By Barret Jefferds, Senior Consultant, and Ben Palmer, Staff Writer
Hospitals and health systems need to attract and retain the right talent, and one key way to do that is to differentiate your culture from the rest by identifying the right values for your organization.
Default vs. differentiated cultures
Every organization has a culture, but is this one that you've intentionally built, or one that has arisen by default? A default culture develops organically as a product of employees' work styles and behaviors, but a differentiated culture is defined by a core set of attributes nurtured intentionally throughout the organization. These attributes differentiate your organization from your competitors and define its personality and work environment.
It's easy for organizations to slip into a default culture by trying to be all things to all people. On the surface, appealing to everyone sounds like a good thing, but organizations with default cultures run the risk of becoming interchangeable with any other organization to prospective employees. This can make it difficult to attract the types of candidates who would be best suited to your workplace.
So how do you strategically design and build a culture that makes you stand out from the pack? First, you need to crystalize a set of values that defines who you are as an organization. Advisory Board HR Advancement Center research has identified three steps to help you get there.
Step 1: Embed a consistent set of values across your organization
The first step in building a differentiated culture is to establish a set of values that are firmly embedded into the fabric of your organization. At a minimum, your values should be shared with prospective candidates and prominently featured in new hire orientation. Senior leaders should also consistently reinforce your values in all communications with staff. In addition, you should have specific recognition programs tied to your values, and formally incorporate them into performance evaluations for all staff. Aim for a set of seven (or fewer) values and ensure that your set of values is clearly translated into specific, observable behaviors so that staff know how to model your organizations values in their day-to-day work. If you can't check the box on each of these criteria, you haven't fully embedded your values across the organization.
Step 2: Make your values pithy and memorable
For many organizations, this first step, having clearly embedded values, is already the status quo. But few organizations have achieved the next-level of a differentiated culture: Making their values memorable and pithy enough that staff are able to reference them in their day-to-day work and conversations.
Let's look at Quicken Loans. The company's 19 ISMs (or the ideals everyone at the company lives by) are specifically designed to be catchy, concise, and informative. For example, here are a few of the company's ISMs:
- "Responding with a sense of urgency is the ante to play."
- "Every client. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses."
- "Obsessed with finding a better way."
- "We are the they."
Take this last value, "We are the they." It could also be defined as teamwork—making sure that everyone, including senior leaders and staff in different departments, is on the same team and trusts each other. However, unlike just "teamwork," it's highly memorable.
Step 3: Use your values to differentiate your culture from your competition's
Now that you've laid the groundwork with pithy and memorable values, the key to truly elevating your organization's culture is to use them to differentiate your culture and help your company stand out from the crowd.
Oftentimes, health care organizations have broad, abstract values like service excellence, top-class care, or financial stewardship. While all of these values are laudable, they're usually not substantially different from other organization's values and often too broad to be effective in differentiating you from your competition.
Rather, you should be intentional and selective in setting the values that truly set your organization apart. They should elicit a strong reaction from prospective employees—and it's okay if the answer isn't always "I want to work there." Remember, you don't want to attract everyone, you want to attract the right people.
Developing a differentiated set of values is as much about what you leave off your final list as it is about what you put on the list. You and your executive team will need to become comfortable with the idea of outperforming on a small set of compelling values while simply doing "well enough" on the others. To help you make these tough trade-offs, apply the five filters shown below to each potential value you're considering.
- Is it important to your top talent cohort?
- Does top talent value it more than bottom?
- Is it a top impact driver of engagement?
- Is it a natural strength?
- Does this value differentiated you in your job market?
To learn more about how to build a differentiated culture, and how to apply these values to your performance management, hiring, and leader development programs, be sure to download our new report on the Six Levers to Build a Differentiated Organizational Culture.
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