The Golden Rule
Happy employees = higher performance = good service
What’s so powerful about being a great place to work? It’s about employee performance.
When employees are happy and proud about where they work, they simply perform at a higher level and provide better customers service, says Mark Eldridge, CEO of ALKU, an Andover, Mass.-based provider of IT staffing.
“Providing good service isn’t something that we have to preach,” Eldridge says, adding the company follows the golden rule. “We treat others the way we would like to be treated.”
This is ALKU’s fourth year in a row as a Best Staffing Firm to Work For winner. It also ranks on Staffing Industry Analysts’ list of fastest-growing staffing firms and has appeared on that list for the previous two years as well. And this year the company also reached $100 million in revenue.
However, Eldridge says the ranking on the lists and the growth is not all about strategy, it’s about people. “It’s because we have fantastic employees who are passionate, who give more of themselves,” he says.
But how do you get motivated employees?
It starts with hiring the right people in the first place and engaging them on a deeper level. The company looks for people who are upbeat and fit in well with the staffing industry. And each person hired by the company has gone through three sets of interviews, meeting with four people per interview.
When it comes to being a great place to work, however, the focus at ALKU is on providing opportunities and keeping employees in the loop. But it’s not about the perks.
“I think the thing for us that is different is that we don’t really get focused on what else can we give our employees in terms of extra perks or additional time off or better benefits that will make them like it here,” Eldridge says. “We think about what can we do to increase their overall experience and relationship with the company.”
As a result, the company provides opportunities to learn and grow, and workers help each other.
The company almost exclusively hires entry-level people, making training all the more important. And the training is provided by more experienced employees; the company uses a mentor program. While new employees are already making cold calls by
1 p.m. on their first day, they do so with their mentor sitting next to them. Employees also meet with managers weekly.
Personal development is important at ALKU, and a huge emphasis is put on employees being the best they can be both inside and outside of the office, says David Tuell, SAP recruiting manager. While managers meet weekly with employees to discuss goals, they also take time once a month to check with employees on their personal goals, such as buying a house.
“They follow up on your personal goals just as much as they follow up on your metrics and performance,” Tuell says.
In addition, ALKU makes sure engagement is high by keeping the lines of communication open and making sure employees know what the company is trying to achieve.
“Everybody in the company is aware of what we are trying to
do and what their role is,” says Eldridge. This includes everybody from the most tenured person to someone who joined the firm just last week.
ALKU also aims to hire people with the right attitude, who will fit into the culture and enjoy working alongside one another.
“We really make personality a big part of the hiring profile,” Eldridge says. “We want to hire people that we could see ourselves being friends with.”
Not everyone will necessarily be the best of friends, but employees tend to enjoy working with one another and care about how one another is doing. And often they will, indeed, hang out even after work.
By focusing on engaging people with the right fit, the company has made hiring a strategic advantage and not something that just happens by accident.
Marissa Gomes, ALKU’s internal recruiting coordinator, attends 25 to 30 college career events each season — as she wrapped up the interview for this article, she was preparing to travel to Babson College. While each company has its own style of recruiting, ALKU engages with prospective hires through conversation first. The company looks for hard-working, money-motivated and competitive people for sales positions. It also looks for a sense of humor. “The sales job can definitely take a toll on you,” Gomes says. “It’s good to have people who can lighten the mood when needed.”
When Work Is Fun
In fact, the company’s motto is “have fun working hard.” Some of the things to make sure work is fun include bonding events. For example, a group of employees went out to dinner to discuss business the company had recently solidified, Gomes says. Another group went “F-1” go-cart racing. Of course, there are the sales contests as well. One recent contest was aimed at allowing workers to arrive for work at 11 a.m. on the Monday after the Super Bowl (when New England won) instead of the usual time if they made their numbers for the previous two weeks.
Workers also see the awards ALKU is winning and with their competitive nature, they love it and want to see the company come in first, she says. It’s also a reminder of the opportunities that are available at ALKU.
ALKU works hard to connect with college students, working to give them business experience before they graduate. The company has regional training centers near colleges, including in Amherst to serve UMass Amherst, to bring in student interns and help them gain experience with the possibility of ultimately joining the company. In addition to training interns, the centers also give ALKU employees the opportunity to serve as mentors to the students.
Aside from the Best Staffing Firms to Work For grand prize, the company has received other accolades. The Boston Business Journal named it a best place to work, and Fortune ranked it No. 2 on its list of the 50 best workplaces for new college graduates in 2016.
Overall, it’s about fostering a winning culture where employees are happy and the firm is growing. But the key word is culture. “People come to work and they know they have more opportunity than the day before,” Gomes says. “We don’t need those crazy perks.”