PEORIA — Amy Kesler is thrilled to work in the UnityPoint Health — Methodist kitchen.

After a recent weekday lunch Kesler helped clean up as dishes came back to the kitchen from patient rooms. Her job was to remove dirty dishes from the carts and place them on a stainless steel counter for a colleagues to rinse.

It’s one of several tasks Kesler has been trained to do as part of the job she loves. The only thing she doesn’t like are the hours she works — Kesler is part-time and she wants to work more.

“I love the people and love being here, and Mr. Jesse (her supervisor) is awesome too,” she said.

Kesler, 32, got her job less than a year ago through EP!C’s Employment Services Program, which helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities reach their employment goals. The program provides employers with a pool of dedicated employees for jobs that can be difficult to keep filled.

EP!C is one of several organizations UnityPoint Health is working with to improve diversity of their workforce, said Kathy Lehmann, UnityPoint Health’s first diversity and inclusion officer, and head of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Retention is just one of the reasons diversity is important in the workplace, she said.

“We look at turnover, and when we see that turnover is not exactly where we want it to be, we see that maybe we need to do something a little bit different. If we keep recruiting the same way, and getting the same result, maybe we need to try something a little bit different,” she said. The partnership with EP!C has been a success, and she hopes it will continue to provide more dedicated employees over time.

Diversity is also important for recruitment purposes, said Lehmann. People who see others like them working in the hospital are more likely to apply for jobs. A diverse workforce is going to become even more important in the future, she said.

“The latest generation that is coming into the workforce is incredibly diverse, so if we are going to continue to recruit talent into our organization we have to look like a place they are aspiring to work in,” said Lehmann. “If the organization is not diverse, then that’s not the place for them.”

Diversity is also important to the hospital’s customers, said Teri Rainey, an HR recruiter at UnityPoint Health.

“I think it’s important for our patient population to see people that look like them as well. I think there is a level of comfort there,” she said. “To have a doctor that speaks Spanish or their native language, that really forges that level of comfort with patients.”

EP!C is not the only organization UnityPoint has tapped in its effort to hire a more diverse group of people.

“We have gone to Carver Center, and the Black Business Alliance, PCCEO, METEC, and we still have a whole list of organizations we still want to go to,” said Rainey. “We’ve got a whole host of community partners to help us bring that diversity into the organization to improve our diversity numbers.”

Goodwill has also provided UnityPoint with job applicants, said Lehman. Goodwill goes the extra mile in helping its clients through the interview process.

“Some job candidates struggle with access. They might not have a computer or a smartphone, so how do they apply for a job online?” said Lehmann. “Goodwill has a computer room, and they offer resume writing support and mock interviews. They will even support them by providing the clothing for an interview and the job.”

EP!C also supports job candidates during both the interview process and job training, said Rainey.

“The great thing about EP!C is that they have a full-service kitchen like we do at the hospital, and they have a warehouse set up for shipping parts for Caterpillar, so they can use their own location for job training,” said Rainey.

While job applicants may get extra support from EP!C and Goodwill, they are not given any special treatment by UnityPoint, said Lehmann. All applicants must show they have the skills to do the work.

It’s a system that worked well for Kesler. Her supervisor, Ed Jesse, is also happy.

“I think it’s an excellent program,” he said. “Amy is a fantastic employee. I have very high regards for her. You couldn’t ask for a better attitude. She does a great job.”

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.