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The Great Resignation and Workplace Culture

This might make or break hospitals and healthcare organizations during COVID.

Workplace culture matters more than you might imagine. In this time of unprecedented challenge and change, culture directly determines whether an organization will thrive, merely survive, or cease to exist. Skilled healthcare leaders understand the importance of fostering a people-centric organizational culture. Those who put finances over people risk extinction.

As America weathers “The Great Resignation,” the power dynamic between workers and employers has radically shifted. Waves of workers are leaving their jobs in response to their experience of declining work conditions to seek better or alternative opportunities that closely align with their values and lifestyle demands. As this shift in power accelerates, workplace culture will determine an organization’s fate in the post-pandemic world.

The healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable. A recent study by the American Medical Association highlighted that the impact of “The Great Resignation” will continue to significantly impact the healthcare field, led by frustration with working conditions, increased demands, job dissatisfaction, lifestyle unsustainability, inadequate compensation, a perceived lack of respect, and increased opportunities outside of the healthcare field.

Healthcare leaders need to foster an organizational culture that values both people and finances, a culture based on thriving rather than surviving. Surviving cultures generate significant unintended consequences that result in formidable financial costs and accelerate the impact of the “Great Resignation.” These unintended consequences include illness, burnout, absenteeism, healthcare costs, workers’ compensation claims, workplace violence, litigation, accelerated talent loss, a deterioration in the quality of patient care, and significant increases in employee stress. A study published in 2017 by Mental Health America reports that increases in employee stress annually cost U.S. employers an estimated $500 billion dollars in lost productivity.

Studies also reveal that during times of unprecedented change, thriving organizations can turn attrition into attraction by valuing both people and finances. A comprehensive study conducted by McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm for major corporations, organizations, and governments, details how forward-thinking organizations can foster a culture that promotes employee engagement, professional development, a positive reputation, and sustainable financial growth.

Healthcare leaders can significantly mitigate the impact of “The Great Resignation” by embracing several best practices of exemplar people-centric organizations.

Commitment to People-Centric Values

Values are the glue that holds an organization together, provides support, and builds community. In people-centric organizations, employees feel seen, heard, valued, derive meaning and purpose from their work, and are motivated to contribute to their organization. Zappos’ culture is designed around ten values grounded in core human needs and integrates them into the operations of the entire organization.

Work-Life Balance Structure

Empathic leaders demonstrate their concern for others through people-centric policies, procedures, and organizational structure. Multiple pandemic waves have added substantial stress and complexity to an already challenging set of work-life demands. Intel’s people-centric focus includes a hybrid work model, time for family demands, meeting-free Fridays, and reduced meeting times to allow for between meeting transition and recovery time.

Ongoing Communication

The benefits of ongoing communication include an increase in transparency, engagement, commitment, and productivity. Ongoing communication regarding current challenges, strengths, strategies, and key success metrics, conveys appreciation, respect, and real-time recognition of how each area contributes to the success of the entire organization. Communication can take place on a meta-level through regular newsletters, town halls, and appreciation events, and on a micro-level via team and one-on-one meetings.

Wellbeing Initiatives

Stress impacts healthcare workers at a higher rate than the general population. Multiple pandemic waves have exacerbated the physical and psychological effects associated with this ongoing reality. Healthcare organizations that support their employees’ psychological health through providing innovative, evidence-based initiatives that include clinical rounding support, wellness coaching, wellness assistance programs, counseling, wellness talks, and mindfulness courses, are moving in the right direction.

Healthcare leaders who fail to support a people-centric culture will accelerate the momentum of “The Great Resignation” and risk extinction. Enlightened leaders understand that people-centric values and best-practices foster attracting, engaging, and retaining the requisite talent to sustain a thriving healthcare organization that consistently delivers excellence in patient care and clinical outcomes.

More from Janet M Shlaes Ph.D., MBA
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