October 2010: Volume 36, Number 10
Open Communication and Creative Benefits Keep Turnover Low
Studies of the different generations in the workforce have found that younger generations—Xers and millenials—view work far differently than previous generations, and often see non-monetary benefits as equally important when evaluating an employer. One institution that has been at the forefront of creating innovative employee programs is ARUP Laboratories in Salt Lake City.
Recognized as a leader in the reference lab field, ARUP Laboratories is well known for its expertise in molecular and genetic testing as well as its robust research and development arm. However, ARUP has also gained renown for its workplace quality, and has been selected several times by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.
ARUP has earned much of this acclaim by offering a wide range of unique benefits to employees that engage the needs and interests of all generations in the workforce, said Roy Prasad, director of human resources. "The culture here has always been to ask, what can we do to support our employees, to make life easier for them so that they can concentrate on their jobs?" he explained. "The bottom line payoff is that our employees rarely leave. Our employee turnover is about 10%. We don’t have to retrain employees, and we don’t lose that historical knowledge and expertise. Our investments aren’t walking out of the door; they’re staying right here with ARUP for many, many years."
One area of benefits key to younger generations of workers is paid time off and flexible work schedules. ARUP employees start with 17 days of vacation in the first year, in addition to 8 sick days and 8 paid holidays. Shift work can be tailored to a variety of lifestyles, Prasad emphasized. A popular option, called the 7/7 shift, offers seven days off after seven straight 10-hour shifts. "These shifts were created mostly with the younger workforce in mind because time off is so important to them. With this shift, if they want to take a mini vacation every other week, they can." Another option is to work three 12-hours shifts, followed by four days off.
Other benefits focus on work-life balance, wellness, and managing stress. These include an onsite daycare center, pharmacy, library, and cafeteria, as well as a free onsite medical clinic. The employee wellness center is staffed by counselors who conduct 30 classes per week on everything from yoga and Pilates to sports conditioning, and there is an onsite masseuse. The wellness center also runs recreation programs for employees and their families, like paying for a day of skiing and sledding or renting a bowling alley for an evening. "These types of activities help reduce stress and help our employees achieve the work-life balance that’s so important to them," Prasad said.
Behind a generous benefits program and creative approach to shift work, Prasad points to a culture of listening closely to employees that sets the foundation for making the lab a great place to work. The ARUP strategy is to use as many means as possible to get a pulse of what is important to employees, including regular town hall meetings with executives, an open invitation to take a walk around the campus with the chairman of the board every Thursday, and an ambassador committee made up of former employees of the month. The ambassador committee is used as a sounding board for new programs, policies and procedures, as well as a group that can give input on what’s important to employees—what is working well and what may not be working well.
"ARUP really listens to what its employees have to say, and because of that we’re able to adapt to their needs, whether it’s the younger workforce or the older workforce," Prasad said. "We feel like as long as we give our employees that voice, as long as we’re in touch with what they need in order to take care of themselves and their families, then we’ll be in a better position to take care of our patients, which is our ultimate goal—patient care."