Go Big: Scaling Up the Income Advance Program

November 7, 2019 at 12:46pm

Rhino Foods’ Income Advance Program was developed in response to regular employee requests for “loans.” While payroll advances addressed the immediate need, it did nothing to address the root problem and was difficult to administer in a fair and consistent way. Rhino was dedicated to finding a solution. In partnership with North Country Federal Credit Union, we now guarantee same day access to $1,000 for emergency or unplanned needs. The advance is repaid through weekly payroll deductions.

Since 2007, Rhino has shared our Income Advance program in many ways, from casual conversation with other businesses to national press. Employee feedback and hard data give us confidence about our approach, so we’ve created a plug and play toolkit to help other businesses like us implement Income Advance in their own organizations.

We know that we can’t stop there. We recently launched the Rhino Foods Foundation to spread innovative workplace practices that champion employee financial stability and make good business sense. This year, the foundation partnered with Talent Rewire, the philanthropic arm of FSG and an organization that brings together a community of employers piloting innovative talent practices anchored in shared value. The employer community includes many well-known companies like Patagonia, Nordstrom, Gap Inc., Best Buy and McDonald’s.

Rhino Foods' Production

Talent Rewire’s year-long Innovation Lab helped us to build capacity, develop a pilot program, measure ROI, receive strategic support, and gain feedback from a community of others in the lab. Our multi-organization team worked to develop a model for large, multi-location businesses to implement Income Advance in partnership with a fintech solution.

Together, our work created turnkey Income Advance solutions for two types of businesses: those with one location and a local financial institution partner (similar to Rhino), and those who have larger, more complex employee bases and need a scalable financial partner.

Sharing the Program with Other Organizations

When a large, US-based clothing manufacturing company learned about the Income Advance program, they were interested in implementing the program for their 2,000 employees across multiple locations. This challenge was the perfect pilot for us to bring to the Lab for collaboration, creating a solution that will work for not only this company, but other companies that have similar organizational structures.

How We’re Partnering: A Blueprint for Piloting a New Workplace Program

The February 2019 kick-off in New Orleans was fertile ground for us to define the problem and apply systems and design thinking to assess barriers and opportunities. Six team members representing several organizations spent three days in deep discussion to lay the groundwork for a successful pilot. Over those three days, we:

Investigated the current system, asking ourselves:

  • What conditions are currently in place at this organization that supports offering Income Advance?
  • How will the systems in place need to remain the same or change to make this successful?

Created a business value statement:

  • Who and how will employees within the organization benefit?
  • Will retention improve? Will 401K loan applications go down? What other metrics will be impacted with the implementation of Income Advance? How will these metrics drive positive employee experience and business outcomes?
  • How will a non-brick-and-mortar fintech partner be similar or different than a local financial institution?

Engaged in empathy conversations:

We wanted to learn from people with lived experience regarding barriers to access. During these conversations, the team used the Appreciative Inquiry approach to understand how a benefit focused on financial stability would be perceived by employees.

Conversations helped uncover potential themes for how the clothing manufacturer’s employees might approach Income Advance and how the team could proactively think about providing information, structure communication, and invite dialogue.   

Developed next steps for pilot launch: 

After digging in to understand the problem, address barriers and identify impact, the team began to get tactical in how they would return to HQ and get this program rolling.

Throughout the process, the Rhino team helped to ground next steps in our learning and proven best practices (e.g. starting with needs of your employees and the case for a small rollout).

A team from Salary Finance, an organization that partners with companies to offer financial services to employees, was part of every conversation given that setting up the financial institution relationship is a critical gate in launching an Income Advance program. Rhino Foods had already made the case for why credit unions see this as a win-win investment, but what about fintechs? When your company has one location you can build a relationship with a local credit union. What needs to happen when a company is national and needs to use a fintech banking solution? As part of the pilot, Salary Finance worked with the clothing manufacturer and Rhino to develop a model for large employers to offer Income Advance using Salary Finance’s mobile app.

Pilot Implementation

The next step was to move forward with the pilot implementation—from the logistics of setting up information flow between internal systems and the mobile app, to working on the “how” of employee buy-in — with weekly contact between the clothing manufacturer, Salary Finance, Rhino, and the FSG Talent Rewire team.

Now, the team is poised for an early 2020 launch of Income Advance that reflects shared learnings and creative solutions for a new structure.

Why We’re Doing This

As we learn and tweak throughout the pilot process, the goal remains the same: scale Income Advance in a way that creates lasting impact as we’ve seen it do here at Rhino Foods. And as always, capture learnings, key processes and ROI to share with other companies as we continue to grow the movement to support employees and businesses.

Interested in Learning More About Income Advance?


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