At Alpha Warranty Services, employees are encouraged to socialize on their weekly Fun Day Friday, part of the Riverton insurance company’s belief that friendly teamwork elevates dedication to the firm’s success.

And, at Experticity, a marketing and branding company in downtown Salt Lake City, a drive to collect coats for the needy is just one of many “little things” undertaken to build employee morale in ways that encourage contributions to community well-being.

To help stimulate its employees’ creativity, Salt Lake City health care company BioFire Diagnostics has developed an unstructured workplace because, in the words of human resources Vice President Linda Brandon, “we don’t want to inhibit the innovative minds we hire.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) THe cafeteria at BioFire Diagnostic at Research Park. BioFire Diagnostic is one of the top performing companies in the Top Workplaces competition,Thursday, September 28, 2017.

Those are just three examples of projects launched by Utah companies that believe a happy and motivated workforce is essential to business success. They’re indicative of an approach gaining wider acceptance, as reflected by the fact 16 Utah companies were recognized this year as “top workplaces” for the first time in a contest co-sponsored by The Salt Lake Tribune and Energage (formerly WorkplaceDynamics).

Half those newcomers were small companies with fewer than 125 employees.

Alpha Warranty Services has 70 employees in a brown office building along Redwood Road offering vehicle service contract programs that set service standards between automotive dealerships and vehicle purchasers.

“Because our company purpose is to provide peace of mind, we do the same for our employees,” said marketing director Jordan Vardell, citing a generous benefits package replete with insurance coverages and personal-development incentives such as tuition reimbursement for “industry-specific certifications as well as formal education.”

Connecting work to enjoyable or meaningful experiences is also an important motivational tool, he said. Besides its Fun Day Fridays, the company has sponsored trips to a play at Desert Star Playhouse, backed employees supporting the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, hosted company potlucks and spent a month focusing on employee health and wellness.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The exercise room at BioFire Diagnostic at Research Park. BioFire Diagnostic is one of the top performing companies in the Top Workplaces competition,Thursday, September 28, 2017.

“From a business standpoint, we get a lot additional production because people want to see the company succeed. We want to make sure the work/life balance is progressively getting better so they can leave work and go home and be happy,” Vardell said, adding that Alpha Warranty also surveys its employees regularly to find out what’s important to them. “We want them to take care of what they need to do here and feel valued for what they do.”

Many of the same motivational tools were employed by the other small companies that garnered their first Top Workplace awards:

• Valeo Home Health & Hospice, Millcreek.

• Sorenson Media, Draper.

• BGZ brands, Lehi.

• TCA — Total Care Auto, Draper.

• First Direct Lending, Salt Lake City.

• Fluid Studio Inc., Bountiful.

• Cicero Group, Salt Lake City.

Among midsize companies with 125 to 399 employees, Experticity has found that it gets good results through programs that enable employees to live a phrase they often use with customers, “How can I help you?”

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Experticity staff Jesse Craner, left, Rico Alderete and Anna Farnsworth, right, hold jackets they will donate to The Road Home during a drive to collect coats for the homeless, Wednesday, October 25, 2017. The effort is one of the team building activities used by the marketing/branding company to involve their employees in helping the community - an opportunity that workers say motivates them to do better all around.

For work, that question involves linking customers to experts in their fields of interest, helping them develop “robust solutions to assist their marketing and advertising efforts.”

At work, it means participating in the annual Salvation Army Angel Tree, which helps 100 children and seniors during the holidays, and promoting efforts to clean the air. As winter looms, the coat drive is another avenue for employees to help others.

“Giving back is a central tenet in our culture, but heading into the holiday season that desire to give is always a bit stronger. When you walk into the office and see a bin of warm jackets and blankets ready to be donated to those who don’t have them, it’s impossible not to be encouraged by the generosity and humanity of your peers,” said Heather Mercier, Experticity’s chief financial officer. “The coat drive is a small, simple thing for us to do each year to help our community, and it is these little things that lift people’s spirit and drive overall positive morale.”

Mercier won the Utah Tech Council’s “HR Executive of the Year” award recently for helping to mold a company culture that is conducive to attracting top talent.

Getting enough employee support to be designated a leading workplace makes the company even more attractive to job seekers, said Anna Farnsworth, Experticity’s director of talent acquisition.

“Great, driven employees want to work with other great performers. When you’re able to attract talent that elevates an individual team, the entire company benefits,” she said, noting the workplace recognition award ”validates the things our employees already believe and helps elevate our employment brand.”

Joining Experticity as first-time winners among medium-size companies were:

• BlenderBottle Co., Lehi.

• Jive Communications, Orem.

• Provo Craft & Novelty, South Jordan.

• Merrick Bank (CardWorks), South Jordan.

• Boostability, Lehi.

• Panda Restaurant Group, Salt Lake City.

Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune More than 850 BioFire employees, local dignitaries and building contractors celebrate the opening of BioFire Diagnostics, LLC, (a bioMŽrieux company) at their new home in Research Park in new home Salt Lake City Wednesday May 17, 2017.

Brandon, BioFire’s HR boss, emphasized that her company, based at University of Utah Research Park, wanted to retain the creative culture that helped it succeed before it became a big operation with more than 1,100 employees in Utah — and another 100 worldwide.

“We know that when our employees are happy, and want to work here, they’ll do better work,” said Brandon, whose company designs and manufactures products that have accelerated diagnosis times for tests involving more than 80 viruses, bacterias, parasites and antimicrobial resistance genes. “We look at all aspects of their employment here — from what they’re served in the cafeteria, to how they balance work and personal time, to the benefits we provide.”

All employees start with four weeks of paid time off plus 11 paid holidays. Many get every other Friday off. New parents are offered 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Workers get $5 a day to spend in the cafeteria. The company also provides employees up to $8,000 a year for tuition and books if they are advancing their educations.

A special perk at its offices on Salt Lake City’s east bench: Work stations that adjust for sitting or standing, Brandon said, “and the views throughout the building are some of the best in the valley.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Employees have a great view of the valley form the west patio at BioFire Diagnostic at Research Park. BioFire Diagnostic is one of the top performing companies in the Top Workplaces competition,Thursday, September 28, 2017.