The Right Start
Making serious business enjoyable is the ALKU way
Consulting services firm Alku has landed on SIA’s Best Staffing Firms to Work For list every year since 2014, taking the grand prize for its size division in several of those years — and it’s easy to see why. Employees at Alku embody the company’s trademarked mantra: Have Fun Working Hard.
One look at its website will confirm that while Alku’s employees take their work seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously. For example, hovering your cursor over the traditional bio photos on its leadership page reveals a more playful photo. The leaders reinforce this further by sharing how they personally like to Have Fun
Working Hard at Alku
And work hard they do! Founded in 2008, Alku has grown to be a firm with over 400 employees; 2,500 consultants and field employees; and 525 clients in the technology, healthcare, life sciences and government sectors — along with ranking among the 100 largest staffing firms in the US by SIA.
While it covers a broad array of industries, Alku has a reputation for depth of industry knowledge. As Business Development Manager Samantha Collins explains, Alku takes an “inch wide, mile deep” philosophy by specializing in niche markets, which enables them to better connect with and meet the needs of its clients. Collins credits the company’s diverse portfolio and ability to adapt as reasons for its strong growth, even during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Journey to ALKU
Alku’s name comes from the Finnish word for “start,” a word ripe with possibility. Many of its employees got their start with the company because of a personal referral. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Parker Phillips previously thought he could never work a traditional nine-to-five job. On the recommendation of a close friend, though, Phillips came to Alku a year ago and has never looked back. “I have never worked for a company that cares for you as much as an individual as much as they care about you as an employee,” he says warmly.
Micaela Damiano, director of enterprise resource planning, recruiting, also came to Alku by way of a referral. She notes that many employees can trace their start back to someone else from Alku, which is a testament to the priority the company puts on its people. “My coworkers are like my family,” Damiano shares. “Everyone is very genuine here.”
Collins’ journey began a little differently, though. She laughingly recalls how she saw an advertisement for Alku on campus at her university and thought it would be a great practice interview for the job she really wanted as an investment banker. But the passion her interviewers had for the company and the promising opportunity and career path at Alku drew her in. She started at Alku as a recruiter right out of school. Eleven years and several roles later, she couldn’t be happier that she took a chance on Alku, noting that “they take such good care of their people!”
The sentiment that coworkers are like family at Alku runs deep. In fact, employees refer to their work family as the “Alkrew.” And like many families, the Alkrew loves to celebrate! “Anytime someone gets a deal or lands a placement, we blast their favorite song in the workplace, people everywhere are high-fiving, and even celebrating over Slack,” Phillips says. Social media coordinator Julia McIntyre agrees: “Along with celebrating achievement of quarterly and annual company goals, people really get excited to celebrate individual growth.” In addition to celebrating wins, they also keep it lighthearted by celebrating when things don’t go as planned. “This creates a sense of encouragement instead of feeling defeated,” Collins explains. “We really do Have Fun Working Hard!”
The Alkrew also knows that there is no such thing as a boring day at the office. From infectious laughter to people riding scooters around the office to themed team meetings (Mario Party, anyone?), the energy in the office is almost palpable. When the office had to shut down due to Covid-19, teams found creative ways to stay connected. “Some teams even did all day Zoom meetings to replicate the feeling of being in the office around your coworkers,”
Damiano recalls. “This developed organically — no one made them do it; they simply wanted the connection with each other.”
Driven to Succeed
In addition to connecting with coworkers, Damiano cites the connection each employee has with their manager as a key to the company’s success, noting that managers “give regular feedback and help you toward your goals; there is significant opportunity and growth potential for employees at Alku.” Damiano’s story is evidence of the opportunity for career growth. She started at Alku in 2013 when there were about 20 people on staff. Her goal was to become the first female director at Alku. “The day I was promoted to director was the best day ever,” she reflects, and she credits the strong support network she had at work encouraging her to achieve her goal.
Phillips shares a similar story of a goal come to life. He started at Alku as a recruiter, but has always held a deep-rooted interest in diversity, equity and inclusion. Three months after joining Alku, Phillips was asked to join the newly formed DE&I Council and then later offered the role of DE&I coordinator. “I was beside myself — it felt like a dream coming into reality!” Phillips shares. “I love that I get to do something I am passionate about.” Like Damiano, Phillips also credits his coworkers for helping him along in his career journey: “I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for mentors who walked alongside me and advocated for me.”
Best in Class
More than just having fun and working hard at Alku, they also work smarter. At other companies, people often feel like they are working hard but getting nowhere. Not the case at Alku! According to Collins, the difference is Alku’s ability to “paint the vision, follow through with it, and show the team how we are going to get there.” With intentional strategy and resiliency, Collins proudly noted that they can tackle anything and take on any challenge. “We divide and conquer, divide and conquer, and then do it again.” The collaboration at Alku creates momentum that in turn creates an almost tangible excitement across the office. Upon recently hitting a major sales milestone,
Collins explains that this only escalated their progress, adding, “Nothing will hold us back now!”
The Alkrew could tell story after story of the generous spirit and thoughtful gestures at Alku. Of the company’s response during a difficult personal season of his life, Phillips says, “The amount of love I got from the company was overwhelming.” When Alku went above and beyond to care for another employee who had to take a leave of absence, “the ripple effects [of Alku’s generosity] across the company were huge,” Collins notes.
In one truly remarkable gesture, employees were given an opportunity to submit a video sharing about a charity they care about, and then Alku surprised them by making a donation to every single charity.
Damiano was especially touched when Alku had a surprise celebration honoring her and other women who had been with the company early on. The presentation was recorded so they could share it with their loved ones. Damiano is quick to share the glory with her team: “Watching people grow in their careers, achieving the goals they are working toward — this is what makes me most proud.”