Key drivers of success
By Rita Hernandez Figi
Persistent labor issues continue to pose financial and operational challenges for surgery centers. The rising costs to staff cases combined with the inability to operate at full surgical capacity is a one-two punch that is expected to cause damage throughout 2023 and beyond.
It might seem difficult to prioritize an initiative like culture building in this environment, where the administrator and other center leadership are scrubbing in for cases because of staffing shortages and other challenges.
In fact, these are the signs that it is the exact right time to focus on defining and operationalizing your culture. Your culture is the framework that will help you decide which team members are essential to your center and are worth the raise, which contract nurses should be asked to come on full-time and which new interviewees to hire.
Applicants are paying attention to culture too. In a survey by Glassdoor, 77 percent of respondents said they would consider an organization’s culture before applying for a job. Taking it a step further, 73 percent said they would not take the step to apply for a position unless the company’s values aligned with their own.
Culture is the key to recruiting and retention. Not only will it help you hire the right candidates, it helps reduce turnover. Consider this: reducing turnover by just one full-time employee translates to $10,000–$12,000 in savings related to replacement costs. If a center has a 30 percent annual turnover rate and 30 employees, that is nine people per year. If the center can cut that rate in half, that equals considerable savings, both in terms of employee recruiting and training.
What Is Company Culture?
Culture is critical for surgery centers because it impacts everything from center financial performance to patient safety and outcomes. If you cannot describe your center’s culture in one or two sentences, how can you introduce it to an applicant? Even more importantly, how can you ensure your entire team is thinking about the same values, attitudes, habits, personality traits and quirks that will ensure your physicians and patients are getting the best service possible; while also achieving financial goals.
Building a Positive Work Environment
When you develop a culture that reflects your company’s core values and fosters a positive work environment, everyone wins. A good culture
- reflects your beliefs and goals. The people you hope to hire want to work for an organization that supports employees, works toward clear priorities and promotes good communication, leadership and teamwork.
- attracts and retains top talent. When employees feel pride and purpose in their culture, they are more likely to stay and grow with the company.
- contributes to employee engagement and happiness. When team members are empowered to do their best work and further organizational goals, they are more engaged and satisfied. And high engagement is linked with better productivity, profitability and other outcomes.
Tips for Building a Strong Workplace Culture
Do not make the mistake of letting your culture develop organically. It is fundamental to the future of your business and you must be intentional about how it takes shape.
- Ask for input: Your employees, from the newest intern to the most senior manager, have valuable insights about your existing culture. Ask them how they would describe your company culture. What is strong? What needs work? Listen without jumping to the defensive and take their feedback into account when implementing changes. Focus on both the concrete—starting a workplace wellness program that helps employees thrive—and the abstract—translating your mission and values into actions.
- Define it: Create a written company culture statement, with the help of key team members, and communicate it to all employees. Make it integral to hiring, training, and leadership development.
- Embody it: Start at the top, with company leaders, and model the culture you want to create. Do not just parrot talking points but look for specific actions you can take to bring your culture to life. For example, if honesty and transparency are important in your company, normalize talking about mistakes with employees. Discuss your own missteps, ask for assistance when you need it and help others find solutions to challenges they are facing.
How to Use Culture in Hiring
When the entire team has a voice in developing culture, and it is being modeled by leadership, it becomes a key tool in driving center performance. It is time to start recruiting a team that wants more than the big three benefits of working in a surgery center. Center culture needs to be more than
- a consistent schedule;
- regular daytime hours; and
- no weekends.
For example, let’s say your center’s core values are compassion, efficiency and innovation. Think about how those words and what they mean for your center make it into your job descriptions and how those definitions will help you identify the people who will make your team and your center better. Now think about performance reviews and compensation. You can easily identify performance beyond: Did they show up and do their jobs? Are they demonstrating compassion? Can you point to ways they have helped innovate in the center? If not, they might not be a great long-term fit.
Areas to review and ensure your culture is clear and well communicated:
- Job Descriptions
- Employee Handbook
- Performance Reviews
- Company Events
- Awards and Recognition
Culture + Benefits + Compensation
Culture is an essential building block, but it does not stand alone. Together with a strong benefits package and fair compensation, it drives recruiting and delivers retention. Centers will foster a stronger culture by recruiting a group of 20–40 people who have similar values rather than a group with varying values. A strong company culture accompanied by good HR practices, good compensation plans and good benefits reduces employee turnover.
Employees do not just clock in and clock out. They bring their whole selves to work, and it is important to remember they are often coping with multiple challenges outside of work such as financial insecurity, childcare and health. Once you have developed your culture, you need to make sure people feel comfortable seeking support. How can you help employees navigate everyday challenges and long-term obstacles? Clearly communicate your internal processes and policies, as well as external resources. For example, are employees with young children aware of and eligible for Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) or Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) benefits? How can you help them find and process the paperwork they need?
Culture Is Not Static
Your organization will inevitably change, as will your culture. Defining and operationalizing your culture is not a one-time event. Take the time to regularly identify the skills, experiences, and attributes that will help your organization evolve and thrive. Doing so will ensure that your culture is dynamic and becomes a powerful tool for your growth.
Three Culture Deliverables
- Leverage culture in job descriptions to attract the right talent
- Organize and arm your team to conduct a peer-reviewed recruiting process
- Identify current and future employees who are a good fit not only for a particular job but for the company culture
Rita Hernandez-Figi is the chief operating officer of MedHQ in Westchester, Illinois. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Culture is what creates your company’s distinctive character. It influences every aspect of how your organization operates. For a surgery center, that means everything, including clinical excellence, efficiency, teamwork and patient interactions.