Category Archives: Employment

Chicago 2017: A Review of Company Culture

Energage just published results for this year’s ranking of Best Workplaces in the Chicago area.  Using employee surveys as well as assessments of work-life balance, company leadership and more, Baird & Warner took top place. According to Energage’s CEO Doug Claffey: “Our mission is making the world a better place to work together. With the Energage platform, companies finally have a way to turn the potential of engagement into real action.”

And then there are collaborative efforts that occur within companies. For example, design and development company Adage Technologies recently started using the Scrum methodology (used in software development projects) to make collaboration go faster.  But, to ensure staff satisfaction is not lost the process, regular meetings for employees are held in which they can discuss their thoughts on how to move forward.  And has been working toward tech team restructuring in order to cultivate more cross-functional collaboration which has worked well for company culture, increasing deployment rates in the team.

Other companies are focusing on getting healthy within the workplace: SPINS (a consumer insights and data analytics company) has an in-office gym featuring meditation, cooking demos and volunteer opportunities. And then Dose provides its employees with fitness initiatives resulting in greater staff cohesion and more.

All Chicagoan firms should take a look at what is making these (and others on the list) stand out from the rest in an attempt to bolster their own rankings on employee culture.

Working from “Home”

A few years ago everyone was trying to work from home.  It knocked out the commute, saved time and let you stay in your pajamas all day.  But then the trend started backfiring a bit and people craved the interaction between others and being forced to get dressed rather than be on the computer in their bedroom.  Indeed, at that time it was found that people craved the stimulation of the office environment and the networking opportunities it offered.

Thus, the We-Work/Hub situation was born.  And the best of both worlds came into action.  For those Chicagoans looking for options, today they can choose from:  WeWork Chicago (for $350-750 a month in 6 locations); Level (with different options available at there 4 locations – one close to Willis Tower and its thriving community; indoor bike racks at another and cheap fees – starting from a mere $50 per month) and Industrious Chicago (which provides a large space right in the center of River North across from the Loop. As well as office facilities this has lounge area, phone booths and relaxation rooms as well as a café).

These spaces are obviously thriving since Level Office just signed a deal for a 110,000 square foot office tower at Welton and 16th Streets.

Chicago and Wage Increases

Chicago will now be subject to obligatory minimum wage increases. Following a new law that went into place at the beginning of this month, within the city, a 50 percent increase will result in minimum wage being $11 per hour. This is noteworthy since it is the third such increase that has taken place since December 2014. For tipped workers it has increased to $6.10 per hour – an inflation-rendered increase set up earlier this year.

Minimum wages in Chicago will increase at a rate of $1 per hour (next year and the year after), to get to the highest $13 level per hour in 2020. Thereafter wage increases will be determined by inflation.

Furthermore, Cook County employers will be forced to give their workers sick pay (and a carry over of unused days to the next year), since right now 40% of workers in the area are not eligible for this benefit.

Second Chance Job Fair

Triton College recently put together its Second Chance Job Fair that was attended by 70 employers and 150 applicants.  The aim of this event was to literally, give people a second chance in building a solid future for themselves.  The reason the college hosted the job fair, was, according to Director of Career Services at Triton Rich Williams, because they “saw a real need for this type of job fair. There are a lot of people who are facing some tough barriers in terms of finding employment. At the same time, there are a lot of employers who want to help. We’re linking the two.”

This kind of fair is so important given the current economic climate.  Very few people are able to get a second chance; but this is the perfect opportunity for it.  And it’s great for employees as PeopleReady employment agency rep Diego Irizarry said that they are often looking for “diverse candidates to meet the staffing needs of local businesses.”

This represents a real networking opportunity for the community and the college, filling a gap that is often remained empty.   And Triton College is perfect as it understands how important it is to connect jobs/careers with education.  And some jobs are even designed for such “second chance employees.”

So take a leaf out of Chicago’s book and start training those who need it and for those companies, find those seeking employment who really want to work and keep getting pushed back.

Business Expansions in Chicago

There have been various movements with expansions, buyouts, M&As, etc. in the last few weeks in Chicago. Here we take a brief look at three of them: Trustwave, Amita Health and Periscope.

Trustwave – the firm that works in the cybersecurity industry – is about to hire around 100 new people for its Chicago office. In addition, an announcement was made about the upcoming internship program being developed alongside the City Colleges of Chicago. And this is just the start; by the end of 2017 Robert McCullen, company CEO anticipates a further 300 people to join the company headquarters in Chicago once construction is finished and the space is ready for this expansion. With around 400 employees in Chicago currently (and 1,700 globally) this is really a doubling of Chicago staff members.

Amita Health – Chicago’s third largest hospital system – is interested in putting up two medical office buildings (with a joint $55.3 million price tag) right near rival ones. This is at the same time that hospital systems throughout America are seeking to bolster the way they attract additional patients. One of the new facilities will be in Bartlett and the other in Woodridge and they would be the largest of the company’s nine hospitals.

And then there is Periscope – based in Minneapolis – is expanding to Chicago. One of America’s five biggest independent creative networks purchased Anthem Marketing Solutions, the Chicago-headquartered analytics and strategy firm. Anthem has been in the business for two decades already and focuses on both (diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive) analytics and (database marketing and consumer journey) mapping services. This new office in Chicago will become the fifth for Periscope. As company CEO Elizabeth Ross explained the company really is hoping to “help [its] clients spend less on paid media and the best way to do that is to expand analytics and prove you can deliver results through channels and methods that are less reliant on [traditional ad buys].”

Boost for Chicago Businesses

With the announcement that three Chicago-based firms are being chosen to lead the Obama Presidential Center’s project management team, the reputation for successful, thriving businesses in the region is taking a positive spin. In this role, the team will be in charge of the establishment and guidance of the processes needed to ensure the center is being both designed and developed simultaneous to budget, schedule and technical stipulations as set out by the foundation.

The three firms – Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), McKissack & McKissack and Ardmore Associates – will each bring something else to the project. JLL has the capacity to provide the project with will bring “industry-leading practices” vis-à-vis the library’s design and construction; and the other two firms have a strong niche in the African-American community as well as the Ardmore Associates being a women-owned professional services company.

Meanwhile, over in the software industry, ActiveCampaign is set to add a further 225 employees to its ranks over the next two years, more than tripling the size of its headquarters.

With such recognition and expansion of businesses in the area, Chicago looks like its setting the pace for other regions nationwide.


3rd Annual Small Business Forum

Two days ago, Fox Valley SCORE hosted its 3rd Annual Small Business Forum. Since Americans seem to be increasingly switching from employee to employer (becoming their own bosses), a greater need has emerged for the know-how to do this.  Learning about the political, social and economic consequences is crucial and these forums – attended by local experts – set out to assist in the matters.

The event took place at the Northern Illinois University Conference Center (in Naperville) from 8.30am to 2.30pm, and, as in the past, successfully presented take-away tools for small businesses to “advance and grow into thriving enterprises.”  Topics covered included: plan building, how to start, product/service pricing, cash flow management.  As well, participants were able to network with other SME owners to exchange information and support each other.

Keynote speaker was Anderson’s Bookshops and Anderson’s Bookfair’s co-owner, Becky Anderson whose topic was the impact on the local community of small businesses.  As a fifth generation family business manager (which started back in 1875 in Napervile) Anderson was President of the American Booksellers Association  for seven years and a year ago started her four-year term on the Naperville City Council.  Her mantra of “put your money where your heart is – home,” has resulted in her making her a true “treasure to her business and community.”

More Jobs at End of 2016 Than at Beginning of the Year

Illinois Unemployment rate by county.

Although the last month of 2016 was disappointing for Illinois job-wise, the year as a whole finished in the black.

At the end of 2015 the unemployment rate in Illinois was 6.1 percent, higher than the 5.7 percent the rate reached at the end of 2016. But the month of December, 2016 was not a good one for employment. The state lost about 16,700 jobs that month alone, bringing the unemployment figure up to its final rate for the year, from 5.6 percent at the end of November, 2016.

November also had a net loss of jobs instead of the predicted gain. Illinois ended up losing 4,500 jobs in November rather than gaining 1,700, which had been forecast.

Jeff Mays, the director of the Department of Employment Security, said December’s job drop was “troubling, to say the least.”

Illinois is experiencing the same job loss trend as the rest of the country, but slightly more pronounced.  The rate of job growth in Illinois was 0.5 percent, a bit slower than the nation’s figure of 1.5 percent. The country also saw a slight rise in unemployment for December, to 4.7 percent, significantly lower than for Illinois.

“Illinois needs structural reforms and a balanced budget to attract new jobs and investment in our state,” said Sean McCarthy, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

One Company’s Layoffs Is Another Company’s Hires

Chicago skyline seen from Cortland Street Drawbridge. Photo courtesy of John G. Suhayda.

Computer hardware engineers who got the axe last September during a massive downsizing at Motorola’s Chicago headquarters soon found that they were in demand by some of the country’s most successful high tech companies.

It was only a matter of weeks before these newly unemployed engineers were fielding job offers from company’s like Google, Facebook and Apple, who held recruiting events. Amazon also made offers to several of the engineers.

What were these computer-high tech giants hoping for? Mostly to bring these highly skilled workers back home to Silicon Valley. In the case of Google, however, their goal was a bit different, and unique. The search engine giant used the Motorola layoffs to recruit hardware engineers, for the first time, to work in their Chicago office. Until this time Google’s only Chicago hires had been for jobs in software development.

Some of the former Motorola engineers who were at the meeting said that Google had organized a gathering within two weeks of being fired. There were at least 200 hardware engineers in attendance, all of which had been fired by Motorola. During an information session the Google reps demonstrated some of its new hardware products and then discussed bringing jobs in computer hardware development to their Chicago office for the first time.