Today, the picture is different and the question at interviews is no longer, “What can you do for the company?” But, instead, “What can the company do for you?”
That’s particularly true in the Fargo-Moorhead area, where a shortage of qualified workers has labor-starved companies rethinking how they recruit employees and keep them once they’re on board.
You see it at places like Discovery Benefits, a fast-growing, Fargo-based company that has tailored its building and culture to accommodate the new reality.
“We’re all battling for good talent and right now, talent kind of has the power,” said Kurtis Karn, talent acquisition manager at Discovery Benefits.
Karn said in job interviews it is oftentimes the job seeker asking the questions, with prospective employees wanting to know about volunteerism and whether the company supports community involvement.
“Especially younger people looking for full-time jobs, culture is a question they’re asking in the interview process,” Karn said. “They want more than just a place to work, they want a place where they will fit in and feel comfortable.”
At Discovery, that means things like extramural kickball games and other activities geared to promote fun while keeping workers engaged and energized.
“You need to do something more than other companies,” said Stephanie Schroeder, communications director at Discovery Benefits.
“Culture is where you can set yourself apart from other businesses,” she added. “Maybe Company B does a little bit more as far as keeping employees happy.”
The story is similar at Bobcat Co. and Doosan North America headquarters in West Fargo, where corporate culture has become focused on enhancing employee satisfaction and where corporate offices are physically changing to enhance worker comfort and interaction.
Belinda Forknell, dealer marketing manager for both Bobcat and Doosan, said during the hiring process applicants are given a family-first message; a pitch, she said, that goes beyond lip service.
“It’s not just a message. They do what they can to make sure you really are able to put your family first and still have the opportunities in the company to progress and accomplish things,” said Forknell, a mother of two high school students who appreciates the company’s flexibility regarding her work schedule.
“I go from football to golf to basketball to tennis; it’s kind of this ongoing rotation of matches and games,” she said.
“I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing one for the other,” Forknell added, referring to balancing work and home responsibilities.
“A major part of my job is carrying out our mission of happy employees and happy customers,” said Julie Peterson Klein, the company’s chief culture officer.
With little prompting, Klein, who also oversees, the company’s human resources teams, is happy to elaborate on the numerous ways Bell strives to promote worker satisfaction, including activities that take place outside the work environment, such as picnics and trips to baseball games and community plays.
Also, Klein said, Bell employees are big on community involvement. One example of how the company and staff work together in that area is Bell’s Pay It Forward program.
Under the program, Bell annually gives full-time workers $1,000 each and part-time workers $500 each, which the workers then give directly to worthwhile causes.
Bell also has a related program whereby the company hands dollars to employees who then give the money to community members who are tasked with deciding where the money should go.
Combined, the programs have so far funneled about $7 million toward community efforts, donations that are not quickly forgotten, according to Klein.
“Our employees don’t just give and walk away. They give and then a friendship is built,” she, said, adding it is not unusual for someone who benefited from a donation to reach out years later to reconnect with the Bell employee who helped them.
“That’s pretty cool,” Klein said.
Also generally viewed as being pretty cool is the big slide at Discovery Benefits, a feature that delivers swift transport between the upper and lower levels of a modern-looking recreation/break space.
The space itself offers places to enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet, or, if an employee’s idea of a break is more kinetic, a game of ping pong.
On a recent afternoon, account specialist Eric Stelter was taking the laid-back approach as he reclined on a couch in the upstairs portion of the break area.
So, does he like the perks Discovery provides?
“I love ’em,” he said. “It makes it a good place to work, a place where you want to be.”
And what about the slide?
“I use it,” Stelter said. “It’s quicker than going down the stairs.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.