Imagining the Ideal Organization in Healthcare- Part II: Twelve More Attributes

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By Jim Murphy and Beth Boynton

In a recent post, we asked, “What would the ideal organization in healthcare look like?”  As one example we cited six attributes of “the best workplace on earth,” as prescribed by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones  in the June 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review.

It is interesting to compare that list with one of twice that number of recommendations given by CEO and HBR blogger Tony Schwartz in September 2001, “The nurse aide teamTwelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work”.  Maintaining that “great employers must shift the focus from trying to get more out of people, to investing more in them by addressing their four core needs — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual,” he gives the following mandates:

  1. Pay every employee a living wage.  In healthcare,  we must promote healthy work-life balances so that staff are providing care when alert, rested, and have an overall sense of well-being.  Discouraging overtime and double shift work goes hand in hand with safe care, positive patient experience, and respectful earnings and benefits.
  2.  Give all employees a financial stake in the organization’s success.  In healthcare,  we can be creative about incentives that are aligned with patient care, profit and employee rewards.  Profit and profit sharing must be a secondary priority after safe, quality care.  Healthcare staff are often very giving people and are likely to get satisfaction from donating to colleagues, patients, and larger social causes as well as financial gains.
  3. Provide work environments that are safe, comfortable, and appealing.  In healthcare,  we must have enough staff, time, and resources so that staff can provide care according to standards and at a pace that can be sustained for the longterm.
  4. Provide healthy, high quality food at the lowest prices.  In healthcare,  food services for staff and patients is a 24/7 business where healthy and affordable eating options can support and role model nutritional best practices.
  5. Create spaces where employees can rest and renew themselves and encourage them to take naps, etc.  In healthcare,  there are times when the demands for long shifts and high stress are unavoidable.  Having clean and comfortable lounges for staff is essential.
  6. Have a gym and let employees use it on work time.  In healthcare,  we can decrease workplace injuries, stress that contributes to burnout, substance abuse and other coping habits by encouraging and supporting time for physical activities.  Extended meal breaks, before or after work time covered could be prorated for full and part-time staff.
  7. Clearly define success for each job and allow employees to decide how to achieve it.  In healthcare,  there must be a sense of collaboration and support to ensure that staff can meet professional and personal standards.  Organizations can be creative about balancing structured expectations with varied pathways for a diverse population.  Attention to both the skills necessary for clinical competence and those involving human interactions.
  8. Have two-way performance reviews.  In healthcare,  we can train all levels to be respectful and comfortable in giving and receiving feedback.  Managers who advocate for staff while observing organizational goals and budgets will help to build bridges between direct care staff and senior leaders.
  9. Hold management responsible for treating employees respectfully and recognizing their positive accomplishments.  In healthcare,  good conduct standards must be role-modeled by senior staff with no mixed messages or double standards.  Clear expectations and trust-building efforts may be necessary initially for toxic cultures or dysfunctional teams.
  10. Have policies that allow employees to focus on priorities, including time to work on projects they are passionate about.  In healthcare,  integrating program or project development time for staff while ensuring manageable workloads and appropriate staffing is key.
  11. Give incentives for employees to grow and to develop both “hard” and “soft” skills.  In healthcare,  we must balance the emphasis on clinical expertise with developing communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence skills.  (Programs in Medical Improv are well-suited for this work).
  12. Don’t just focus on making a profit – add value to the world.  In healthcare,  most organizations have a mission statement that includes ‘care for the patient’.  This can be improved with two efforts, one to ensure that the work to accomplish this mission is supported and two, to include a component of caring for caregivers.

Hospital signTwice as many items as by Goffee and Jones, and rather different, too – but also a very good list!  Who wouldn’t want to work for an organization that did all these things?  Alas, however, there are probably very few places that could get a good score on all twelve of these indicators.

But there are many who do at least some of them.  For example, Western National Mutual Insurance Company, which calls itself “The Relationship Company,” offers what a business writers calls “deluxe benefits to recruit long-term, reliable employees.”

Investing in employees is also commonly urged as good business practice.  A software company has even devised a measure call ROEI: Return on Employee Investment.

It would be rewarding to know about healthcare examples of organizations that invest in employees and are a “truly great place to work”.  Do readers have any examples?



Jim murphyJim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium.  His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices.  Having produced newsletters for several organizations  and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as we all consulting and coaching.




BB closer Headshot 1-13 CherationsBeth Boynton RN, MS is a national speaker, organizational development consultant, and the author of the award-winning book, “Confident Voices:  The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication and Creating Positive Workplaces”.  She specializes in communication, collaboration, & emotional intelligence for healthcare professionals and organizations and is trained in the Professor Watson Curriculum for Medical Improv through Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She offers medical improv training for communication, emotional intelligence, culture change, and teambuilding efforts. Her video, “Interruption Awareness:  A Nursing Minute for Patient Safety” and blog, “Confident Voices in Healthcare” have drawn audiences from all over the world.  She is currently writing a core text with F.A. Davis Publishing Co. tentatively titled Successful Nurse Communication:  Safe Care, Positive Workplaces, & Rewarding Careers, practices as a Per Diem RN in a LTCF for folks with dementia, and a student of improv.  Her complete CV is online.

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