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Why Utah health-care companies seem to know the prescription for healthy, happy workplaces

First Published      Last Updated Dec 12 2016 03:55 pm


Doing good is great for business » It turns out that helping patients helps personnel — and vice versa.

Making a living at keeping others healthy tends to bring greater job satisfaction, a new poll suggests.

That isn't a major surprise when it comes to physicians, nurses, hospital workers and clinicians — the front-line caregivers typically associated with medicine. Academic studies have documented through the years that the happiness of health-care workers is closely related to better outcomes for those they treat.

"If they're feeling better about themselves and their workplace, they go the extra mile for patients," said Kevin Martin, administrator at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Salt Lake City.

Shriners was one of several traditional medical facilities along the Wasatch Front with high worker morale, according to a survey of employers conducted for The Salt Lake Tribune by WorkplaceDynamics.



But Utahns in fields more distantly related to health and wellness also enjoy higher levels of fulfillment from their work, according to the Pennsylvania-based pollster's findings.

WorkplaceDynamics surveyed 18,593 employees at Wasatch Front companies. Of the 60 small, medium and large firms ultimately identified as top workplaces in northern Utah, nearly a quarter had a health-care tie.

Wasatch Front firms that ranked high for workplace morale range from hospitals and clinics to health insurers, efficiency consultants, nutritional-product marketers, health-monitoring device makers and managers of health-savings accounts.

In interviews with The Tribune, employees and managers at these businesses commonly described drawing passion and fulfillment from the wider mission of assisting others to be well and the feeling of involvement in something larger than themselves.

"I don't think it's accidental," said Hal Gooch, a doctor and chief medical officer at Molina Healthcare of Utah, provider of health services to low-income, disabled and elderly patients and their families. "People are happiest when they feel what they're doing is meaningful."

That view matches other survey findings that happy workers tend to put a higher value on meaning in their work — as well as appreciation, openness and trust from their managers — than they do the size of their paycheck.

Headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., publicly traded Molina touts a business model, according to Gooch, that urges employees to view patients as though they are part of the company's own extended family. That approach, the physician said, makes caregivers and support staff alike "more responsive, more sensitive and definitely improves patient outcomes."

Darrien Howze, community-outreach manager for Molina, spent a recent Saturday at Tooele's New Life Christian Fellowship Church, giving out haircuts and hygiene kits, hosting a barbecue and otherwise lending a hand to disadvantaged residents.

"Being able to help those in need really resonates with me," Howze said. "I get a chance to give back to the community, to really just assist people in reaching their potential and go beyond it."

The same notion of connection to a higher purpose proves to be a key driver of workplace morale in a variety of health-related professions, the WorkplaceDynamics poll found.

Employees view promoting wellness in its many guises as a kind of crusade, judging from scores of comments made on the survey. Principles and methods these companies apply to their customers are also part of their internal culture, in many cases, through formal wellness programs.

"I feel a genuine concern for my well-being, the good of the company, and for our providers and patients," an employee at CHG Healthcare Services, a Cottonwood Heights-based health-care staffing firm, told pollsters.

Many managers at these well-ranked firms said they view the manner in which they treat patients, customers and employees as almost interchangeable.

Murray-based health insurer SelectHealth has a mission of "helping people live the healthiest lives possible," CEO Bruce Dent said. The company recognizes a strong relationship between taking care of its workers and their heightened level of engagement on the job.

"Having very engaged employees," Dent said, "impacts our ability to deliver quality services."

Draper-based HealthEquity is among the nation's oldest custodians of health-savings accounts, with nearly $2.4 billion under its stewardship. Founder and Vice Chairman Steve Neeleman said the link between health care and personal savings puts the company "in a very unique position."

"There are few things more important than people's families, faith, their finances and health care," Neeleman said. "By managing people's money in a health setting, we've got a wonderful opportunity, at the nexus of two of those."

Nearly three dozen HealthEquity employees told pollsters that they loved their work. "Everyone is friendly," one said, "and we are united in a greater cause."

"I feel like I'm helping people," another worker said.

Neeleman said HealthEquity has sought to build an entire company culture around those ideals.

The firm encourages community volunteerism, refers to workers as "team members" instead of employees and even has a designated company color — purple — which is meant to denote HealthEquity as unique, exceptional and worthy of notice.

"Culture," Neeleman said, "eats strategy for lunch every day."

Employees at many top-ranked health-related companies also said they had a genuine sense of changing their industry and the world. These firms often view their products and services as a solution to rising health-care costs.

Health Catalyst is a Salt Lake City-based data storage and analytics company whose mission is to transform health care with a big data approach to supporting caregivers to more than 30 million patients nationwide.

Health Catalyst's chief people officer Jeff Selander — yes, chief people officer — said the company's nearly 200 employees share the common goal with doctors and nurses of bettering people's lives.

"Trying to make sick people well," Selander said, "is a powerful motivator across the board."

But software developers, engineers, instructors and designers don't always have direct contact with the people their work might help. To bridge that gap, Health Catalyst regularly shares details on its success stories with rank-and-file workers — a common pattern among Utah workplaces with high morale.

"It is a way to demonstrate to our clients what really matters," Selander said, "as well as a way for us and our team members to see, here's how we are improving things."

Ensuring that positive feedback reaches the right people takes many forms.

Orriant, a small firm in Salt Lake City, helps other employers set up and run in-house wellness programs. CEO Darrell Moon underscored the importance of letting Orriant's health coaches know about the positive effects they are having.

"To be effective," Moon said, "clearly the more that they can have an impact and see that improvement in health, the more passionate they are about their work."

Murray-based HealthInsight is an efficiency and quality-improvement consultant to health-care professionals and institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes in Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. Its employees, according to HealthInsight Executive Director Juliana Preston, live and breathe numbers and metrics, yet are still able to see a higher mission centered on people.

"We also believe in storytelling as a powerful, powerful tool," Preston said. "We encourage employees in the field to come back and share those stories."

As a project coordinator with HealthInsight, Joan Gallegos said she often feels the effects of her work reach well beyond individual cases.

"I get a lot of satisfaction out of making broad-based changes to our health-care system in Utah," Gallegos said. "Those results you see — instead of impacting one or two patients — impact tons of people. You really are making a difference in the lives of citizens and promoting a healthier environment here in Utah."

ZYTO is a small Lindon-based company making personal scanning devices used to capture personal health data and report clinical findings. Since its 2004 founding, the privately held business has built a worldwide community of users, said chief operating officer Kami Howard.

"This technology has literally changed their lives," Howard said, "changed lifestyles for the better and helped people gain insights into their health."

Two companies from Utah's sizable direct-sales nutritional supplements industry also landed on the WorkplaceDynamics top rankings: essential-oils maker doTERRA International, based in Pleasant Grove, and USANA Health Sciences, headquartered in West Valley City.

Workers at doTERRA and USANA Health Sciences repeatedly noted a positive, comfortable, familylike workplace as well as the feeling that their contributions mattered — even on a global scale.

"I feel like doTERRA is doing good in the world," one employee told pollsters, "and I love being a part of it."

tsemerad@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TonySemerad

 

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