What do you say when a friend asks you to describe your company’s culture, either at your current employer or maybe your previous employer? Every organization has a “culture” that exists within its people and leadership. How would you describe the managers, office staff, mood and underlying feelings of your workplace? Hospitals and health systems in the United States can exhibit a wide range of cultures. Let’s explore some of them and how successful your next career move will depend on fitting in the right company culture.
Researching the environment of a future work place can help you determine if it is the best fit for you. The many types of hospitals or health systems and their missions and values can carry inherent notions about how they operate. Here are some of the main types — while these are generalizations, they can help point you towards a culture suitable for you:
- For-profit health organizations: bottom-line oriented, focused on growth
- Public health systems: serve the underserved, and dependent on government program subsidies
- Faith-based organizations: church-related priorities and activities, strong mission
- Academic medical centers or teaching hospitals: research-driven, strong egos
- Children’s hospitals: strong, passionate focus on helping children
- Independent, community-based hospitals: proud, less of a bureaucracy
- Large multi-state, multi-hospital organizations: complex, matrixed, some centralization or outsourcing is common
In addition, every organization and IT department has its specific characteristics and habits as well. For CIO candidates, here are some important questions to ask to help determine an employer’s culture and your potential fit:
- Why did the last CIO leave? What is the turnover rate for the IT department?
- What is the financial picture of the organization? Are there discussions of mergers or acquisitions? Does IT have the budget to move projects forward?
- Can I assess and restructure the IT department? Can new IT staff be hired? Does IT rely heavily on consultants or outsourcing?
- Who are the key decision-makers in the organization and will the CIO be part of that team?
- Where is the CIO’s office? Near other executives, in IT, or both?
- Will the CIO be required to help grow the organization and be part of business development?
- How involved is the CIO in supporting research databases outside of IT?
- Are all IT resources centralized or are there pockets of IT in other areas?
- Is it formal business attire every day or business casual some or all days?
- Do I need to lead prayers before meetings?
- How do employees communicate? In the hallways, face to face, formal meetings or through email?
- Does the company support and help pay for outside education and certifications?
If you’re able to get most of these questions answered, you can begin to gauge the culture of the organization. Do additional due diligence as well. If you are local, check out a prospective employer up close. Do employees come early, stay late, or work on weekends? If you go in for an onsite interview, do employees seem happy, positive, friendly, and anxious to help? Are desks crammed with papers or super clean and tidy? Do the executives/staff have photographs and other personal items in their offices that reflect a work/life balance?
One of the best resources for shedding light on a company culture is to talk to current or past employees. Find them on LinkedIn or check with member contacts at healthcare associations and at conferences for ACHE, CHIME or HIMSS. Seek and you will find your culture match.