by Connor Kunz, Home Care Pulse
Understanding culture will help you make your home care agency a place where great employees love to work.
We’re going to start with a thought exercise. Consider the following questions:
✔️ How often do your caregivers show up late to work?
✔️ What is the relationship between your caregivers and your office staff?
✔️ Are your employees (caregivers and office staff) prompt in communicating if there are any problems that would interfere with their work?
✔️ Do your caregivers see training meetings as compulsory time-wasters or opportunities to develop themselves?
✔️ Do you ever hear excessive amounts of complaining?
✔️ Do your caregivers consistently treat their work with professionalism?
✔️ Do they take responsibility for mistakes?
✔️ How often do your caregivers show up late to work?
✔️ How often do employees return to work for you again after working someplace else?
✔️ Do your employees look forward to coming to work in the morning?
You probably felt pretty good about your answers to a lot of these, but there were probably a few that might be concerns in your agency. If that’s the case, keep reading. The thing that all these questions have in common is that their answers are all determined largely by the culture within your agency. Let’s talk about what culture means (in an organizational sense), and how you can define and shape the culture of your agency.
So how do you find that balance? By incorporating systems and processes developed by people who understand home care and the challenges of running an agency.
What’s in Your Garden?
Culture can be defined as the way people in your organization think, feel, and act, based on what they see each other doing. It includes the attitudes that employees learn from each other, the habits they develop (for better or for worse), the behaviors that are accepted as normal, and the priorities that are accepted as most important.
Think of your home care agency’s culture as a garden. Properly cared for, it will be a neat, well-ordered space full of plants that are nice to look at it and good to eat. Without the proper care, some useful plants may still grow, but they will be scattered and mixed with weeds and plenty of unwanted plants. Either way, plants will still grow in your garden. The question is whether you put in the time to help the right plants grow.
Understanding and defining your organization’s culture means you don’t have to passively accept the way that people in your organization act. It means realizing that you can influence and shape the mindset and behaviors that become the norm.
Properly cultivated, a great culture will teach your employees to take great care of your clients (and each other), attract more great employees because of its reputation as a place people love working, and even help reduce your caregiver turnover.
Changing Your Home Care Agency’s Culture
There are probably things you love already about your home care agency’s culture, but you can probably think of three things right now that you want to change about it. Maybe they’re bad habits you see forming, maybe they’re ways that your staff respond to a certain kind of situation. If you want to change your agency’s culture, you need to define what it should be so that the change is intentional. Here’s some ways you can shape your culture:
- Take Michael Jackson’s advice and start with the man (or woman!) in the mirror. You, more than anyone, dictate what your company culture will be—so make sure you’re working the hardest of anyone to be what you want your employees to be. Seek feedback from your staff and your caregivers to understand how you—and your agency—can improve.
- Define your company’s core values. This should be a set of 3-5 principles that include the most important traits you want your company to have. These are your company’s DNA, and you should do everything you can to help your employees see the importance of them. Get your employees to help define them, so that they feel invested in them. Post them publicly and discuss them at trainings and meetings. If you already have core values, ask your staff’s help in revisiting them to see if any need change and in revitalizing them so that they’re of renewed importance to everyone in your agency.
- Rely on positive reinforcement rather than punishment wherever possible. Publicly recognize employees when they do something that exemplifies your core values. Allow your employees time in meetings to do the same for each other.
- Identify other culture-setters in your company and share with them your vision of what the company can be. Because your caregivers spend much less time around each other than employees would in other settings like retail or fast food, most of their learned behavior probably comes from watching your office staff and experienced caregivers like caregiver mentors who train them. Take these individuals aside, thank them for their contributions, and teach them specific ways that they can help lift the culture of the company.
Consistency is Key to Culture
The quickest way to let weeds start growing in your garden is to say one thing and do another. Ensure that you set a strong example and ensure that your rewards and punishment are consistent. If employees are acting in ways that aren’t in line with company policy, don’t let it slide. Likewise, if they’re doing great work and doing what they should, reward them! Start today and shape your culture to make it an asset to your agency.