"ARUP and Employees are Each Other's Good Fortune"
February 09, 2004, Deseret Morning News
By Pat Poyfair
Ask ARUP Laboratories chief executive Ronald Weiss what makes him smile most about his business making Fortune magazine's list of the best companies to work for, and he won't say it's because ARUP is in the same company as household names like Timberland, Harley-Davidson or the Men's Wearhouse.
It's what went into ARUP receiving the honor in the first place.
"The most gratifying thing about the Fortune article is that a majority of the score calculation through … employee interviews," Weiss said. "Most of it is just people who work here who are expressing their feelings about how much they like to work here."
That assessment is correct, said the co-author of the Fortune article, Milton Moskowitz.
"We think it's a pretty select list," Moskowitz said. "In fact, it's a lot different than all of the lists that Fortune runs because two-thirds of the score is completely employee driven. If employees don't like the company they work for, they don't make the list."
ARUP employees proved they liked their jobs enough to help the Salt Lake-based laboratory hit 65th on the Fortune list. And yet, many Utahns have never heard of ARUP.
Steve Gomm has daughter checked by
physician assistant Marti Trunnell at clinic.
(Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News)
|Formed in 1984 with 100 employees by the University of Utah pathology department to lighten the load of lab work for University Hospital, ARUP has since established itself as one of the nation's top reference laboratories and has become nationally recognized for excellence in the field of pathology.
Today, ARUP employs more than 1,600 people and offers more than 2,000 laboratory tests to 3,000 hospitals in all 50 states and various countries around the world.
ARUP provides testing in a variety of areas, from cytology support and children's health improvement to newborn infant screenings and blood services.
Owned by the U., the company posted annual revenues of $190 million in 2003.
Yet the company's success in the laboratory business has been matched by its success in dealing with employees. Operating in a field in which it is traditionally difficult to recruit workers, ARUP has managed to keep its yearly turnover rate close to 11 percent by luring prospective employees with a benefits package that most would deem extravagant and keeping them by providing a healthy workplace culture that focuses on the employee.
"It comes from the philosophy of the executives that stresses that employees need to have the work balance with a life away from the office," said Von Madsen, ARUP's assistant vice president for human resources.
"Our management team believes that the more respect we can show to employees, the more likely they'll be concerned about their jobs."
Fortune Magazine isn't the only entity that has recognized ARUP laboratories for its excellence in dealing with employees. Last November, ARUP was among seven companies designated as a "Psychologically Healthy Workplace" by the Utah Psychological Association â the second straight year it received the honor. In April 2003, ARUP was recognized as one of Utah's "Top 10 Family-Friendly Companies" by the Utah Office of Child Care for the third straight year. Last February, ARUP was named one of Health Magazine's "Top 10 Healthiest Companies for Women."
Technologists Mel Bingham and Kati Bromley
extract Hepatitis B and C at ARUP. The company
offers more than 2,000 laboratory tests.
(Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News)
|Madsen readily acknowledges that ARUP's success in winning over employees has not come through employing the human resources fad of the month, whatever it may be. Instead, it is the result of a 19-year effort to instill a philosophy of top-flight patient care that spreads to how management interacts with employees.
"From the beginning we've tried to perpetuate collegiality, professionalism, mutual respect and tried to carry that over to here," Weiss said. "At first it was for the 100-plus employees at the University Hospital. Then we basically brought that group of people working with that spirit and mind together.
"That 100-plus people has now turned into 1,600 people, and the majority of them have been there for less than three years. It's a young group of employees, but we've tried to continue to perpetuate those same ideals that we started out with in 1984."
Among the benefits ARUP has implemented are:
- A free health-care clinic on site for the not-so-serious maladies that affect workers and their families on a daily basis.
- Free veterinary care.
- Free legal consultations.
- Free debt counseling.
- A fitness room.
- The opportunity to work seven days on and seven days off, as well as other flexible schedules.
- Incentive-based bonuses.
- An on-site pharmacy
Cafeteria insurance plans and benefits extended to domestic partners, in addition to an already healthy medical, dental, vision, adoption and tuition reimbursement package.
And while they do not offer it yet, plans are in the works to add on-site day care for employees' children.
"We ranked them that high because (ARUP) has some interesting things, like flexible work schedules," Moskowitz said. "They are also one of a few Utah companies that include domestic partner benefits, and in a tough economy, they increased their payroll 10 percent."
But the benefits themselves are not enough to reach the level of employee satisfaction ARUP laboratories is looking for.
"If you have programs and benefit packages and no respect or feelings for the dignity of the employees who work for you, then they'll see right through that," Madsen said. "We do have a lot of programs, but we hope that they serve to support and back up our primary philosophy of respect and caring for our employees."
"A measure of our employee satisfaction is a measure of our success," said Bonnie Messinger, a quality manager who has been with the company for 23 years. "How we take care of our own is a measure of how we take care of everyone."
Messinger said that when she started at ARUP, she was continually told that she was to base every decision she made on what was best for the patient.
"While you sort of expect a new company to say these kinds of things when you first come to work, you don't expect them to really believe it and have the patient's best interest guide you in every facet of the jobs you do," she said.
"I think that that philosophy is what makes this place great. It's a culture of caring. We like to think that taking care of people is in our blood."
Zakaria and Zahia Ibrahim immigrated to Utah from Egypt in 1997, and Zakaria went to work in 1998 as a lab assistant in special chemistry. Zahia began work at ARUP as a laboratory sample sorter shortly thereafter.
On one unhappy morning in 2001, the Ibrahims' house burned to the ground. That didn't stop Zakaria from showing up to work that day, however, to the astonishment of his colleagues at ARUP.
"This is my job," he said. "I really want to keep working here, so it was an easy decision for me to show up and do my job."
His surprised supervisors sent him home to be with his family, and ARUP employees quickly raised the necessary funds to get the Ibrahim family back on its feet. Later that year, Zakaria and Zahia were awarded employee of the year honors, and since that the time, both have benefited from taking English as a second language courses for which ARUP pays 75 percent.
"They are always asking us if they can do anything to help us," Zahia said. "They help too much already. I'm proud to be part of this wonderful place."