With labor shortages continuing to impact today’s workforce, talent attraction remains top of mind for many leaders.
Some in the region have managed to find solutions that help. For Greg Williams, the co-founder, CEO and president of fintech leader Acrisure, the company’s rapid growth in recent years has revealed some valuable talent attraction insights.
“I think it’s defining who we are, if nothing else in the minds of our own people,” Williams said.
Williams recently was the featured presenter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Breakfast Series event, highlighting Acrisure’s choice to call downtown Grand Rapids home and how the company works to attract and retain talent here in West Michigan.
Acrisure had its start in Caledonia in 2005 with a mission to create a decentralized approach to insurance agency acquisitions. In the years since, the company has expanded its services to include real estate, cybersecurity and asset and wealth management while climbing to $4 billion in revenue with 14,000 employees across 16 countries.
Additionally, Acrisure relocated its headquarters from Caledonia to Studio Park in downtown Grand Rapids last year — a move that highlights the fintech leader’s growth while also affirming Grand Rapids’ potential.
“We talked about going to Chicago, we talked about going to southeast Michigan, and really, when we boiled it all down, the conclusion was that we can build one of the world’s largest companies and fifth largest in the world of insurance right here in Grand Rapids,” Williams said. “For anybody who’s saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to be in a bigger city,’ hopefully we’re a little bit of an example.”
When the decision to move was announced in 2019, Acrisure had about 400 local employees. Now, according to Williams, the number has increased to 760.
But the company’s ability to attract more talent and bring those jobs to Grand Rapids isn’t just because of what the region has to offer. While he cited a distinct Midwestern work ethic and the overall quality of the region as a viable place to live and raise a family, Williams said talent attraction is not just about the “where,” but the “who.”
“If our employees at Acrisure walk out of that building every day thinking, ‘You know what? I work for a company that cares,’ then mission accomplished,” Williams said. “That’s going to help us improve talent, that’s going to help us retain talent.”
Williams challenged business leaders to consider ways to envision a “noble purpose” for their companies, no matter the revenue or team size. Giving employees something to emotionally connect with, he said, will make a difference with talent attraction.
As an example, Williams highlighted some of Acrisure’s efforts to foster a noble purpose. Currently, the company is 73%-employee owned in contrast to other large brokerage firms either private equity-controlled or publicly traded.
Though it’s not a feasible position for every company to be in, transformative efforts such as these can create added value for employees.
“We’re doing something big and transformative about every two years,” Williams said. “And what does that do to a place for talent? It absolutely brings people to you and attracts them. And if they’re here, they stay.”
On a more day-to-day basis, leaders at Acrisure work to establish a culture that empowers team members to make decisions and be more confident outside of their comfort zones.
Williams said decision making is a key part of the company culture as employees are encouraged to take action and be thoughtful, and with that comes the need to recognize full potential.
“I see it every day at all levels; people kind of underestimate what they can and maybe even should accomplish and achieve,” he said. “People want to be comfortable.”
However, Williams said comfort isn’t what has contributed to the company’s growth.
“The point is those things are not achieved easily,” he said. “They’re not achieved by staying comfortable. They’re supposed to be hard. You don’t get to be the best in anything or the fastest growing in the world in anything easily. You have to push people out of their comfort zone.”
According to Williams, these efforts appear to be making an impact. A newly launched internal program called Acrisure Listens, which focuses on employee feedback, recently revealed the main takeaway was that the company cares for its people and for the community.
“When I look at that and think about that, again, I think: mission accomplished,” Williams said.
For those in the room, Williams reiterated the importance of taking actionable steps and envisioning the kind of noble purpose and empowered culture that he works to foster at Acrisure. It is then that talent attraction can start to fall into place.
“If you exemplify some of these qualities, I think you’ll see the fruits and the outcomes,” he said. “All of that is part of how we’ve been able to attract talent and get people to come to Great Rapids.”
This story can be found in the Nov. 28 issue of the Grand Rapids Business Journal. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here.