When it comes to hiring great employees, the little things about your company matter as much as what you pay -- and in some cases, even more, a panel of experts concluded at the second Corporate Culture discussion series hosted by the Daily Herald Business Ledger and its sponsoring partners.
The session Thursday morning at Meridian Banquet & Conference Center in Rolling Meadows focused on attracting and retaining great employees. Moderator Mary Lynn Fayoumi, president and CEO of Downers Grove-based HR Source, noted the demand for talented employees is so great now that traditional hiring processes can be too slow in bringing in top prospects. Companies need to move quickly to assure they can attract and retain prospective employees.
Amber Johnson, chief communications officer and senior research associate at the Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University in Lisle, said a company's "depth attracters," such as the culture, path for growth, meaning and authenticity of the workplace, are just as important as its "surface attracters," such as a company's name, pay, reputation and perks. For a small company, its depth attracters can give it an advantage in attracting employees.
"They may not be immediately evident on your website or your brand logo," Johnson said. "Those things are harder to communicate, but they are the attracters that will help someone choose your organization over a flashier offer."
Michael Larson, a partner at marketing software company Nuphoriq in Chicago, added it's important to be real and authentic about your company and its culture when interviewing candidates. As a leader in a millennial-owned business, Larson said employees of his generation are concerned about work/life integration and that what they do has meaning for the company and their personal development.
Larson added "little things" -- like providing sparkling water and changing flavors every month -- are the types of perks companies can do at little cost, but that could give your company an edge over someone offering more pay.
"It's the little benefits you can offer that are huge," he said. "I would choose the company because of it ... and I would tell my friends it's a cool place to work even if the money wasn't there."
Simara Campbell, chief human relations officer at Chicago-based staffing company LaSalle Network, stresses the need to be transparent and authentic to candidates in the hiring process. She added that bringing in more people in the company to meet and talk to candidates is important, as well.
"You want to get a different perspective," Campbell said. "You also want to make sure your culture is taken care of."
All the panelists agreed that finding a candidate that fits your company culture is just as important as finding someone who has the skills to do the job. Campbell noted companies will talk to a candidate outside the office, during dinner or happy hour, as well as use a project or writing sample to gauge how well the candidate will fit in.
"We want to see the real, genuine person we're hiring," she said.
Johnson, however warned that employers need to be careful about hiring to fit for its culture.
"If you are hiring for culture, and you start to realize your team looks exactly like you -- in age, in background, in gender -- then you're not hiring for culture, you're hiring for demographics.
"Culture should cross demographics," she added. "It means that we share some core values and we can use them as a platform for our decision making."
The final session of the Corporate Culture Series: Tales from the Front, will be held on Dec. 5 at Meridian Banquets in Rolling Meadows.
Presenting sponsors for the series are HR Source and Tasty Catering. Marketing partners are GOA Regional Business Association, and the Elmhurst, Hoffman Estates and Rolling Meadows chambers of commerce.