As the competition for talent acquisition has increased, more and more companies are jumping on the employer branding and workplace culture bandwagon. Unlike other companies trying to reverse engineer their employer identities, Illumine8 founder Christina May has made employer branding, culture development, and employee wellness all top priorities since the company’s launch in 2013.
May’s foresight and continued commitment to employer branding and employee wellness was recently recognized by Frederick County’s Office of Economic Development: Illumine8 was named one of the Top 50 Places to Work in Frederick County, Md.
A booming economy means a highly competitive talent marketplace where companies battle for the attention and interest of well-qualified candidates in high demand. There is a reason so many companies have started investing in and paying more attention to employer branding, workplace culture, and talent attraction and retention strategies as the economy has recovered from the 2008 economic crisis.
Attractive Employer Branding
According to LinkedIn, the primary obstacle for job seekers is not knowing what it’s actually like to work at a company and 75% of candidates consider an employer brand before even applying for a job. Effectively developing, refining, evolving and promoting employer branding elements helps attract the best talent, retain great employees, and deliver the best possible services and customer experience to the market.
May recognized early on that to compete and keep talent, she needed to build a culture that prioritized employee wellness, which has become a key component of the company’s overall employer brand identity. The strategy has paid off for May; Illumine8 has enjoyed smart, steady growth since 2013, and her team of 10 is very talented. Many team members have been with the company for a number of years.
“Research clearly shows that healthy and happy team members are more productive and engaged and will tend to stay with an employer longer rather than jump ship as soon as they can,” stated May. “We’ve created a culture here that takes the whole person into account. I know that the line is always blurred between what takes place in the office and in our personal lives. Creating an ecosystem that promotes work-life balance, encourages professional development, fosters overall personal wellness and provides opportunities to grow is a critical part of our team’s ability to deliver outstanding service to our clients.”
“This isn’t just about increasing productivity. We approach our workplace like we are one big family looking out for one another, which really aligns with the cultures we find at many of the family-run businesses we work with every day,” she added.
Success Also Loves Company
Two of Illumine8’s long-time clients, Warner Service and Pleasants Development—both established, family-run operations—have also been named to the OED’s Top 50 Places to Work list. And another Illumine8 client Fitzgerald Realty, a local family company, recently earned the Frederick Real Estate Dealmakers (FRED) Award “Modern Masterpiece Award” for its Firehouse Project in downtown Frederick, Md.
As the leader of a growing marketing and PR company, May understands that an investment in wellness, which is also an investment in employer branding and culture, is money and time well spent.
She provides her team members with a wide range of wellness benefits and options. Illumine8 team members have ample opportunities to de-stress at the office. Whether it’s taking on a coworker in cornhole, darts or a Nerf gun battle, taking a break to have some fun and laugh is always encouraged.
But the wellness program extends beyond fun and games.
Gym memberships are provided at no cost to the employee as are healthy snacks, including food for those with special dietary needs. Playing with or walking May’s office dog, Lucy, is also a wellness benefit, as a nice walk with Lucy can often provide a well-needed break from the office. Illumine8’s wellness culture also fosters an environment that encourages work-life balance, which is critical to keeping team members healthy, happy and engaged.
"When you're in this positive environment, producing quality work is easy,” said Creative Manager Erik Pitzer who has been with Illumine8 since 2017. "I've worked in many different surroundings and circumstances throughout my professional career. You have to enjoy where you are. Illumine8 passes that test with flying colors."
Account Manager David Boudjeda, who has been with the company for three years, appreciates the benefits and flexibility the company provides: “When working in a fast-paced field, it’s great to be able to disconnect for a few moments to clear all of the mind clutter that collects during the day. Taking Lucy for a walk down the historic streets of Downtown Frederick is a wonderful change of scenery to get yourself reenergized and focused for the rest of the day. As someone who believes in the correlation between physical and mental health, it means a lot to work for a company that shares in that belief.”
Project Manager Sue Shank added, “Sometimes this stuff is really simple: If you feel appreciated and you feel valued you feel better about your job. You can’t help but be more productive and engaged. Things can get hectic at times, but we all know we have one another’s back and with the benefits and wellness programs Illumine8 provides, we know the company has our back, too.”
Investing in technology, promotion, innovation and human capital are clear imperatives for any emerging company like Illumine8. What many smaller companies (and some larger ones, too) often overlook is the remarkable return on investment that can be generated by paying attention to seemingly softer initiatives like wellness and employer branding programs.
Awards like Frederick County OED’s Top 50 Places to Work are a feather in Illumine8’s cap, for sure. However, May views a strong employee wellness program as mission-critical to providing a great customer experience to Illumine8’s existing and future clients.
“From a business perspective, the strong employer brand we've created, including our emphasis on wellness, reduces employee turnover and decreases hiring and recruiting costs that can be reinvested in innovation. More engaged and happier employees mean better services and better customer experience. When we need to grow, the investment in culture, wellness, and branding means talent will want to come to join our team, making hiring faster and our team more effective,” May stated.
“Employee wellness is an essential part of a strong culture and employer brand. I want our team to thrive. To do that they need to be fulfilled, healthy, happy and engaged. When our team is thriving our clients will reap the rewards,” she added.