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Employers embrace 
their extended families

The founders of Talent Plus, a global human resources consulting firm, realized early on that good food and fresh coffee have a way of bringing people together, so they make sure that there are plenty of both at the company's Lincoln, Neb., headquarters.

Employees break bread together in a gourmet-level cafeteria and gather around the sole coffee pot on the top floor of a three-story building—a strategic move to get people walking and talking to each other, according to Communications Director Cydney Koukol.

“One of our founders, Doug Rath, had a mother who was a wonderful cook, and he knew that you can show caring through food as well as knowing that the way to one's soul is through sharing food,” she said. “And while we have a larger footprint in our building today, we continue to have just one kitchen and one coffee pot, encouraging people to come together during various parts of their day and connecting with others from different parts of our building and across different business units.”

With 75 U.S. employees, the company goes through about 20 pounds of coffee a week, according to executive chef Scott Burkle, who oversees the Taste of Talent kitchen where he prepares breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks.

He also has cooked for employees' weddings, funerals, birthdays and has even sent meals home to an employee going through cancer treatment and to a retiree who suffered a stroke.

“If they're sick I make soup; if it's a death in the family I'll send home lasagna,” he said. “We do catering so employees can use our services anytime at work or home. We also have a leftovers program so kids at home can consume our food too. If their family is healthy, employees will do well at work.”


The company pays for 66% of the kitchen costs and employees can rent the dining space for family events at no cost, according to Koukol.

Talent Plus wants employees to feel at home—so much so that there are two houses on the corporate campus where traveling associates can stay while they're in town on business.

“We want people to bring their kids to work, so we do a lot of things around family events like a pumpkin patch at Halloween,” says Kimberly Rath, who co-founded the company with her husband, Doug. She said people know other's children by name and associates keep toys and other special items in their drawers in case children visit the office.

The company also goes the extra mile to make new moms feel special with a newly remodeled lactation room and a gift box of materials needed to pump and store breast milk waiting for them when they return to work.

“When I came back, I had my box on my desk and my team put pictures of my son on my desk every day during my first week back,” says Client Services Manager Arah Spurgeon. “It was a great transition back to work.”

Family is also central to the culture at HopeWest, a hospice services provider based in Grand Junction, Colo., according to Mary Wigington, vice president of human resources.

“The work of hospice care isn't easy,” she says. “It takes a unique person to do it. It's heavy in an emotional sense, so we are all about self-care when it comes to our employees. We have art therapy, aromatherapy, flexible schedules, mental health days, anything that helps them stay whole as an individual and as an employee and parent.”


Benefits such as tuition reimbursement, an employee assistance program, discounted movie tickets, work-from-home policies and generous paid time off enable HopeWest employees to integrate work and home in a healthy way, Wigington said.

HopeWest has 370 employees, mostly nurses, certified nursing assistants and social workers, and 1,500 volunteers in four locations.

“Our employees feel valued and cared for and they project that back into the great work that they do,” she says. “Having a family-friendly worklife makes that happen.”

At Sutter Davis (Calif.) Hospital, a culture of caring is embedded in its company values, and a set of expected behaviors is taught to new employees during orientation, said Don Hartman, director of human resources.

“It seems small, but it's a big deal in our culture,” he said. “We have a rule of always escorting people to their destination. We don't give directions and point.”

Sutter Davis' culture is a point of pride for employees who are encouraged to bring their families to all hospital events, such as the annual fall picnic and the winter celebration awards banquet. The hospital has about 500 employees, 80 doctors and 140 volunteers who are all invited to these events, according to Hartman.

“Whether it's a volunteer or an employee, we treat everyone as one large family,” Hartman said. “Families are a part of everything we do.”

Rita Pyrillis is a freelance writer based in Chicago.


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