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Black Hills Works implements "The Good Life"

Black Hills Works
Krystal Miga
Black Hills Works

They’ve dubbed it “The Good Life.” And for many Black Hills Works employees, it consists of a three-day work week, a flexible schedule, and less burn-out. For Black Hills Works leadership, they’re hoping it results in less employee turnover and ultimately, better lives for the people they serve.

Black Hills Works is a company in Rapid City that supports people with disabilities. Many of their employees are Direct Support Professionals or DSPs and help some people do things like bathe, eat, and get dressed. They also support them with their medications and take them to community events or medical appointments.

But the company has a 40 percent employee turnover rate.

Gayle Steiger is the Vice President of Human Resources at Black Hills Works. She said they knew they weren’t the only ones with a workforce crisis and they needed to do something innovative.

“It seems like since the pandemic, people want more work-life balance," Steiger said. "I think they always did but it became more apparent at that time. And so that’s why we knew we couldn’t keep doing the same thing. We have shift work. That means evenings, overnights, weekends, holidays and that’s always more challenging to fill those positions versus a Monday through Friday day position so… and we have a lot of staff. We have probably close to 400 people who do direct support all over the city in group homes, houses, apartments, and so we need a lot of good people. And so that’s what we were facing and that’s why we thought, 'well, let’s do something different.'"

So, they enlisted the help of a consulting company.

They landed on a schedule where most direct support professionals work 12-hour days, three days a week. They also made changes to pay structures, paid time off and other benefits — all in hopes of recruiting and retaining a well-trained and happy workforce.

Julie Su is the Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor. She said the pandemic accelerated change that no one thought was possible and companies are still calibrating.

"So, I think we’re still in a period of adjustment about exactly what that’s going to look like and I know employers are doing their level best to figure out what the right arrangement is for their workforce," Su said.

That’s true for Black Hills Works, too. "The Good Life" officially started on July 31, 2023, and Human Resources Vice President Gayle Steiger says they’re collecting data and will make any necessary adjustments.

Krystal is the local host of "All Things Considered."