It used to be that organizations thanked hard-working staffers with a certificate, a bonus or a small gift like an engraved pen. These days many award points which can be redeemed for things like iPads.

Achievers Corp., founded in Toronto 11 years ago, is one of a number of software of a service companies that have sprung up that track points programs for organizations and oversee an awards catalogue.

Now headquartered in San Francisco with customers ranging from Rogers Communications to 3M, the company had its annual customer conference in Toronto last week where it announced the next release of the platform will go live Oct. 15.

New CEO Patrick Quirk said in an interview the company how has 178 corporate customers (most Canadian) with over one million employees registered.

The new platform, dubbed “Franklin,” has several new features:  Achievements, allows employees to track their accomplishments (individually or groups). There’s also a one-click button to allow staff to award points to colleagues. Achievers Profiles is an individual profile that consolidates a staffer’s successes; Engagement Pulse, which attempts to graph employee morale

There also updates the mobile app which accesses the service, which is used by 42 per cent of subscribers.

Achievers aims to increase staff satisfaction and cut down on turnover, he said, which is the return on investment.

He wouldn’t disclose what customers are charged, other than to say that as a SaaS service, there’s a per user charge, plus a fee for administering the points system and for buying gifts.

Most organizations equate a point to a penny, Quirk said. Points are distributed to managers and supervisors, who, admittedly have discretion to hand out rewards as they see fit.

However, a reporting system lets CEO knows who is being stingy (and generous).

The idea is to tie rewards to company goals — be they taking a fitness or a training course, hitting sales goals or learning lean manufacturing techniques.

The conference was the first for new Quirk, who was appointed to the post in August. He had been with IBM Corp. since last year when the company he headed at the time Emptoris, Inc. a supply management provider, was bought by Big Blue.

Since joining he has appointed a new chief marketing officer and convinced former PeopleSoft CEO (and Oracle Corp. executive VP) Craig Conway to become chairman of the board. PeopleSoft is one of the human resource application suites Achievers connects to.

In fact Quirk said Conway — who also sits on the board of Salesforce — tipped him off about Achievers.

Quirk believes there’s a large opportunity for his company. In the U.S. organizations can’t give out gifts to employees without tax implications, he said, so there’s a need for a service like Achievers.

He plans to expand in the U.S. as well as hire more staff here. After the conference ended Friday he was getting on a plane to German to open an office there. “We have lots and lots of opportunity,” he said.

One of Achievers’ selling points is the variety of rewards that points can be converted into beyond the products in its catalogue, including dollars that can be loaded onto credit cards or donated to charitable organizations.

For example, some companies reward top sales staff with a 45-min free shopping binge at Best Buy.

For a fee, a concierge service “will get you whatever you dream,” Qurik said — from a vacation to a puppy.

Another selling point is that it has data centres in Canada — which he said appeals to companies that don’t want personnel data stored in the U.S. — and in the U.S. — which appeals to companies there who for regulatory reasons my not be able to store data relating to currency outside the country.

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