Chicagoland companies planning to hire in 2011. Now’s the time for HR to get creative.

Good news from the Management Association of Illinois: A new survey says that 52% of Illinois companies plan to hire new workers in 2011 or bring back workers they laid off in 2010. Not only is this encouraging to hear but Illinois also beats the national average here as well.

This leads me to believe that this is a good opportunity for companies in Chicagoland about to hire to think beyond the basics of common benefits as they ready that classified ad or online job posting.

Don’t get me wrong, benefits are great and nobody should take them for granted in a day and age where our economic recovery still has a long way to go. Yet, just as you have to position your company’s brand to the right target audience, recognize the opportunity to position it here again above the other voices in the crowd who are hiring toward the right type of individual who will fit into your culture. In considering that one extra unusual perk that include in your benefits package, don’t choose it for its ability to get you some extra press. If it’s creative but isn’t really something that’s going to be utilized, there may not be much point in adding it to the mix.

Instead, choose the unusual perk because it is an accurate reflection what makes your company different. For example, I’ve run a company where preserving family time and the bonds that go with it were very important to me. I’m close to my family, my partner is close to his family and we’ve had people on staff who can’t imagine missing out on a child’s school play or field trip. We wouldn’t want them to. So my partner and I make sure that vacation days are not in short supply and the people who work for us get a terrific amount of days right off the bat. Let’s just say it’s more than the traditional 2 weeks most companies give when someone is hired (obviously they have to get their work done far enough in advance of that time off, but it’s definitely there).

Or let’s say yours is a company where the majority of the employees and managers have a very strong bond to their pets – they consider their pets to be members of the family, want to bring their pets to work (a perk in itself) and will basically spend any amount of money to ensure the well-being of their canines, felines, hamsters and assorted creatures. For this and other companies like it, offering pet insurance coverage might be a nice reflection on the company to show how they understand what’s important to most employees.

Some other unusual benefits I’ve come across, courtesy of Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For:

  • Paid Sabbatical
  • Education Reimbursement
  • Same-Sex Partner Benefits
  • Unlimited Sick Days
  • Referral Bonuses
  • Even an On-Site Farmer’s Market!

I’m not suggesting you do all of these by any means. What I am suggesting is that few people ever started a conversation about a company over the fact that it offers health and dental insurance or a 401K (again, nice to have and important, but rather expected if it’s the typical plan). What I am also suggesting is to start with one perk or allow your people to have a hand in voting for the perk, provided you can swing it financially.

Company incentives can play a part here too.
As my friend Rob Jager of Hedgehog Consulting would suggest, you may want to consider how you can give performance incentives to unlock some of these perks so that they aren’t merely “given.” You have your base of benefits that people have typically heard of, but then you have that special perk or perks that is out there if company goals for the quarter/year are met.

I’m extremely optimistic about 2011 is going to bring for businesses – after what we’ve been through, why dwell on where we’ve been? – so if your company plans to follow the hiring trend that this recent survey says Illinois companies are in for, remember that employee recruitment can provide yet another way for your business to bolster its brand. And the right creative perks that reflect your culture just might fuel those conversations between job hunters on the bus or the El – because if you’ve ever been packed in on any of those commuter rides, you know that a conversation between two people is really a conversation among twenty.

If your company has a benefit or benefits that you feel sets it apart from the pack, I’d love to hear about it. Maybe we’ll post some of the best ones here too.

(Source: Chicago Sun-Times, January 11, 2011)

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