By K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, FAAN, Chief Caregiver Officer, Cleveland Clinic Health System.
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As healthcare professionals, we strive to create high-performance cultures based on identifying and living a set of shared values. Values form the foundation of an organization’s culture. They drive growth. They define our organizations and support our missions and visions.
That said, values don’t mean much if they are stated but not practiced. For values to be successful, they need to be rooted in action. When employees feel accountable to an organization’s values, they help create an environment of trust and alignment around shared priorities. Ultimately, this drives an organization toward its purpose.
Aligning values with daily work
At Cleveland Clinic, six core values serve as pillars for caregiver behavior: Safety & Quality, Empathy, Teamwork, Integrity, Inclusion, Innovation. The values are intended to shape how employees interact with patients and each other to ensure the best possible care and service for all.
It is important to note that these accurately reflect the values that we know our caregivers prevailingly embrace. While no organization is perfect, I see our caregivers putting our core values into action every day.
It takes plenty of strategic forethought and leadership guidance to help employees recognize and practice values-based behavior. A good starting point is to encourage employees to think about their personal values and how they can align them with the values of the organization. This will give employees a deeper sense of purpose and can help them derive greater meaning and satisfaction from their work.
At Cleveland Clinic, we offer caregivers exercises to help them reflect on how to connect their own values to those of the organization. These exercises include a self-assessment in which employees identify values that are central to their lives as well as those they value in a work environment. Leaders can also guide employees to consider questions such as “Which of your personal values align most easily with our organization values? How do they support one another? How do you plan to live out your values at work?”
It is also helpful to incorporate organization values into caregivers’ development goals. During Cleveland Clinic’s annual performance review process, caregivers are evaluated in part on how they demonstrate Cleveland Clinic values. Caregivers are asked what values they demonstrate, how they demonstrate them, what values they can incorporate more deeply into their work, and how they can accomplish that.
Building values into employee engagement activities is also key. Recently, the Cleveland Clinic Caregiver Office invited employees to participate in an education initiative called Values Passport. The e-learning series took employees through an exercise that explored how our system’s values show up in their daily work. Participants earned stamps in their digital passports after completing a module for each Cleveland Clinic value. When they completed their learning journey, caregivers received a commemorative notebook and were entered into a prize raffle for their efforts. The real reward, of course, is that employees had an opportunity to frame their thinking about their work against the backdrop of our shared values.
The importance of leading by example cannot be overstated. Employees understand their organization’s values when they witness them modeled by leaders and peers. At Cleveland Clinic, our leaders often present safety events and remind participants that what they’re doing is in service to our Safety & Quality value. They are also purposeful about presenting forums to invite a variety of perspectives on caregiving and to create freedom around the expression of opinions, which support our Inclusion value.
Uniting for a common purpose
In healthcare, our days are filled with purpose and meaning, and our values help us work together to be our very best. When we take the time to keep our values top of mind and put them into action, we create an atmosphere in which truly transformative care is standard operating procedure.