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updated: 6/18/2021 12:02 PM

Schwarz: Breaking down the Best Places to Work in Illinois

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  • TransTech IT Staffing

    TransTech IT Staffing

 
 

When you can line up information from so many of the best companies in a large state with so many of the best firms this country has to offer, it's a great learning experience to take a long look at what they have to say.

So this month the Daily Herald Business Ledger not only shares with readers the Best Places to Work in Illinois for 2021, we're digging deeper to share a little extra about what separates them from the rest.

Not surprisingly, some things are just easier for larger companies to try than they are for smaller companies.

Take recruiting and retaining military veterans. It seems like a popular idea. After all, these are people who have sacrificed for our country and have been trained to show discipline. Yet only 23% of small employers (15-99 employees) among winners in the 2021 Best Places to Work in Illinois contest say they work to retain or recruit veterans.

Compare this to 57% among midsized companies (100-499 employees) and 75% among large companies (500 employees and more).

They also work to recruit and retain experienced workers, with a steady progression from small companies (31%) to medium companies (55%) to large companies (75%). They are a little less likely to recruit and retain employees requiring mental or physical accommodations: 23% of small companies, 45% in the middle and 67% of large companies.

"Performance Services is built around our people," wrote the No. 1 company among mid-size firms. "We work tirelessly to attract high character, top talent that share an interest in delivering excellence. Our organization is unlike most in that we dive deep into the employee and customer experience data. We look to see how we can deliver the most value to both parties. We are proud of having less than 6% turnover over the last 22 years."

Ongoing diversity training, one of the hotter topics facing human resources departments, also is more likely in larger companies. In fact 100% of the large companies say they have training, compared to 54% of small companies and 73% or their midsized counterparts. A diversity and inclusion task force occurs in just 20% of small companies and 32% of mid-size companies. But 92% of larger companies report they have such a task force.

As for recruiting and retaining employees of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, 43% of the best small companies say they do, rising to 64% for mid-size companies and 100% for big companies.

Roughly half of all companies, big or small, say they celebrate cultural holidays.

"We're a top choice for anyone to work because of the mixture of diversity, personalities, fun, work and success," officials from TransTech IT Staffing, the first-place finisher in the small companies category, wrote in their survey. "Every day you can come to work and expect to be appreciated and supported.

"Although we consistently have fun, we also work really hard to achieve our business goals. We create a real path for people to earn money and provide for their families. Beyond that, we recognize that work fun and the daily grind isn't all there is to being a TransTech IT member. We also take into consideration, even before COVID, people's personal situations. That's why flex hours, days off, FMLA and others aren't met with resistance. Rather, they're met with understanding and help."

That's what sets them apart. What unites the best places to work?

For starters, they look out for the health of their employees. From the employers on the list of winners, 80% organize fitness and/or wellness programs or practices within the workplace.

Wrote Edward Jones, No. 1 among large companies: "Edward Jones associates enjoy flexible, family-friendly workplaces and gratifying work helping clients in neighborhoods where they live and work. Financial advisers and branch office administrator teams who serve clients well earn the firm's highest honors. Community involvement is encouraged and associates embrace causes such as the Walk to End Alzheimer's -- a firmwide effort."

That's what the best do.

A good time to be a tenant

While bars and restaurants and schools have reopened, COVID-19 vaccines have not helped the suburban commercial real estate market as much. A report from real estate advisory firm Savills cites "record availability across the region" with rents trending downward. This comes "following a relatively dynamic fourth quarter 2020."

According to the report, "transaction volumes declined 22.5% quarter over quarter by square feet transacted."

The report, which does not track the South or Southwest suburbs, also said the few notable deals done in the first quarter of 2021 were concentrated in the Northwest and West suburbs.

It cited the Kellogg Company leased more than 42,000 square feet at 263 Shuman Blvd. in Naperville and Johnson Controls renewed for more than 40,000 square feet in Oak Brook at 2010 Swift Drive.

In fact 53.3% of large transactions, based on square footage, were in the East-West Corridor.

Manufacturing tenants comprised 49.5% of major transactions.

"Meanwhile, capital markets activity was at a near standstill this quarter.

"With an unprecedented number of available options and proliferating tenant-favorable conditions, the suburban Chicago market remains a value opportunity for Chicagoland occupiers considering options in suburban locales," the report said.

The availability rate in the suburbs was 30.4%, with the greatest availability in the Northwest Corridor and the least in the O'Hare area.

Sublease options surged, with the report noting Amita Health sought to sublease its headquarters in Lisle and Follett Corporation put its space at Westbrook Corporate Center in Westchester on the market.