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Angel Canyon landscape of red cliffs with a road running through it

Best Friends receives Utah Top Workplaces award and leadership award

By Julie Castle
Photos by Troy Snow

The concept of kindness in leadership seems to be trending these days, thanks to the brilliance of shows like Ted Lasso, which embodies the belief that kindness can unite a team and make it better. The trailer for season two even boldly announces that “this year, kindness makes a comeback.”

Here at Best Friends, however, kindness has always been trending.

Today in Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake Tribune announced the eighth annual Utah Top Workplaces awards. I had the great honor of being recognized with the Tribune’s leadership award for large Utah companies and, of much more importance to me, Best Friends was recognized as one of the top workplaces in Utah.

The awards are based exclusively on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by the company Energage. The survey measured drivers of engaged workplace cultures that are critical to the success of an organization, including alignment with values, direction of the organization and meaningfulness of work.

Being named one of the top workplaces in our home state of Utah is even more special because it’s based on feedback from Best Friends’ staff, and as a CEO, I can’t think of anything more gratifying.

I believe that the most successful companies are the ones leading with their hearts and investing in their people — not only by providing fair wages and great benefits, which I’m proud to say that Best Friends provides, but by putting culture first.

At Best Friends, our culture is steeped in mission and innovation. Data drives our every decision and saving the lives of homeless pets inspires our every move. As an organization, we do everything we can to prioritize our staff and provide a safe, inclusive and equitable workplace,  and time off to recharge. And we recognize that a flexible workplace is key to attracting top talent in every state: About 40% of Best Friends’ nearly 800 staff work remotely, an opportunity that was available well before the pandemic made it commonplace.

Because Best Friends is an organization rooted in kindness, being one of the best places to work is as important to who we are as saving animal lives.

Nearly 40 years ago, the founders of Best Friends built the organization from the ground up on raw land and without any money to speak of. Among their greatest assets were their collective belief that homeless pets in shelters should be saved and not killed, and their unwavering commitment to kindness. Back then, it was a team who pulled together and got the work done. And today, it’s our team that’s on track to lead the country to no-kill by 2025.

In 2020, the number of dogs and cats killed in shelters was about 347,000, down from 17 million per year back when Best Friends began. The moral of the story: Kindness is good for the bottom line. And with the 800 brilliant innovators, hard-working collaborators and kind, dedicated animal lovers who make up Best Friends, along with our growing team of volunteers, members and partners across the country, I know that we’ll get that 347,000 to zero.

These awards help to validate what we’ve always known to be true at Best Friends — that being kind to one another not only unites our team, it makes the team better. In the words of Ted Lasso: “If you care about someone, and you got a little love in your heart, there ain’t nothing you can’t get through together.”

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Julie Castle with dog
Julie Castle
CEO
Best Friends Animal Society
Tags: Data, Utah