APA Center for Organizational Excellence: National Winner

The Awards

Not-For-Profit Category

Utah Foster Care

Accentuating the Positive

Utah – Operating under contract with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, Utah Foster Care (UFC) has seven offices in five regions throughout the state. As a nationally recognized nonprofit that finds, trains and supports Utah families who are willing and able to provide a nurturing home for abused or neglected children, UFC’s commitment to family doesn’t end there. The organization takes care of its own with a staff that thrives on respect, rapport and family-friendly policies.

Employee Involvement

Touching lives across the state of Utah involving some of its most vulnerable citizens is both crucially important and highly challenging. The work attracts a special kind of person with an empathic heart, a backbone of steel and plenty to say. This makes regular department and staff meetings – in which employees share successes, receive training and develop professional skills – very lively indeed. Plus, UFC’s CEO and program directors have an open-door policy, so staff know they’ll always be heard.

Health and Safety

UFC’s robust wellness program encompasses the physical, financial, emotional, environmental and vocational. Big-picture benefits include medical, dental, vision and an employee assistance program. But even small adjustments can make a big difference. For example, UFC’s human resources director regularly assesses each staff member’s posture at their desk, leading to ergonomic improvements in keyboard and monitor height, chair adjustments and the use of a footstool, all to lessen musculoskeletal strain. Staff who are sick are asked to stay home and take care of themselves.

Employee Growth and Development

UFC has created a culture in which managers help staff view each other as people, not as objects or barriers that get in the way. This has helped to eliminate gossip, unproductive blaming, not taking responsibility for mistakes, and destructive, time-wasting conflict. In doing so, employees have strengthened their relationships and heightened their productivity at work.

Work-Life Balance

Flexibility works at UFC. Employees may work from home, on the road or in a satellite location for all or part of the work week. New parents and nursing mothers are allowed to bring their infants to work for up to four months. Older children may visit or, in the case of childcare problems, they can spend the day with their parent. First-year employees can accrue up to five weeks of paid time off. Vacations and holidays are intended to be “R & R,” with employees encouraged not to check in with the office and interrupt their well-deserved breaks.

Employee Recognition

Success for one is success for all. A real morale builder occurs at UFC’s tri-annual all-staff meetings, during which employees nominate their peers for performance above and beyond their regular responsibilities. In recognition of their achievements, winners receive a long-stemmed rose with a $50 bill wrapped around the stem. Management is also quick to send out all-staff congratulatory emails for individual accomplishments such as participation in marathons, business recognition, graduations and clinical licensure, as well as monthly acknowledgment and appreciation of employees’ work anniversaries.

The Bottom Line

While employees at UFC find their work incredibly rewarding, the type of work they do means that at times, employees must also contend with sadness and tragedy. UFC won the Utah Work/Life Awards for seven consecutive years, from 2006 to 2012, and it’s no wonder: Staff could not possibly do what they do without taking care of themselves, and each other, as reflected both in policies from the top and in supportive, day-to-day interaction among peers. Employee longevity bears this out. Three-quarters of UFC’s staff have served the organization for more than four years, and a full 20 percent have worked there for 15 years or more.

"A psychologically healthy workplace is the result of comprehensive employee programs which provide a supportive, collaborative environment for innovation and business success. "

Craig R. Paeprer
Director of Operations
IBM Research Division