The Department of Labor and Industry on Monday named Partnership Health Center in Missoula as Montana's “Employer of Choice” in 2022, marking the first time the facility has been recognized with the award on a statewide level.

The organization was recognized at the local level as an Employer of Choice twice before. This time, however, the statewide accolades cover the large business category.

Kristi Harman, the director of staff engagement at PHC, said the organization emphasizes staff engagement.

“It's an art in that we are always looking for creative new ways we can support our staff, and it's a science because we use evidence-based survey tools to measure staff engagement and collect input from our team about what's working for them, what's challenging them and how we can improve how we support them,” she said. “That open line of communication is critical for us in our ongoing effort to make PHC the best place to work in Montana.”

Partnership Health Center was founded in 1992 after Missoula County was designated as a Medically Underserved Area by the federal government. It has since growth to employ 267 people and has expanded its reach in recent years, opening up new satellite clinics while growing its services.

It also completed a building renovation in 2008 and launched its Family Medicine Residency program in 2013 to train new doctors.

A cohort of doctors complete their residency at Partnership Health Center. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)
A cohort of doctors complete their residency at Partnership Health Center in Missoula. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

“Our board and our leadership team believe strongly that our ability to deliver on our mission and create positive impact across Missoula County starts with a healthy, supported and engaged workforce,” said executive director Laurie Francis. “Dedicating time and resources to staff engagement certainly helps us maximize our collective impact, but it’s also the right thing to do.”

PHC offers its staff a range of benefits including free counseling, paid parental leave, paid vacation and a flexible spending account.

During the pandemic, when employees across the city found themselves with additional childcare costs, PHC stepped in to provide financial assistance to help defray the costs.

“With unemployment in Montana at historic lows, it's more important than ever that employers go above and beyond to attract and retain talent,” said Laurie Esau, commissioner of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. “Offering competitive benefits and wages, fostering a positive workplace culture, and encouraging employee development and growth can all help employers build the workforce they need to meet their customers’ needs.”