ORONO, Minn. (AP) -- Businessman Rick Born is a big fan of the movie "Field of Dreams," and its motto: "If you build it, they will come."
But in Born's version, the line reads: "If you build it, they will stay."
Born Information Services, the e-business and technology consulting company Born founded 10 years ago, has a 20 percent annual turnover in an industry that averages 40 to 45 percent.
Part of the success in retaining workers in the tight job market can be attributed to Born's grandiose employee-appreciation gestures.
This summer Born threw a 10th-anniversary party for company employees on his 5-acre back yard with private lagoon on Lake Minnetonka. There were hot dogs, corn on the cob, baked beans and beer.
Everybody was in shorts and baseball caps. But this was no average company picnic.
For starters, they'd all received voice mail invites from Glenn Frey, the Eagles singer and top-billed talent on a concert-sized outdoor stage.
Born dropped close to $1 million for the all-expenses-paid weekend, flying in nearly 500 employees from around the country, along with their families.
The event also featured performances by Voices of Classic Rock, former members of such popular '70s bands as Deep Purple and Jefferson Starship, and a carnival's worth of activities for kids -- including bungee jumping, jousting, hair braiding and beading, pony rides and (the next morning) free rein at the Mall of America's Camp Snoopy, rented out for the occasion.
Gov. Jesse Ventura even made a surprise visit, glad-handing and posing for photos with guests.
Born, whose company had revenues of $125 million last year, also makes several summer lake cabins and resort homes available for employees to reserve for family vacations, hands out free laptop computers to all staff members and -- when his total number of employees was only around 100 -- took the entire company on a cruise to the Bahamas.
Each new consultant is allotted a $250 one-time clothing allowance, and $2,000 in benefits is available to employees in the process of adopting a child.
Last year the company launched Born University, an in-house learning center where employees can brush up on the latest e-business trends or earn an MBA through St. Thomas University, all free, and without ever having to sign a noncompete clause.
Born also employs one "staff manager" for every 20 consultants. Those managers "take you out to lunch once a week to take care of all your human resource stuff," he said.
Behind Born's largesse, however, is an enforced "work hard, play hard" expectation, and an extremely careful hiring process. At most companies in the industry, the hiring process takes one to two weeks. At Born, it's about six. Prospective Born consultants go through up to five in-person interviews.
Daniel Thompson, a first-year hire from Born's Colorado office, had two other attractive offers, but said Born's "esprit de corps" won him over.
Christopher Vickman of Georgia, who has been with the company for 18 months, said money is not the reason to take this job: Born "pays decent, but not the best. That's not the reason you come here."
"You can't just pay people cash and expect to get the performance," Born said.
Born isn't alone in offering soft perks to draw and hold workers.
Paul Bees of the Twin Cities office of the headhunting firm Robert Half International Inc. said he's seeing more front-end offers, such as signing bonuses and stock options or grants, as companies compete for workers.
Interelate, a business software provider in Eden Prairie, is among the companies that offer cash to employees who recruit workers. For each new hire an Interelate employee recruits, he or she receives a $100 bonus a month for as long as the recruit remain with the company; one employee has recruited seven people and now receives a $700 bump each month.
The staff has grown from 15 to 240 in the last six months, with 100 percent retention.
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