Creating the Ideal Healthcare Organization: Focus on Employees

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We earlier compiled a list of the ten key attributes of the ideal healthcare organization. The first concerned organizational mission, vision, ethics and values.

Number two is that “employees are treated and compensated fairly and receive great benefits”. Clearly, if mission, vision, ethics and values are to be achieved, employees must be motivated to these goals. But without fairness in treatment, compensation and benefits the necessary commitment and performance will not be forthcoming.

Equitable treatment is perhaps the most important thing that employees want. Organizations need to provide procedural justice and adhere to a fair psychological contract.

Fairness pertains in many ways, and there are actually some measures for it. For example, the Human Rights Campaign publishes a Healthcare Equality Index on how well facilities promote equity and inclusion of LGBT persons, including employees.

nurse doctors rushing Too, it is unfair to require overwork. Healthcare is one industry that is notorious for long shifts and unreasonable hours, especially for doctors and nurses. Perhaps it is a requirement at times, but we know if/when chronic it reflects the problem of understaffing, caused by demands for cost cutting. All this hurts patients as well as staff and is the mark of very non-ideal organization!

Another particular problem of employee treatment that calls for special attention in the healthcare environment is bullying. The American Nurses Association has a program and a continuing education module on this subject.  Many nurse consultants writing for Confident Voices blog  including Beth BoyntonVivien Mudgett, Renee Thomson, Pat Iyer have shared ideas and resources here.

As to compensation, the ideal organization would strive to pay well, as opposed to those companies that try to keep labor costs as low as possible. The irony is that companies with generous compensation policies perform better. In that respect, it is interesting that there is only one healthcare organization on the Glassdoor list of the twenty-five companies with the best compensation.

Inequities in compensation are also unfair. For example, gender disparities have been noted in healthcare. Some occupations, such as home care workers and hospital orderlies, have traditionally received very low wages. Yet hospital CEOs earn as much as $20 million a year.

When it comes to benefits, one might say that healthcare organizations should practice what they preach and provide for wellness of their employees. Employee wellness programs have been shown to be effective in regard to employee motivation and loyalty, and it is only natural for healthcare organizations to demonstrate the best practices in this area. Ideally, this would include a gym and other facilities for employees. An excellent employee assistance program is another necessity.

Healthcare is an industry where continuous improvement is a mandate. So training, tuition reimbursement, and other learning programs for all employees are called for.

All such benefit programs tend to founder because they need money. But good organizations think of employee benefits as an investment, not a cost.

The ideal organization should monitor itself on all possible indices of fair treatment and benefits with, say, a team representing all groups of employees to evaluate and discuss these issues regularly. In addition it should have ongoing training programs that cover all facets of this area in a structured manner. When all employees are involved in measuring organizational performance and able to have their voices heard, organizations are more successful.

Involving all employees begins with you. If you are a CEO, you can create the team that we recommend – and perhaps also be a little less concerned about making addition millions and C-suite perks and more committed to better salaries and benefits for all workers, especially those traditionally underpaid and overworked. If you a manager, you can start a measurement and discussion group. If you are a doctor, a nurse, an orderly, cafeteria aide, or other worker, you can talk about these issues with others, insist on your rights, and find ways to take some steps toward improvement. Even if you are a patient, you can use the surveys that healthcare organizations so eagerly provide now to “lobby” for good treatment for hospital employees.

We would love to hear from you on these subjects! Maybe you can tell us about an institution that is “ideal” in some aspect – perhaps we can consider stories at the opposite end of the spectrum, too. And maybe you can report on some effort for improvement in this area, even if it’s just the results from your asking questions. We may or may not be part of the problem, but we all have the potential to be part of the solution.


jim murphyJim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Being semi-retired, Jim is willing to provide very reasonably priced consulting, coaching or  project work for organizations aspiring to improvement in organizational culture, effectiveness and employee engagement.

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.



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