Mississippi Blood Services taking care of its associates, too

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Published: August 21,2006

Over the last few years, Mississippi Blood Services (MBS) has continued to fine-tune its employee recruitment and retention program.

The Mississippi-based, FDA-licensed, not-for-profit blood center employs more than 160 employees and services 50 hospitals in Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.

“My philosophy is that if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of the business,” said David Allen, CEO of MBS, a Best Places to Work in Mississippi finalist earlier this year. “We’re in a very competitive industry, and we’ve worked hard to show that, by putting our associates first, they put our donors and the community first. Everyone’s happy and we continue to have dedicated employees saving lives by doing good work.”

The employees are so enthusiastic about working at MBS, they donated $30,000 to move from their old location (the former A&P store that is now the Rainbow Food Co-Op) to their current facility (the former Ethan Allen Furniture Store), “a feat I thought was amazing,” said Allen.

MBS was formed in 1979 when Family Blood Assurance Program and Mississippi Regional Blood Center consolidated. A founding member of Providence, R.I.-based Blood Centers of America, MBS participates in America’s Blood Center and American Association of Blood Banks, both based in Washington, D.C.

The company provides a diverse range of blood and blood components, reference laboratory and cross matching services and education and training services to hospitals and their transfusion services. Last year, MBS collected and processed more than 60,000 units of blood components.

“We’re now bursting at the seams,” said Allen. “We can continue to function for a while, but we’re going to run out of space, so we’re looking ahead at building a new facility on land we acquired nearby. It really saddens me when I see someone pull into the parking lot that can’t find a space, make a loop and leave. If we don’t make it convenient for people, they’re not going to donate. It’s as simple as that.”

Allen, who has been at the company helm for 18 years, decided early on to do whatever it takes to attract and retain a professional and competent workforce. He incorporated an expansive employee retention program that includes a 401(k) plan allowing a dollar-for-dollar match provision up to 6%; health, life and disability insurance, including dental and prescription plans, and an annual physical benefit at no cost to the employee; free flu shots; an education reimbursement program; an employee assistance program with confidential counseling services; and a newly launched WellnessPlus program that rewards associates with monetary incentives for good health practices.

“As an employee, I’m really excited about the WellnessPlus program because it’s so comprehensive,” said MBS associate Kelly Scrivner. “It’s not just about working out at the gym. The program provides health screenings and sets individual and group goals to improve health.”

Noreen Haley, a 22-year employee, said, “Working at MBS helps me to fulfill my social obligation. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I’ve made a difference in the lives of so many people who need our services. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement benefit; because of this, I was able to return to school and obtain a bachelors in management from Belhaven College.”

MBS also offers an innovative assisted housing program for employees who have marked their two-year work anniversary. “We’ll give them $2,500 toward the purchase of their home,” explained Allen. “For every year they remain with us, we’ll forgive $500.”

Stephanie Hughes, who has been with MBS for 12 years, took advantage of the company’s housing assistance program when she closed on her new home. “Mississippi Blood Services cares for the people who help others save lives,” she said.
In addition to routine company events, such as the annual picnic and backyard burger cookout, holiday luncheon and monthly functions hosted by rotating departments, MBS also hosts a biannual state-of-the-company meeting to update employees on regulatory changes, customer service topics, blood supply trends and other issues.

“All employees attend a weeklong orientation where they are educated on the company’s mission, corporate atmosphere and general manufacturing procedures,” said Allen. “All donor technicians must complete a stringent 10-week training program, for which they are compensated. We also offer a variety of other professional development programs including leadership, public speaking, problem solving and personal finance management training.”

MBS also uses a system, Predictive Index, which helps Allen identify people who are more suited for various positions within the organization. Individuals complete the Predictive Index when they apply for a job.

“MBS provides the necessary resources to make the work atmosphere efficient and pleasant,” said Sue Grubbs, a one-year employee. “The staff works well together and I am proud to be part of the team.”

Allen said because MBS has a strong and dedicated group in place, he’s been able to focus on other business matters, such as incorporating the latest technology in the blood collection process.

“Over the last few years, MBS has invested more than $3 million in technological advances to enhance every aspect of the donation process, making it safer, more comfortable and more efficient for the donor as well as more effective for the recipient,” he said. “Because less than 4% of the population provides the blood needed for transfusions while 60% of the population could, it’s important that MBS make the most of every donation and one of the best ways to do that is to encourage automated donations.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

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