Little Perks Won’t Cure a Broken Culture

It’s been decades since Peter Drucker first said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” His words ring more true today than ever. When healthcare organizations compete for talent, salary may get candidates in the door, but it’s culture that will entice them to stay.

There are many definitions of culture, but our operating definition is simple. Culture is how you really do things around here. Not the ads or the taglines. Not the values posted on the wall. The real deal is how people treat one another and their patients. And what you permit, you promote. That becomes the culture.

I recently worked with an organization where the leaders talked a lot about their great work environment. When I asked the executives to describe their current culture, they used words like transparency, equity, open, and blameless. When I asked employees the same question, I heard words like toxic, divisive, and hierarchical. Was I in the same organization? Yes, but when the executives helped marketing create the brand strategy, they were so enamored with their own words they forgot to ensure that they put them into action.

When I asked how they aligned everyone with the culture, they showed me a brochure they created about and rattled off a list of all the things they do every year to build morale. The list included everything from ice cream sundae bars and pizza parties to free T-shirts and turkeys at the holidays. They were baffled that turnover was double the national average when they did so much.

As I walked around their organization, I observed that employees didn’t make eye contact with me, visitors, or fellow employees. I overheard employees bickering and gossiping. Nobody looked like they were happy to be there.

Fortunately, the executive team was open to the kind truth and was willing to make some important changes to close the gaps between their current culture and the one they desired. The most important changes were in committing to behavioral standards. And no one was exempt.

Have you taken an honest look at your culture? If you have been struggling with turnover and poor engagement, perhaps it is time to do a deep dive into the culture with a comprehensive assessment. For more information, set up a free strategy discussion.

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