How the next generation is changing the workforce – an interview with Josh Vernon

In a few of my interviews last year, the changing relationship between employers and their staff was a recurring theme. While technology is driving big changes in the way things are done, it’s also having an indirect (and sometimes direct) impact on the expectations of employees. More and more we’re seeing the rewards businesses can reap for focusing on the well-being of their staff.

In light of that, I want to share a recent conversation with Josh Vernon. Not only is he an example of how the next generation are blazing their own working path, he’s also created a business that enables other businesses to help their staff improve their financial situation. Josh is 22 and his insights into the modern working world are inspiring.

Where do you work and what does the company do?

My co-founders and I started Earnd about two years ago – in short, we’re a technology company with a mission to support employee financial wellbeing. We have an absolutely incredible team in place and I’m extremely privileged for the opportunity to work with them all.

The idea for Earnd came as a result of an experience I had while I was in uni. A friend got into a pretty poor financial situation and had to resort to using a payday lender. He took out multiple loans and as a result found it almost impossible to recover financially.

From this we recognised a powerful opportunity help people manage their cash flow by providing flexible access to the income they’ve already earned. This helps shift some of the cash flow management burden off employees and prevents them having to go to predatory credit providers to make ends meet.

So Earnd partners with employers to give their employees the freedom – or the right – to access the income they’ve earned or accrued at any given point during the pay period. We also offer support to help employees build their savings and learn positive financial behaviours.

What were you doing before Earnd?

I don’t have a huge work history. Prior to Earnd, I was at university, a year into my degree. I was studying mechatronics and working part-time at a local VC, Our Innovation Fund, where I met my co-founder, Serge Kotlyarov. We came across the idea and fell in love with it. I thought the opportunity to leave uni and give this a shot was a pretty compelling one.

Why did you think it was so important to leave uni and start a business like this straight away?

In Australia, there’s a pervasive issue surrounding financial stress that often goes overlooked. 1 in 2 Aussies live paycheck-to-paycheck and 1 in 3 can’t access $500 in an emergency.

It’s an issue that seeps into the workplace in a significant way and no solution adequately helps employers solve the challenges their employees face managing their finances.

I’ve always been passionate about technology and finance. Because there’s an intersection of those two things and a social impact, for me this business is like nirvana. It’s a passion for me as much as a job.

In Australia, there’s a pervasive issue surrounding financial stress that often goes overlooked. 1 in 2 Aussies live paycheck-to-paycheck and 1 in 3 can’t access $500 in an emergency.

Has there been pushback from employers who don’t feel they should do this type of thing?

Absolutely. It was a struggle at the start and still sometimes is from a perception point of view. Often when I chat to businesses about it, their initial reaction is they don’t want to get involved in the finances of their employees and they don’t want to be lending credit. But once they understand the challenges their people face and the impact they can have by supporting their staff financially, this changes very quickly.

It’s an interesting initial perception, because there’s a clear and growing trend of the personal lives of employees being further and further entwined with their work lives. If 1 in 2 Aussies live paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s safe to assume for the large majority of these people their only financial support is coming from their employer. So to say you don’t want to get involved in your team’s financial lives can be ignorant of the fact that in many cases you’re the sole contributor to their financial lives. That’s part of the reason we believe employers have a responsibility to step in and do something and we’re working with those who are deeply aligned on that.

And what value can businesses gain by taking an interest in the financial lives of their staff?

Not only is it the right thing to do for staff, there’s also a genuine business and financial case to be made that if you can look after your staff’s financial wellbeing you’ll get better returns from a business perspective in the form of reduced attrition, increased productivity and better morale.

In Australia, AMP did a study that showed that the average employee who is under financial stress loses about 46 hours of productivity every single year. When you look at that across the entire Australian workforce it works out to cost our employers and economy approximately $31 billion a year.

Financial stress is the number one concern employees face and that’s an unfortunate fact that is confirmed by research paper after research paper. If you can help to solve the single biggest challenge of an employee’s life and reduce that stress it can go a long way to supporting the bottom line of your business as well.

How do you keep your team motivated?

We’re in a fortunate position with a small team that we can provide flexibility. We might face some challenges in scaling our culture, but as it stands there’s no set annual leave – you can take as much as you want. You can work from home whenever you want and you can get paid whenever you want.

We try our best to live our own philosophy and provide a free and flexible working environment. You can feel the impact of that freedom and flexibility on morale and there’s no question it helps with retention.

What advice would you give to people trying to set themselves up for the future?

I don’t speak from a significant point of experience; at the end of the day I’m 22 so I’m learning a huge amount for myself. But I think the biggest thing for me has been curiosity.

I believe that people appreciate when an individual shows curiosity. It shows you’re interested in what they do and their life and that makes people feel good. Equally, from a business perspective, if we’re able to build curiosity into our culture, we’re going to be well placed to ensure we’re not complacent. We can show we genuinely care about the feedback we receive so we can better the product and improve our impact.


If you would like to have a confidential discussion regarding strategies to hire the right people of the future now, contact Phil Davis, Managing Director, Q Consulting Group 0404 803 609 or phil.davis@qconsultinggroup.com.au


This article represents the views of the interviewee and may not necessarily represent the views of their wider organisation.