After more than three decades of turning the concept of workplace flexibility into a reality, Children’s Dental Village has been recognized as one of 26 Arizona recipients of the enviable Alfred P. Sloan Award.
“Ironically, we’ve been employing these practices for 35 years, so it was overdue, but it was the first time we applied,” said Leslie Barrett, director of operations for the practice. “We’re one-for-one.”
Joyce Anne Ware Longfellow, one of three owners of the practice and its ambassador, worked throughout the years to make the place a comfortable, family environment for her employees, Barrett said.
“Joyce is the culture queen,” she said. “She’s the one that really developed the culture of the organization.”
Longfellow said workplace flexibility is a hot topic right now, especially with economic constraints hitting local businesses.
“It’s saying that in order for a small business, especially, to be viable in this economy, you have to offer other things to your staff besides the benefits that are shrinking,” she said.
“Being appreciated and valued, having a voice and helping to set policies – those things are valued more than the money.”
Implementing alternative advantages for employees, such as having healthcare benefits, paid vacations and flexible schedules, creates an environment that allows employees to value their work at the practice, she said
“There is a lot of personal development that goes into the practice that they can apply to their life and relationships,” Longfellow said.
“We start every day of work with some form of a sharing opportunity. It’s kind of an inspirational type of thing.”
Longfellow’s idea of implementing programs to help benefit the local community got a boost from a unique experience she had when she was a student at Arizona State University in the just studies program.
She said one of her class projects required her to spend an entire semester with a homeless woman who had children and spoke a different language.
“At the end of that semester, I absolutely knew as an organization we needed to create what I called our community outreach program to allow those opportunities,” she said. “It makes a difference.”
Although Children’s Dental Village changed locations three times in the past 35 years, it has always been a Tempe business.
Barrett said the application process for the award consisted of confidential employee surveys of multiple-choice and essay questions.
“They had an opportunity to be very honest without the fear of me looking at their written responses,” she said.
“I want to say that we had 95 percent participation in that.”
Children’s Dental Village was recognized as a recipient of the workplace flexibility award Nov. 2.
“I was thrilled,” Longfellow said.
“I think it’s kind of a wake up call. The overall message is that you have to pay attention to what you do (to show that you) value your employees.”