Into The Fold
Helping new and existing staff become ambassadors of company values and culture
By Roy Rivera Jr., PT, PhD, DPT, MCHES
Without clearly defined values and cultural diversity in the workplace, the service you provide will always fall flat of its true potential.
Many people believe offering premium care is enough, but can care honestly be “premium” if the practice providing it is deeply divided and disconnected on the back end? In this case, there’s no possibility for a firm foundation, and without internal reconciliation, inclusion, and the implementation of core values in the workplace, there’s no room for growth. Nearly all respected service providers have defined values, and they pride themselves on creating a lasting company culture. A solid substructure is crucial for any team that wants to thrive. This philosophy is especially true in the field of physical therapy, where clients are often at their most vulnerable. As a result, they typically look toward company culture and the values of its providers when deciding if the practice is the right fit.
Luckily, with a bit of patience, it’s possible to create a thriving culture at any practice. It all starts by stitching your values together with new and current staff.
RECONNECT WITH YOUR DRIVING FORCE
When you decided that it was time to build a practice of your own, there was a reason for it. Most who leave another company to launch their own do so because they want to provide care that aligns more deeply with their values. Perhaps you wanted to create more cultural diversity in the workplace. Or maybe you wished to foster a positive workplace culture after spending too much time in a hostile atmosphere. Whatever your reasoning, it’s time to remember:
- What are your values?
- What company characteristics did you envision when the reality of owning your own business was still just a pipe dream?
- What makes your business worth trusting over your competitors?
The answers to these questions can easily get jumbled in the worker-bee mentality that plagues an organization’s leadership and staff members. Your day-to-day care can become routine when you get lost in numbers and your services begin to lose the appeal that sets them apart from your competitors’ offerings once you lose sight of your values. The first step to building a more robust company culture is to be mindful of your passion for this industry. Then, you can lead by example to help encourage your staff to follow your organization’s values and create comradery.
Having said that, it’s also important not to rush. Implementing quick, sweeping shifts in your daily operation to alter, define, or change organizational culture sounds appealing. However, it isn’t as likely to take root. Make strategic moves that start with your most influential employees.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE AND LEADERSHIP
Solidifying company culture to sustain and strengthen over time must start at the top. Otherwise, a long-standing impact is nearly impossible.
Organizational values are best inspired by leaders through consistently demonstrating and upholding company beliefs themselves. Of course, it helps to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk,” but that’s not always enough to build a lasting culture.
Instead, you can create new structures and policies that will generate proactive, aligned change in the future. Your staff leaders can also identify any business practice inconsistencies that might contradict your values. Then, you may alter them as needed.
Your company’s culture and values will trickle down once you’ve established them at the top. New team members will immediately notice the staff leadership displaying a positive workplace attitude. And with improved, inclusive policies, they will reap the benefits of the culture you’ve cultivated.
AVOIDING TOXIC WORK CULTURE
While building company culture is unparalleled in value, it’s important to remember that not all culture is good culture. Therefore, it’s imperative to ensure that you’re promoting healthy values that are rooted in psychological safety.
Your employees should always feel appreciated, and they should feel safe to discuss potential issues and provide feedback. After all, it’s just as valuable to receive constructive criticism when you’re committed to strengthening your business.
Ideally, you should have multiple ways for your employees to give feedback—at least one of which is anonymous. Unfortunately, your staff may be hesitant to talk about sensitive subjects and circumstances in face-to-face meetings. So, the prospect of reporting inappropriate behavior without the shield of anonymity can intimidate people into not taking the actions they need to be secure.
Creating opportunities to promote connection and comfortable discussion amongst your other staff members is also crucial. For example, organizing monthly outings or treating your staff to dinner can significantly boost morale and help form bonds.
INCLUSIVE WORKPLACE CULTURE
Let’s circle back to safety. We’ve already established that it’s crucial for your employees to feel secure talking about company issues. But you shouldn’t overlook how vital it is for them to feel safe being who they are. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices don’t have to be complicated or extravagant. For example, hosting or attending inclusive networking events within the industry could give your employees the chance to connect groups of professionals with different backgrounds.
Subconscious biases about gender, race, and sexual orientation are rampant in most workplaces. It even exists among those who are otherwise kind and consciously working toward creating comfortable environments. Therefore, it can feel like a breath of fresh air when those who belong to marginalized groups can build connections with others who share similar cultural backgrounds or lifestyles.
It’s also important not to single people out. It’s easy to inadvertently cause an employee to feel ostracized, even when you’re trying to show support. However, there are things that you, as a business owner, can do to create an inclusive space that honors diversity without creating accidental discomfort.
Considering conflicts that have made headlines over the past couple of years, taking proactive and inclusive actions can make the workplace safer for some. Take unisex bathrooms, for example. Something as simple as having bathrooms without gender-specific signage might make a world of difference for your trans or gender non-conforming team members. This change could help improve feelings of safety without shining a spotlight on anyone.
PATIENTS NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE WHEN OBSERVING POSITIVE WORKPLACE CULTURE
Striving to create positive core values in the workplace can positively impact your clientele. Encouraged and content team members tend to thrive, and your customers will notice it. Additionally, and most importantly, people talk. Your patients will know that your values are rooted in respect. Plus, they’ll understand that the culture you’ve created will extend beyond the staff and into the care they receive. From there, positive feedback can spread through word of mouth.
Positive core values and cultural diversity in the workplace do more than help employees feel safe. It also bridges the gap between doctor and patient. But why is this important?
So often, those who receive medical care wish to play an active role in their recovery. However, patients usually keep their thoughts and ideas to themselves for various reasons, such as feeling intimidated or that they won’t be listened to. This type of dynamic can create friction and lead to discomfort.
But when your patients see that your business is one that values inclusivity and mental health, they will be more likely to advocate for themselves. In turn, they’ll know that you take their concerns seriously, and they’ll be more proactive and cooperative with treatments.
With that being said, the healthy environment you’ve created within your company won’t do all the work for you. Providing a safe space isn’t always enough to get the patient to trust the process. Those who are actively in pain or are experiencing a decline in their quality of life may inevitably express a sense of frustration. However, you can apply your workplace’s core values to these situations to help improve the doctor-to-patient relationship.
It’s possible to de-escalate stressful moments by listening to what your patient is experiencing and validating their concerns. But to provide that validation, you can’t just be an active listener. You also must prompt your patient with the right questions. This approach is no different from the steps you’ve taken and the lessons you’ve learned to create a positive workplace culture.
IMPARTING CORE VALUES YIELDS SUCCESS
Establishing your company’s core values and promoting cultural diversity in the workplace produces a foundation to build success. By changing organizational culture, you’ve helped your employees feel valued and your patients feel like more than just another number. In return, you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment and, hopefully, a more prosperous business. Having practiced physical therapy in Houston since 2005, I can say from experience that imparting your values and successfully creating a positive culture for your employees is an irreplaceable measure. In turn, these values improve the patient and client experience, as they benefit from the positive environment you’ve cultivated. This synergy ties everything together for sustained success.
Roy Rivera Jr. PT, PhD, DPT, MCHES, is a PPS member and owner of Crom Rehabilitation in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at RRivera@cromrehab.com.