What it does: Design/build contractor
Location: Downers Grove
Employees local/U.S.: 204/240
Voluntary turnover: 9%
Perks: Friday lunches, concierge services, paid volunteer time off, 30-day sabbatical every five years,
regular retreats

"Work hard, play hard" isn't merely an adage at Arco/Murray (No. 15)—it's a serious part of the company's culture, where work-life balance is vigorously fostered.

While the design-build contractor works diligently to be the expert at what it does and provide clients the best experience possible, it understands that life beyond the workplace warrants time and attention as well.

For example, every five years, associates are required—that's right, required—to take 30 days off, paid and supported with a travel stipend to encourage truly getting away. As for email and work contact then? Forget it. Both are shut off. And during busy workdays, employees carve out time for a drink in the kitchen or a game of basketball on its courts.

So it's probably no surprise that employees feel refreshed and are raring to go when it's time to get down to business. "Our collaborative culture integrates experience and knowledge across all critical disciplines to deliver a superior solution," says Brad Dannegger, president of the company, which regularly holds off-site retreats and team-building activities. "We're committed to hiring the best and brightest and making a significant investment in training to keep our staff on the leading edge of industry developments and trends," Dannegger says. Arco/Murray's relentless pursuit of top-notch candidates enabled it to more than triple revenue during the recession and has earned it a place on Crain's Fast 50 list every year since 2012.

Meanwhile, the company is similarly committed to giving back through activities like a 100-mile bike ride from downtown Chicago to the University of Notre Dame for an annual fundraiser benefiting STEM education for underprivileged seventh- and eighth-grade students in Illinois, Indiana and Texas.

Events like that don't go unnoticed by employees, who rave about Arco/Murray's charitable giving, noting that it excites them to work for such an organization and reinforces their awareness of the need for more like it.

See article on Crain's here


New Home Star

About the company
What it does: Real estate services
Location: Chicago
Employees local/U.S.: 27/306
Voluntary turnover: 14%
Perks: Retreat with award ceremony, concierge service, company volleyball league, monthly corporate outings, team-bonding activities, paid volunteer opportunities, relocation opportunities, destination-based training

Between anniversaries, birthdays and holiday gift giving, New Home Star (No. 3) isn’t shy about showcasing appreciation for its people.

Similarly, the real estate services company’s employees appreciate the fact that the firm helps them blossom professionally. For instance, new-home agents participate in a paid eight-week training program led by a dedicated mentor who emphasizes the ins and outs of sales at New Home Star, where the average salary is $69,704. To further help team members’ learning experiences, the company provides access to more than 150 training videos and the know-how of a coterie of co-workers with more than 800 collective years of home sales experience.

It doesn’t stop there. A big emphasis at New Home Star is the opportunity for career advancement. The company gives employees the chance to mold their own careers, providing a personal development allowance, a career development program, and the opportunity for learning and growth through the company’s weekly, monthly and annual events/retreats.

New Home Star also offers relocation opportunities. “We decided early on that we would place the highest priority on being a great place to work, which is why we provide several perks and resources for our growing team. By doing that first, we knew we could accomplish all other goals, too,” says founder David Rice. “Our partners and customers benefit from us having a fully engaged workforce that feels appreciated by the company as a whole.”

New Home Star coaxes employees to stay put, focusing on an environment aimed at achieving long- term growth and success. That effort is supported by perks including a stocked kitchen, a gym and fitness membership reimbursement.

New Home Star also offers paid volunteer opportunities at organizations of employees’ choosing. “Working for New Home Star means joining a second family,” says marketing manager Chris Laskowski, 29. “Everyone looks out for each other, and you are treated with respect, no matter your title or tenure.”

Clune Construction

About the company
What it does: Construction
Location: West Loop
Employees local/U.S.: 279/570
Voluntary turnover: 8%
Perks: Employee appreciation dinners/picnics, early-dismissal Fridays, wacky holiday celebrations (national ice cream day, national margarita day), out-of-office events, summer hours, flex schedules, telecommuting opportunities, 100 percent company-paid health/dental/vision insurance premiums, spontaneous early-dismissal days, cross-team team-building activities

Not only is Clune Construction (No. 7) literally always building something, as a 100 percent employee-owned company, "treating our employee owners like family is a natural part of our culture," says Dave Hall, an executive managing director and president of the company's Midwest region. Perks like summer hours, flex schedules and telecommuting opportunities also contribute to Clune's welcoming culture and goal of taking care of employees, their families and their futures, as do generous benefits, including 100 percent company-paid health, dental and vision insurance premiums and a 401(k) plan.

Clune, which manages more than $900 million in construction projects annually, also offers spontaneous early-dismissal days (hey, it's a beautiful summer day—go out and enjoy!—as the company says). It also provides company-sponsored lunches, snacks, beverages and happy hours. Employees can also participate in cross-team team-building activities (boat cruises, bowling, summer concerts). "We're never satisfied with the status quo," Hall says. "We're always looking to continually improve our own standards, for both our clients and our employee owners." In fact, treating people well is so ingrained, the concept is in the mission statement of the organization, which has scored awards for its ethical business practices and being a great place to work.

"Clune's culture encourages employees at every level to take ownership of the company, literally and figuratively," says Amanda Sollenberger, 23, assistant marketing coordinator. "All members of our team are given a lot of autonomy and room for growth, and our collaborative environment encourages everyone to contribute new ideas that could help innovate our processes, and help Clune continue to be a great place to work."

Adds Derek Sullivan, 28, an assistant project manager: "It's tough to find a place to work where you get up and you look forward to going."

Duane Morris

About the company
What it does: Legal firm
Location: Loop
Employees local/U.S.: 82/1,409
Voluntary turnover: 6%
Perks: Annual staff outings, ice cream socials, physical team-building activities, employee outings including activities like table-tennis tournaments

While iconic fictional lawyer Perry Mason often seemed to operate like an unrestrained one-man bulldozer, team members at law firm Duane Morris collaboratively work on innovative solutions to the world's legal and business challenges, says John Robert Weiss, the firm's Chicago office managing partner.

"The feeling of teamwork, of lawyers from different backgrounds and geographic locations working together toward a common goal of client success, is palpable at these meetings," Weiss says. "We genuinely like each other, and that spirit contributes greatly to the quality of our legal work and the happiness of our daily work lives."

The company also pays plenty of attention to the overall well-being of its employees with a 401(k) match, on-site fitness facility, flexible hours, an office lined with artwork from local self-taught artists and a catered breakfast every Friday morning. "It all helps fuel the energetic atmosphere that sets the firm apart in the highly competitive Chicago legal arena," says Weiss. Duane Morris also conducts two in-person weekend retreats per year, one for partners, the other for all of its lawyers worldwide. To further demonstrate that it's not all about billable hours at Duane Morris, which is an industry leader in providing benefits for parents of new children, the firm created a "parental leave ramp down/up" policy.

Under the policy, during the ramp down period, an eligible U.S. attorney may have their billable hours expectation reduced for up to four weeks immediately prior to a leave related to the birth or adoption of a child. Similarly, after returning to work following a leave of absence of at least 12 consecutive weeks in connection with the birth or adoption of a child, an eligible attorney may have up to three months to work a reduced schedule to gradually ramp back up to his or her regular billable hours expectation. "Through unique benefits like this policy, the firm has ushered in an environment that fosters success," says Amanda Moncada, 30, an associate.

See article on Crain's here