Winning Through Culture

This article was originally published by Gibson Consultants. Reposted with permission.

By Brian Dorsey, Chief Culture Officer and Mindy Braithwaite, Vice President of Administration, Sellers Dorsey

November 23, 2020 – To compete for talent and win in the business of health care, be intentional about company culture.

Every company has a workplace culture whether or not its management guides that culture with intention. Like the temperature in a room, culture supports and surrounds everything employees do – together and individually – and reflects what your organization stands for. To succeed in today’s competitive world of health care, it is critically important to be intentional about your culture so it supports your goals by strengthening engagement among staff, creating value for them, the company, and your clients. In short, to be a leading organization in any field of health care, being intentional with your culture is critical to fulfilling your mission and reaching your desired destination.

No firms are exempt from the need to curate a culture that drives the organization forward. After 10 years of executive surveys, in 2019 researchers from Columbia Business School, Duke University and the National Bureau of Economic Researchers (NBER) documented that more than half of senior leaders believe corporate culture is one of the top three drivers of overall firm value. Ninety-two percent said improving culture would increase company value, but only twelve percent pay attention to it. While there’s ample room for improvement in many companies, the good news is businesses can take action at any time; it’s never too late.

Engagement is Everything

Culture is one of the most valuable assets an organization has for fulfilling its mission. Culture involves all team members, and it is measured by employee engagement. Thus, a perfect place to start in your journey to intentional culture is to conduct an employee engagement survey. If people are not engaged, you have a culture problem.

Some company leaders believe that the way to spur engagement is to make employees happy through creative benefits and entertaining workspaces. Such perqs complement certain workplace cultures, but alone they deliver only a short-lived morale boost. While no boss can guarantee job contentment, there are ways leaders can help their culture evolve with their business to empower engagement and drive performance.

Align on values.

When you clearly establish core values in your business, you purposefully guide its culture and set in motion the type of organization you aspire to become. Align people with culture by purposefully reflecting their values with those of the company.

Then, don’t just say what your values are, live them so employees feel the culture in their bones. It’s one thing to write an engaging mission statement and list of values, but it’s another thing to activate values day in and day out so they become the “DNA” of the organization. Doing so is a conscious, daily act.

Culture has to be baked into the cake. It can’t just be the icing on top.  

Ever ask, “How do we want to treat one another?” Have you answered that question? You have to say what’s important, and then you have to show you really mean it. Top drivers for voluntary turnover according to Health eCareers are management, senior leadership, and job fit. Organizations need to consider ways to ensure that staff view senior leadership positively, feel valued by managers, and are in roles that effectively utilize their abilities. That means looking far deeper than window decorations and assessing the health of your foundation.

Anchor the mission and values to well-defined behaviors, holding individuals accountable for a culture that brings about the kind of company everyone wants. Review your HR best practices that instruct everyone how to deliver and receive constructive feedback in a supportive way. Ensure training includes ways to hold employees accountable and promotes team members based on criteria. Create opportunities to help staff develop professional skills, behaviors, and competencies. In short – be obvious in your caring.

The payoff of this type of culture – one that is intentional – is an energized workforce. People will invest in the success of the team as a result of feeling the team is invested in them. When everyone is in sync about how work is accomplished, culture can amplify positive performance and move the company forward at lightning speed.

Communication will enable or inhibit the culture.

People want to know the direction their employer is heading in one, three or five years. But what if executive leadership neglects to share growth plans? Such a lapse in communication can make staff feel isolated, falsely believing a drastic change is coming, although leaders might believe they’ve been transparent. In a growing team within a world of constant change, not everyone is privy to the same information. A perceived information void is tantamount to misaligned values. Communicate, communicate, and communicate more.

Learn to bend, or break.

Managers must continually invest in culture to support growth. Constantly re-examine if the culture is working; scrutinize enablers and inhibitors, e.g., people, tools, and processes, and redefine for change. Culture must be malleable while maintaining basic tenets.

Businesses also must pay attention to world events and allow for necessary adaptations so culture can remain a stable center of gravity and not become a blockage. This effort promotes an amendable and forward-thinking culture that can adapt to events over time. Involve people in this process, trusting that if you ask employees what they care about, your company will get the information – and engagement – it needs.

This is a job for a visible leader.

To strengthen company commitment to building a successful workplace culture, create a visible leadership role with real accountability. Otherwise, culture may bear the illusion of importance. The flow of a company’s energy is set by the executive suite, and when a champion leader is intentional about monitoring that energy, that person signals that the business nurtures its employee culture. A Chief Culture Officer position makes sense in some firms, but the key is charging someone with the authority to set the tone of the culture for organizational success, regardless of their formal title. The right person is one who embodies the values and has the gravitas to reinforce the right cultural behavior.

Don’t lose sight of your culture amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has stress-tested culture. Talk with your employees and show extra empathy during this time. Taking special steps to realize your values in critical moments helps people feel appreciated, so consider a “staying connected committee” if folks are working remotely or send small gifts to their homes. New remote work policies or an Employee Assistance Program can also help people feel supported.

Keep people and values at the center of your culture. A company culture founded on a shared vision is great but if you miss the humanity, you’re missing the mark.

About the Authors

Brian Dorsey is Chief Culture Officer and partner in Sellers Dorsey. He has a deep historical knowledge of the firm and offers counsel to help ensure the entire team is executing on the firm’s mission. Sellers Dorsey recognizes its culture as a prized asset and strength, and, as CCO, Brian guides the firm’s efforts to consciously invest in it as the firm grows so everyone can achieve their full potential and deliver optimal results for clients.

Mindy Braithwaite is Vice President of Administration for Sellers Dorsey, providing leadership in key areas related to human capital including talent acquisition, development and training, performance management, IT infrastructure oversight and security, and office facilities. Mindy’s background in business and human resource leadership includes decades of experience in human capital management, and she has been recognized for empowering teams to produce outstanding results.

Sellers Dorsey is a national health care consulting firm with a deep understanding of Medicaid, having consulted on a range of financing, policy, and operational issues since 2000. Sellers Dorsey attracts and retains a diverse team of experts and consultants hailing from CMS, state Human Services and Medicaid departments, and leading industry organizations. The firm offers expertise in the development and implementation of reimbursement, financing, waiver, administration, and quality improvement strategies. Sellers Dorsey team members are creative, experienced, thoughtful, and focused on getting things done so clients can reach their goals, ultimately impacting the lives of people.

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