When talking about healthcare, what is culture? It can consist of many different elements in healthcare. From the way things are done in the organization to relationships among people that dictate how they behave. It also includes a set of shared beliefs and values. Each belief (while uniquely described by many) universally acknowledges that culture is an important part of the fabric of any organization.

Despite the fact that many people have the conviction that organizational culture will either enable an organization’s success or serve as a barrier to achieving outcomes, broaching the subject can cause leaders or frontline team members to shy away. Culture can feel messy, hard, and inconvenient. We may be proud of some aspects of our it but disappointed in others. Our team sought to find evidence outside of anecdote and theory to help leaders understand the role culture plays in creating excellence. That query led us to conduct our recent study demonstrating that culture does impact outcomes. The two big learnings we had are:

1. High performing cultures are more likely to do better than low performing cultures on key balanced scorecard metrics: Employee and Physician Engagement, Patient Experience, Value-Based Purchasing, and Turnover. These cultures did not outperform by a small margin, but a margin of magnitude and statistical significance. In other words, culture is not “nice to have” but critical to create demonstrable outcomes.

2. Engaging your employees in your culture is the most powerful step to create positive results. Your workforce is the lifeblood of your organizational culture: their engagement, relationships with leadership and each other, and commitment to your mission. We found four key levers that are likely to support achievement of outcomes:

  • Employees who treat patients as valued customers
  • Employees whose values are very similar to the values of the organization
  • Employees who feel that being a member of the organization is very rewarding
  • Employees who are proud to be a part of the organization

There is no question healthcare leaders, staff, and physicians are persevering every day to provide the best care to patients despite myriad challenges. Teams are craving cultures that give them a sense of purpose and joy. As we work to create a “new normal” that equips our organization to provide person-centered excellence across the continuum of care, our findings indicate that leaders should pay attention to their cultures and actively steer workforce engagement to create employee pride, a focus on the customer, and shared values.

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