During the 2018 Minor League Baseball season, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp drew an average of 5,000 fans to each of its games, and serving that crowd meant rallying Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds’ army of ticket takers, ushers, concessions staff, merchandise vendors and more. Until recently, compensating those part-time employees meant handing out paper checks twice a month. What’s more, some paydays fell on game days, so staff would be tied up collecting checks just as they were supposed to be readying for the arrival of thousands of fans.
“In Minor League Baseball,” Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp’s General Manager Harold Craw explained, “you can have anywhere from 100 to — for us — 380 people attempting to pick up their checks within a two- to three-hour window while we’re trying to prepare for a game or event that evening.”
That all changed in 2017 when the Jumbo Shrimp introduced the option of payroll cards, provided by FIS — a solution also offered to other U.S. and Canadian MiLB clubs. The fact that the solution reduced human traffic to the Jumbo Shrimp’s front office during pre-game time — thus enabling everyone to be more productive — was a happy side effect.
The baseball club’s main goal regarding the payroll cards, Craw said, was to enable real-time employee payments — employees instantly receive payment for days worked.
Of course, these cards weren’t the only option at the club’s disposal when it sought to upgrade from paper checks. But the solution was particularly compelling for Jumbo Shrimp’s employees, who are, on average, 30- to 45-year-olds that tend not to have checking accounts, making direct deposit a no-go.
As this is only the second year the club has offered the cards, there’s not much conclusive data on their impact, but Craw expects them to boost employee job satisfaction, and therefore retention. The cards are, however, enabling the club to compete against other local employers for new hires.
“I think it’s helped us tremendously,” Craw said. “[It] is one of the benefits we discuss [at job fairs] in the process of talking about why [a person] should come work here.”
About 50 percent of the club’s food and beverage staff return each season, as do about 80 percent of its game day staff, including ushers, ticket-takers and similar positions. The payroll card’s voluntary enrollment among new and returning employees increased this year, with approximately 150 of the club’s 383 employees now using the solution.
Prior to the payroll cards, employees had to find transportation and a check casher before they were able to use their earnings. Craw said employees tell him the solution, in freeing them from that burdensome routine, has given them better quality of life.
“In the past, you’ve always had a situation of, ‘Because I don’t have a checking account, I have to go to a place where I can cash a check and figure out my transportation,’” Craw said. “[Now, employees] have [the] freedom of knowing, ‘I have this in my pocket and don’t have to go get a check cashed. I can use this [right away] to pay this bill.”
It’s not just the employees who have found themselves with more free time. As the payments process has sped up, the company has been able to reduce the time it spends on payroll. In the past, handling account reconciliations for payroll and other purposes could be a four-day process each month. With the cards, that dropped to two days.
“It’s made us more efficient on both sides,” Craw said.
Craw implemented the cards after a chance meeting with an FIS employee that led to a discussion of the solution. The relative youth of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp made it easier to test a new payroll system, as they were not overturning deeply entrenched practices.
“We’re young in our growth as an organization in Jacksonville,” he said, a reference to how a new owner purchased the team (then called the Suns) in 2015. “So, if something doesn’t pan out ... it’s not like we’re trying to reinvent the wheel or change something we’ve done for 15 years to try this new opportunity, and then have to change back.”
There has been one major roadblock on the path to greater adoption — raising employee awareness. The club talks about the solution during orientation and training, as well as at job fairs and during seasonal meetings, but an ongoing effort remains necessary in order to reach everyone and ensure word gets out.
As more Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp employees learn of and adopt the solution, payroll — and the Baseball Grounds’ game day prep — could become faster than ever.