Competition for quality resources and talent is alive and well across all areas of healthcare. Organizations are intensely focused on attracting new talent while at the same time exploring and implementing strategies for retaining top talent. In an article by Becker’s Hospital Review, 5 tips were presented on how healthcare organizations can become better employers. These included gaining employee input and perspective; robust and fun employee wellness programs; how to empower leaders; strengthen employee connections with patients; and use data to drive decision-making. Each of these tips offers a real opportunity for healthcare organizations to become better employers.

So as current and prospective employees watch healthcare organizations work to become better employers, it should be expected that healthcare resources ask how they can become better employee. The employer/employee relationship needs to a reciprocal one if it is going to deliver value for the organization, employee and ultimately the delivery of care. So, what might be 5 basic tips to be a better employee?

1) Education and Training contribute to the experience of the employee and in turn the overall value they bring to their daily responsibilities. Most likely an employee is in his/her role because of their core set of experience and competency. Employees that typically ask for additional training and education opportunities are often rewarded, either by being presented with opportunities to participate in formal training and education and/or by the recognition they receive from management and peers as being a fully-engaged employee. In addition to formal training and education, employees should seek out opportunities to better understand how their daily functions could possibly be improved upon, and how their efforts impact other parts of the organization. Industry peer groups are an excellent source of information and networking that professionals can easily access online and in person. These peer groups often provide a forum for exchanging information on industry trends, real life examples of “lessons learned”, networking, and various types of education and training. Bottom line: ask for opportunities for formal education and training, dive into daily responsibilities to better understand how functions might be improved and why they even exist, and seek out industry peer organizations that might provide an interactive community with many professional benefits including education and training. Employers like having experienced resources with an appetite to learn.

2) Teamwork is a challenging but critical cultural attitude that successful organizations are constantly looking to build and maintain. Teamwork needs to be built by example and embraced by employees. Sounds fairly easy, but often the more talented people are the least team focused. Their ability to excel in the daily routines can lead to a narrow focus on maintaining excellence in what they do with limited attention to the impact on the immediate team and larger employee base. The idea of being really good at a job without having to integrate those efforts in a larger team setting is no longer an acceptable approach for employees. If nothing else, sports have demonstrated time and again the value and success that great individual contributors achieve when they are part of a strong team and how often individual excellence can elevate the strength and success of the team. So, how does an employee also contribute to teamwork? Employees can make great contributions to the team when they focus on delivering their strengths, improving on their weaknesses, understanding how their efforts contribute to the goals of the organization, communicating clearly and often, embracing a “one for all” mentality, and most important, by being positive and working with a “can do” and “how can I help” attitude.

3) Compliance is a very slippery slope for organizations. They are challenged with protecting the privacy and security of all people within their organization as well as many constituents outside their walls. Employers need to protect the rights of employees whether that be Equal, Opportunity Employment, Labor Laws, work place harassment, discrimination, safety, and the list goes on and on. Finally, employers must protect their organizations from various forms of fraud and/or sabotage whether intentional or not. The job of implementing tools, training and developing processes for properly monitoring all of these areas is enormous and expensive. An employee can demonstrate their commitment to the employer by participating in all training provided and then complying with the guidelines required by law or set forth by the organization. Ask questions when in doubt. As it relates to harassment and/or discrimination, avoid saying or writing anything that is clearly inappropriate or that might not come across positively on the news or with family members. Know the laws and company guidelines and stay well within them. This is of tremendous value to employers and an employee’s career.

4) Avoid Excuses as a general rule of thumb. Yes, there are going to be situations when an appropriate excuse exists. However, the more often excuses are used the more common it is for an employee to be perceived as incompetent or difficult. Own the task and ask questions that will proactively eliminate the need for an excuse. Use the Who, What, When, Where and Why approach as a general rule of thumb for completing tasks. This will help establish proper expectations with respect to what needs to be done and by when. And without question, avoid these common excuses It’s not possible; We have always done it like that; That’s not my department/responsibility; and I don’t have the time.

5) Communication may be the most critical component in the workplace for helping employees maximize their full potential and for building an excellent team. What makes this so challenging? There are many ways to communicate and most do not require face to face interaction. As such, interpretation often rules the day when it comes to understanding what needs to be done, who is doing what, severity of an issue on the business or person(s) involved, deadlines, expectations, and so on. Adding to the complexity are the preferences adopted by employees for how they like to be communicated with. Some like email only, some phone, others Instant Messaging and texts. Ultimately, it is incumbent upon the employee to comply with the communication guidelines that exist for the organizations. When multiple options exist, such as phone and email, the employee should try to understand how their target audience likes to be communicated with and then do so when possible. In turn, an employee should feel comfortable to ask for the same courtesy when sharing their communication preference with fellow team members. Assuming the communication tool is not an issue, employees should pay close attention to how clear their communication is with their intended audience. In some cases the very same Who, What, When, Where and Why approach may be used when making a request or providing an update. For communication requiring less detail, try to avoid using any words that might be open to interpretation or misinterpretation. And by all means, avoid communication that is negative or emotional. The ideal communicators are those employees that ask questions, clarify communication styles, comply with communication expectations and continually put themselves at the receiving end of their own communication to proactively minimize confusion and misunderstanding. Additionally, they have a tendency to over communicate.

Whether following these tips will result in a great employee is debatable. And as with just about everything worth doing in life, being good in all of these areas is a journey and not a destination. Ongoing attention to each of these areas, as well as those not mentioned, will require ongoing dedication and commitment. But certainly these tips can provide a strong baseline for anyone looking to improve upon their basic skill set and workplace personality that in turn can contribute to employer satisfaction and career growth.

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