with all of our solutions, this procedure is flexible and can be tailored to the client’s needs and time-frames too. No matter how the pre-launch process pans out, at all stages we work closely with the client to ensure that their scheme is seamlessly integrated into their business.
To provide a bit more detail, we use a really dynamic online task management tool to build a project task for each client that is in the pre-launch phase. Essentially, this is a huge shopping list of actions – on average I’d say there can be between 60-90 actions for a client launch, that then need to be carried out and completed before it goes live. The great thing about this tool is that it gives a very quick and simple overview of the project at any point in time. This makes it really easy to keep track of progress and of who has what.
Before that though, I will also create my own checklist to set the agenda for the introductory meeting. For example, we need to establish a scheme name, we need to receive branding assets, colour references, logos and understand the client’s brand guidelines. All of this forms how we will personalise the approach to building their scheme.
Having this checklist in place ensures that I capture all of the information and detail needed that allows our in-house design, content and operations team to start work on building the scheme as soon as possible.”
How often do you keep in contact with your clients?
“At a minimum, I like to try and have monthly calls with all of my clients, even if it’s just to check in, see how they are and ask whether there is anything they need or would like us to start working towards. In terms of face-to-face meetings, they’re held on a quarterly basis. Regardless of whether the client is using ereward or advantage, the level of contact should be uniform.
When a client is implementing a scheme, they need an extra level of support so I will arrange either weekly or bi-weekly calls right up until the launch, so that we both know everything is running smoothly and to plan.
Ahead of all client calls or meetings it’s important to make sure that there’s a purposeful agenda to work through. Off the back of a good agenda it’s then a simple process of generating minutes, creating actions and agreeing on follow-up dates for those actions with the client to ensure working efficiency and scheme progression.”
Why is Management Information (MI) important?
“Our MI provides clients with an efficient snapshot to give them an immediate view of how their scheme is performing. Typically, it’ll show scheme uptake and usage over time – which features of their solution are proving most popular amongst employees and which areas of the business are adopting the scheme well. In addition to this, it also can show certain areas of the business where the scheme isn’t being utilised quite as well, and that data can form the basis for decision making of how we can work together to change that through communications and promotions.”
What do you think makes a successful scheme?
“Firstly, I would say good communications, ease of access and simplicity are the key enablers to a successful scheme. Without these three things in place, barriers can easily form that lead to employees not knowing about the scheme, not knowing how to access it, or worse, not wanting to access or participate. It really is so important for a business to utilise as broader range of communications channels as possible to ensure that a positive and clear message is pumped out there to the workforce to ensure that employee awareness is high.
Secondly, it’s all about having a good working partnership with the client. There needs to be trust and pro-activeness from both sides, as well as the constant challenge and wish to improve the scheme from both a content and uptake perspective in any way possible. Working to the above conditions really can make all the difference in a business to running a successful scheme. It’s all about the people and that starts with us.
Finally, I would say it can all ultimately boil down to scheme features and functionality. Above anything the content needs to be appealing and relevant to the employee population. If it can also be easy to use and rewarding at the same time, particularly in relation to employee recognition, then employees will want to use it.
If the client can work with us to achieve the above, from my experience we would be on track to delivering a successful scheme for them.”
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