Evaluating and Improving Your Hospital’s Culture
Organizational culture is made up of shared values, beliefs, traditions, attitudes and behaviors. All together, these cultural elements shape a hospital’s workplace environment and affect employee satisfaction and organizational success. Culture is pervasive and, like air, subject to quality changes that aren’t immediately apparent. Culture can become stale or even toxic. That’s why periodic cultural assessments are critical to your hospital’s health.
One way healthcare leaders can gauge cultural health is by conducting informal walk-throughs, looking for cultural clues like that savvy job applicant. It is fairly easy to pick up on tension, disengagement or other signs of cultural dissonance. Executive rounding, or the practice of making regular rounds to connect meaningfully with staff, provides a way not only to assess culture but also to enhance it.
Keep in mind, however, that internal cultural assessment can be problematic because you’re there on a daily basis and may cease to notice certain aspects of your organization’s culture. For a more reliable read on culture, Community Hospital Corporation (CHC) conducts annual employee engagement surveys. A well-crafted employee engagement or satisfaction survey tells you more than individual employees’ job satisfaction levels; respondents also reveal how committed they are to your hospital’s mission and success. A healthy culture fosters this sense of investment and belonging.
A third-party vendor will design and administer an employee survey. There are popular online survey generators, but these may produce unintentionally biased questions. These tools are better for employee pulse surveys that give quick-hit insights. A reputable third-party vendor, on the other hand, ensures survey questions are scientifically valid and maintains a vast database to benchmark your performance in areas such as job satisfaction, organizational engagement and employee loyalty.
Another reason to rely on an independent survey administrator is to mitigate distrust, as employees may question whether their survey responses are truly anonymous. With an outside party analyzing the results, you may see higher participation rates and a more accurate response.
It’s important that anonymized, aggregated results are communicated to employees and that steps are taken to address any problems that come to light, which will boost survey participation rates in coming years.
If the survey uncovers areas for improvement, enlist hospital department directors and staff to help develop solutions. Every level of the organization needs to feel involved for lasting change to occur.
These types of efforts should be ongoing. CHC and CHC-owned hospitals have a variety of creative ways to build and sustain a healthy culture. Several hospitals have morning huddles to encourage teamwork and open communication. One hospital convenes a stand-up meeting outdoors for a quick, daily check-in. At CHC, CEO Jim Kendrick has started one-on-one or small-group “Java with Jim” meetings in his office to underscore his accessibility and communicate the organization’s strategic direction.
Watch the CHC Culture video to learn more about the CHC working environment.
The purpose of cultural assessments isn’t to keep your culture in stasis. Cultural evolution is to be expected and is healthy as long as the culture continues to uphold your organization’s values and support its mission.