Establishing a Thriving Workplace Culture
The patient experience is important in healthcare as this is one of the main reasons patients return to a practice for care. Before we focus on the patient experience, however, we need to think about those who are essential to providing that experience: our employees. Employees who work in a practice with a positive culture are more purposeful in how they provide patient care. Ask Fuel First answers a question about workplace culture: How can I establish a thriving workplace culture, so my employees feel valued and become invested in the practice?
For years, the focus for many of the practices we work with has been on seeking ways to enhance the patient experience. It seems that’s all anyone was talking about. This year we’re seeing a new trend emerge. Priorities are shifting, and many healthcare organizations are adopting a new mindset. One where the patient comes second.
In narrowing our focus to patients and the patient experience, we overlook what is at the core of patient loyalty and satisfaction, our employees. They are the ones delivering the patient experience. Research shows that a key differentiator from one practice to the next is not so much the services they provide but the actions of the people providing those services.
And that is a product of your culture.
What is Workplace Culture?
Culture is what you believe in. It is a mindset that is guided by what you think is important and what you value as an organization, and it drives the behavior of your employees. Culture is not an event or an activity. It is not the pizza party you throw for your employees or the gift cards you hand out.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t have parties or hand out gifts, but you need to make sure that your culture is in the right mindset first. If you don’t, that gift card could work against you. For example, Jim Fedio, Director of Professional Development at Fuel Medical, likes to tell a story of when he handed out $100 gift cards to everyone in his department, and it backfired. In a previous job, he was tasked with turning around a “toxic department.” Yep, the department’s culture was so bad that others in the company deemed it toxic. Jim, like many leaders, thought that a token of appreciation, like a gift card, would help these employees feel valued. Some were happy with the $100, but many were not. The current mindset was so negative and employees were so skeptical they expected bad news to follow the gift card. Some employees were so disgruntled they responded with comments like, “Is this all we are worth?” and, “It’s about time they did something for us around here”.
The lesson learned is, had these employees been united under the same compelling purpose, and felt valued or believed their work was important, their behavior towards the gift cards might have been different.
Workplace culture exists whether you focus on it or not. The stress of the pandemic exposed many organizations’ cultural flaws and strengths, which is why many of the practices we work with today are using this time to make meaningful and intentional changes toward establishing a thriving workplace culture.
How Does Establishing a Positive Workplace Culture Help the Practice?
Sometimes it’s easy to underestimate the value of a thriving workplace culture, but research shows that organizations that can lean into culture during difficult times are outperforming their competition. A strong culture can enhance employee engagement by 30%, resulting in up to a 19% increase in operating income and a 28% increase in earnings growth.
We know that organizations that prioritize their employees first and embrace modern leadership stand to reap the rewards. These include better employee retention because morale is higher, increased productivity because employees find purpose in their work, and more collaboration because team members remain focused on achieving outcomes rather than completing tasks.
If Workplace Culture is a Mindset, how can we Influence the way our Employees think?
Before you can influence anyone, you need to decide how you want employees to engage with patients and how the team will engage with each other. Take some time to be intentional and choose the behaviors and actions you want your employees to embody every day with every encounter. Then, you have to decide what mindset will drive that behavior. This is when you decide what’s important to you, what you value, and define who you are as an organization and how you want to be viewed by your employees and the patients you serve. Once everyone in the practice knows their purpose and buys in to your shared values, the behavior will follow.
What are the Elements of a Thriving Workplace Culture?
We found that five key elements contribute to workplace culture.
Employees must feel connected to their purpose and rally behind the practice’s core values.
Provide employees with opportunities to make a decision, share their ideas and develop their skills and relationships.
Employees must find success at individual, team and organizational levels. Celebrate wins when they happen.
Employees must know their efforts are appreciated, especially if they go above and beyond.
Great leaders partner with their teams for success and empower others to make decisions and bring new ideas to the table.
The best workplaces don’t happen by accident. Culture is defined by the mindset that people in the organization intentionally choose how they behave and interact with others. We challenge you to examine the culture at your practice. What values are important to your practice and those who work there? Do the actions of your employees demonstrate those values? Does your practice embody the five elements that contribute to a thriving culture? Answering these questions is a great place to start improving your workplace culture.
Check out other Ask Fuel First articles to learn more about each element of a thriving workplace culture.