It would be easy to think writing about workplace culture as a simple task. If that’s you, let me stop you right there; I assure you it isn’t! Not because it is a difficult topic but because it encompasses so much!
In my research on this topic, I’ve found many interesting articles, creative authors, and many ideas of what “workplace culture” means. What I haven’t found is much about workplace culture as it relates to senior care, and even more specifically, long-term care.
At this juncture in my career, I would have to concede that workplace culture is one major area that is lacking in many senior care companies as well as individual facilities. And this presents a unique challenge for nurse leaders.
Have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself what your company culture encompasses? Is performance based on fear or inspiration? Is success determined by financial performance above all else, or an engaged staff and great outcomes? Do you live and breathe your company vision and core values? Have you ever articulated your company vision or core values to those who are supposed to embody it and, if so, can you see it in action among your staff? Can you see the result of these efforts in your residents’ lives?
If I had to whittle down what workplace culture means to me and the company I have the privilege to run, I would break it down into four key areas: compassion, people, vision and core values. Let’s break that down a bit.
Walk the halls of your facility and look for the following. Can you see compassion flowing from your staff in all that they do? Have you made it clear to staff that compassion is the bedrock of caring for others? Without it, you can’t be invested in the product you offer, which is service. Service to those in need. Service to a populace that, at one time, was considered the wisest among us. Do you truly believe in what you’re doing as an organization?
Do you invest in your people, staff, and residents alike? When you hear invest, what do you think of? Money? This is an important factor, yes, but is it the primary means by which you attempt to drive your success in your organization? When I speak of investments, I am more apt to consider time, energy, and effort versus dollars, nickels, and dimes. I would even take a risk and state that if you invest in your people in a non-monetary fashion that your bottom line will improve, too. Do you show appreciation in every aspect of a job well done? Do you invest time and energy on those who are falling behind your expectations and offer more individualized attention in a compassionate, patient way? What about your staff’s personal life that may affect their performance, good or bad? Do you know that Suzie the nurse is going through a divorce and a custody battle for her kids which is why she called in two days last month? Do you know that Johnny in maintenance is celebrating the birth of his fourth grandchild and that’s why he’s been more positive as of late? Is your ear to the ground seeking to understand what makes your staff tick?
On a personal leadership note, what do you envision for your facility? Where will you be as a facility in the next three months, six months, or one year, and what are you doing to get there? Vision is an area that should carry tremendous weight in your day to day operations. When I speak with my managers at our various facilities, I always ask them what they envision for their particular department and ask them to outline a department-specific vision. In one facility, we posted these vision lists in the conference room and closed out each morning meeting with a vision review. As a group, I always asked if anyone had met one of their goals for their departmental vision and, if so, we celebrated as a group and had a ritual of “checking the box” so we could celebrate as a whole and, in turn, motivate other departments to push towards their “checking the box” moment. Then, we as a team would know to pass on that praise to others in that respective department.
When I think of Core Values, I think of my church. They live their Core Values daily and it absolutely is reflective in their day to day routines. They include:
People are a big deal
Excellence in all things
We are a family
What a phenomenal list of core values! Every person on staff owns it. They love it. They breath it. They have bought into the core values and remind each other daily of what they are. They ask themselves if they were met and if they are visible to all. And it’s the leadership that reinforces them daily and in all things.
Do you value compliance? Ethics? Morality? Profitability? Happy staff? Happy residents? Take a moment to review your version and implementation of the above four areas of workplace culture and ask yourself if your organization puts stock in such areas. If not, call a workgroup of all departments, not just managers but line staff too. Sit down and either write or revise your Vision and Core Values. Post them. Live them out. I can guarantee your organization will improve on all fronts and in areas you didn’t dream were possible.
Considering the difficulties long-term care faces daily, these areas are even more important to develop and communicate. And, when I say communicate, I mean it; speak about it often, breathe it in, live it out. Yes, it takes time. In the words of a professor I once had - when you’re tired of saying it (or communicating it), they are just starting to hear it.
Are you up to the challenge?
Cody Campbell has worked his way up the career ladder over the last 16 years, starting as a CNA in high school through the local HOSA chapter and still keeps his CNA certification active so he can assist where needed. He has worked as a Certified Medication Aide, Director of Admissions, Director of Marketing, Training Coordinator, Assistant Administrator and Licensed Nursing Facility Administrator (LNFA). He is now the Director of Operations for FourCooks Senior Care, LLC and provides leadership training, policy and compliance oversight/direction and vision for 11 nursing facilities all over Texas.