How do you describe your work environment or culture? The culture of an organization is an invisible feeling that permeates and surrounds an office, department, or health system. It is a combination of physical surroundings, communication styles, personalities, leadership, behaviors, and history. The work culture is important for keeping you interested in your job, and for attracting new talent to your organization.
Culture is also critical if you are looking to make a move in your career. If you visit another hospital or organization for a job interview, look for telltale signs of the work culture to help determine whether you would easily adapt to it and thrive in it. Is it a cultural fit for you?
Physical surroundings are the visible work environment that impacts the culture. Hospitals and health systems are improving their outward appearances and moving toward models of excellence such as those found at facilities within the Planetree network. If you work in one of their member locations, you are fortunate. Adding gardens, music, and art to hospitals and health systems has helped in healing patients, as well as improving staff morale.
The visible signs of a culture can be seen in how people decorate their offices and desks. Are they clean and tidy or are paper and files piled up? Do they have photographs of family, pets, and hobbies decorating walls and cubicles? Are there inspiring or faith-based posters on the walls? Are there windows in the cafeteria? Do they have a coffee kiosk in the lobby?
Other visible signs of a culture are the location of an IT department at a health system. Is it in the basement or on a floor without windows? Where is the CIO’s office located? Does the IT staff have cubicles or offices? Can they work remotely? Are the staff allowed to bring dogs to work?
This part of the work culture isn’t as easy to discern, but shows the personalities, values, and beliefs of the leadership, executive, and managerial staff. Organizations that value their employees will have employees with a glow and a positive demeanor. A warm and positive environment can be seen as soon as you enter the front door or reception area. Do they have a greeter at the front door? Does the reception area seem welcoming and helpful? Are their honors and awards on the walls for outstanding service and quality? Are people smiling, and do they say hi and ask if they can help you?
An organization can be formal/structured or more informal. What is the dress code? Is it business formal or are they more business casual, or a mixture? Does the CEO always wear a formal business suit? Does the CEO walk around? Do staff communicate face-to-face or always by email? Are there ad hoc gatherings in the hallways or only meetings at planned times?
The type of organization can also dictate the culture. Community-based or faith-based hospitals or health systems may have unique qualities, values, and beliefs that will differ from those of for-profit systems. Academic medical centers, children’s hospitals, and health science centers can be highly complex and research-oriented.
Be sure to check out your work environment and review an organization’s culture before you take a new job. It’s not just the job itself that needs to be a good fit.
Bonnie Siegel is a senior associate in the information technology practice of the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. She is based in Oak Brook, Ill.