Keys To Creating a Team-Based Culture

Promote cohesiveness, inclusivity, recognition and more

By K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, FAAN, Chief Caregiver Officer

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Organizational culture describes the traits that make a company what it is — its expectations, practices and shared beliefs and values that guide and inform the actions of its team members. An organization’s culture creates consistent, observable patterns of behavior that have a notable effect on employee satisfaction, engagement, retention and recruitment.

There are many types of organizational cultures, and choosing which approach is best for your organization depends on your strategy and purpose. A company’s culture should reflect its values and align with its mission and vision to help achieve strategic objectives.

At Cleveland Clinic, we follow a team-based culture that is designed to acknowledge the value of all caregivers and the meaningful connections they have with one another. Our Caregiver Office is dedicated to building an engaging culture that is inclusive and full of opportunity. We believe culture drives employees’ work and dictates how happy and engaged they are in their careers. Ensuring we have a cohesive, team-based culture is a vital part of what I do each day. The following outlines a few of the keys to our success.  

Ensure all employees believe in it and feel it. Because an organization’s culture essentially defines what your company stands for, all employees need to believe in and be able to feel it in their daily work. A cultural foundation should be built on what matters most to your organization and those who work there.

And don’t forget new employees. Culture should be an important part of the new-hire onboarding to give new team members a clear understanding of how they can deliver on the organization’s mission, support its vision and live its values.

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At Cleveland Clinic, our cultural foundation is built on our care priorities: caring for patients, caring for caregivers, caring for the organization and caring for the community. Our goal is to operate as one unified organization in which every employee and team lives by our collective mission, vision, values and behaviors — no matter the department, facility or global location. In addition to reinforcing the caregiver experience, these common goals also mean that we expect to deliver the same care quality and patient experience at every Cleveland Clinic location.

Reinforce inclusivity. Any successful team-based culture must include a hefty focus on two things:  teamwork and inclusion. This will help bring diverse and talented people together as a unique team.

At Cleveland Clinic, we are a team of teams. No matter where our employees live or work, they are all part of the same team. They are all here to help fulfill the same mission and vision. And they are all part of the same culture. Teamwork and inclusion are two of our core values. This means we aim to create an environment where:

  • Caregivers are valued, nurtured, supported and encouraged.
  • Caregivers feel safe, comfortable, respected and included.
  • Caregivers have meaningful work they can do in highly reliable teams.
  • Caregivers can develop as individuals and as team members with opportunities to grow in their careers.

Keep it front-and-center. Continually promoting an organization’s team-based culture will help ensure it is engrained in everything the organization does. This requires communication and consistency — and it needs to start from the top.

All health system leaders at every level of our organization (beginning with our President and CEO), consistently communicate our culture-based messaging through video, in-person and written messages. Messaging is also frequently displayed throughout our organization’s communication platforms, including the caregiver intranet.

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Within the Caregiver Office specifically, some of the key tactics used to promote our culture include weekly check-ins and monthly team meetings, town hall sessions, all-team email communications and leader and team retreats.

Recognize culture-based successes. There is no better way to ensure a successful team-based culture than to recognize individuals and teams for the contributions they make. Doing so is paramount for team building and creating a positive environment.

By recognizing caregivers who exhibit our values in their daily work, we strengthen desirable behaviors and create greater alignment across the health system. Our reward and recognition platform, Caregiver Celebrations, empowers caregivers to acknowledge each other for supporting Cleveland Clinic’s values through outstanding behavior and performance. We also offer recognition in support of our mission and vision. Our Teaching Recognition Award, for example, reinforces the part of our mission that focuses on educating others.

For organizations attempting to create successful team-based cultures, remember that what’s best for workers is best for the organization. When employees have what they need to excel as individuals and team members, they find joy, pride and satisfaction in their work and strive to be their best every day.