All-inclusive company trips to Mexico. Three lake homes open to any worker. Free health care for the entire family. These are just a few of the perks offered to the about 100 employees of Minneapolis software developer Object Partners Inc.
But recruitment leaders at Object Partners and other small businesses that are ranked this year on the Star Tribune’s Top Workplaces list say it isn’t out-of-this-world benefits that are the main attraction for workers.
“That’s all fun,” said Ehren Seim, chief operating officer for Object Partners. “But I really think [the attraction is] people feel very trusted, respected, supported and really able to control their own career with very little oversight and management. That’s a huge deal.”
Others among the 70 companies on the Top Workplaces list of small employers also say the autonomy to creatively solve problems and the chance to do meaningful work attract employees to work for their smaller companies instead of large corporations.
Topping the small business list is newcomer Kipsu Inc., which helps businesses like hotels communicate via text with customers.
Charlie Lehmann, Kipsu’s director of customer/employee engagement, said he thinks Kipsu combines some of the best aspects of large companies and smaller startups.
“As far as for the size of company we are, I think we are pretty advanced in a lot of things like having really clear core values and being really true to those core values and having a really talented senior leadership and management with a big vision, but also the best of smaller companies, where you have more autonomy, more of a responsibility, more of an impact on a business and the customer,” Lehmann said.
So while Kipsu does not have “frilly fringe benefits” like many Silicon Valley startups, the company’s employees are attracted by the challenge of building something new, improving the company every day and finding purpose in that work, he said.
Empowerment was a common theme in employee responses about Kipsu in the Top Workplaces survey. One, for example, emphasized support for the team and managers to work through problems.
Empowerment and teamwork also are emphasized at Jacobs Marketing, ranked 17th on the list.
“We have a culture focused on teamwork and a proven belief that we will experience greater success utilizing a team approach when all members of our team are willing to step up and help one another,” the company said. “Jacobs empowers the team to truly own their business, lead company initiatives and take on new projects that help the team develop personally and professionally.”
The term the firm uses for ideal employees is “curious and courageous explorers.” Development training and leadership workshops are held throughout the year, and the 56-employee consumer brands and sales agency also has an Innovation Studio where a cross-department team studies what’s next in the retail industry so the company — which works with vendors to place products in stores and whose largest client is Target — retains its edge.
For 83-employee Pioneer Bank, ranked seventh on the list, Chief Financial Officer Carlie Olson said it’s the bank’s connection to the community that sets it apart.
“We never lose site of the fact that we are a community bank, and we are connected to the communities we are in,” Olson said. “It benefits the communities we are involved with, but it also gives this sense of meaning to our employees.”
Each branch of the bank based in Mankato does a different volunteer or donation activity each month, such as raking lawns and shoveling snow for homebound people who aren’t able.
“I think the commitment to the community is a huge part,” she said. “That’s a pillar of our culture — giving back.”
Object Partners, which ranked 32nd on the list, said its benefits strategy is employee-centric, including making sure to cover the basics such as health care. One employee said in the Top Workplaces survey that insurance is most valued, followed by the company’s paid time off policy.
“This can be an easy industry to burn out in, so being able to take breaks is important,” the employee said on the survey.
Object Partners, which has worked with a diverse set of clients like St. Jude Medical, Cargill and Room & Board, generated close to $20.9 million in revenue in 2017. Last year, the company had about 600 people apply to work at its Minneapolis and Omaha, Neb., offices.
Employees appreciate having autonomy and not having the layers of management that may be found in larger companies, said Clara Sponitz, Object Partners’ director of talent acquisition.
“Certainly for the ones that are up for the challenge, it’s great because they don’t need a lot of hand-holding,” she said.