Utah’s CHG Healthcare is second to none in ‘putting people first’ — starting with its own employees

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Spectators cheer as fellow employees compete in a pizza eating competition during a fundraiser for United Way at CHG Healthcare Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

The culture at CHG Healthcare is designed around a core value the company calls “putting people first.”

It’s a principle that applies to employees as well as customers. And, as the Midvale-based health care staffing company firmly believes, when workers feel they’re being treated well, they’re far more likely to be effective and empathetic caregivers.

“We actually believe our culture is our competitive advantage in the marketplace,” said Kevin Ricklefs, CHG’s senior vice president of talent management. “More engaged people bring much more discretionary effort, provide high-quality work and certainly stay longer with the company. In a business built on relationships, having people willing to stay longer is a huge advantage.”

CHG’s approach is working.

Based largely on feedback from its 1,400 Utah employees (2,500 globally), CHG Healthcare finished first among large companies in The Salt Lake Tribune’s Top Workplaces of 2017 contest.

Teaming up with Pennsylvania-based Energage (formerly WorkplaceDynamics), which helps companies develop engaging workplace cultures that are “employee-centric,” The Tribune surveyed 102 companies — the most ever in four years of selecting Top Workplaces. Cumulatively, those firms employ 34,505 people.

And CHG has been a consistent finalist, capturing the top prize among large companies in 2015 and runner-up honors last year.

“We tend to hire people who are compassionate and caring and want to do well for our customers,” Ricklefs said. “That translates easily into them wanting to do work for the communities they live in.”

Each CHG employee gets eight hours of paid time off a year to volunteer in the community. Last year, enough employees accepted the offer that they combined to contribute 6,600 hours of service to charities and causes. Beneficiaries included the Ronald McDonald House, The Road Home and area schools.

“Make a Difference Week” has become another popular function, giving employees a chance to raise money for charity through a number of events.

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Employees compete in a pizza eating competition during a fundraiser for United Way at CHG Healthcare Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

One such offering this fall was a pizza-eating contest, held on the basketball courts on the grounds of the company’s Midvale campus. The winner was 27-year-old Morgan Loy, a Magna woman who helps with building maintenance as part of CHG’s facilities team.

“It’s a fun way to raise money for a good cause,” said Loy, who defended her title in consuming a large Little Caesars cheese pizza in 10 minutes, faster than seven other competitors. All had raised pledges of support from their co-workers and munched away to their cheers.

“Fun is a good way to put it. I get the bragging rights of winning a competition like that and raising $450 for United Way,” Loy said, noting she also won a race featuring little Hot Wheels cars on a track built by CHG’s hospital-privileges team.

“A lot of teams here do service projects, like working closely with the cafeteria staff to take leftover food to The Road Home,” she said. “We’re constantly looking for ways to give back. I feel really good about working here, getting a chance to do that.”

(photo courtesy CHG Healthcare Services) CHG employees are seen during a trip to Kenya where they did a variety of service projects.

Since 2016, the opportunity to do good has extended to the other side of the world. CHG created a “Difference Makers Award” in which four employees nominated by their co-workers for especially significant community contributions went to Kenya with CEO Scott Beck to build a boy’s school in a rural village. Six more CHG employees joined Beck in returning to that village this year to continue the work.

“We do three to four humanitarian trips a year,” said Ricklefs, citing a recent trip to the Navajo Nation by CHG volunteers who painted houses, built fences and helped people clear land. Sometimes the trips are close to home, he added, such as a cleanup project at a community center in Midvale.

“It helps us within the business tremendously, this core value of putting people first,” Ricklefs said. Not only has it assisted CHG in amassing a compound annual growth rate of roughly 19 percent, compared to 10 percent in the industry, but it also has left his company “with the lowest turnover rate in the industry, at 15 percent.”

“The rest of the [health care staffing] industry’s turnover rate is 50 to 60 percent,” he added. “We’re competing with companies that lose half their people every year. When you keep them, they’re more engaged and they try to connect with our customers better so we provide better quality.”

Little stuff around the office also seems to keep employees satisfied.

Pregnant women qualify for closer parking spaces. A nurse practitioner is available in a workplace medical clinic for primary care, with benefits including employees’ domestic partners, whether they be of the same or opposite gender. A gym is provided to bolster worker health, while the CHG complex also has a bike storage room and repair station for employees who pedal to work.

Courtesy photo | An inside view of CHG Healthcare's new headquarters in Midvale. The 282,000-square-foot campus for the health care staffing company is just off Interstate 15 and 7200 South. It has two five-story buildings connected by a glass “People Hub” that includes lounge areas, meeting spaces and dining areas.

A game room lets employees burn off steam playing table tennis, foosball, pool, air hockey or electronic games. Enhanced lighting and adjustable desks help employees do their jobs without as much strain on their eyes and joints. And if that’s not enough, Ricklefs added, pet insurance also is offered.

“Pets are family, too,” he said.