Building a work culture of success in occupational health clinics

“The most detrimental thing the leaders of an occupational health service can do is fail to create a culture of success.”

This critical sentence appears in Occupational Health Services: A Practical Approach, a new book conscientiously edited by Tee L. Guidotti, M.D., M.P.H., vice president, health, safety, environment and sustainability at Medical Advisory Services, and published by Routledge.

I have the privilege of contributing to this great resource written by industry experts for busy practitioners, clinic administrators and employers.

Thumbing through the book, I landed on the staffing chapter that I co-wrote with Donna Lee Gardner, a senior principal with RYAN Associates specializing in occupational health program development, with whom I have collaborated for many years. Specifically, the subtitle, Supporting Work Culture, caught my attention.

In that section, we discuss factors that can contribute to staff disengagement if they are not counteracted, such as burdensome documentation requirements, the entitlement nature of the workers’ compensation system and misunderstandings about the critical role occupational health plays in parent organizations.

We warn that the absence of a strong work culture can trigger a chain-reaction crash that diminishes care quality and overall service performance: “Employers will pick up on lax (staff) attitudes, even over the phone. Paperwork will seem like a chore and will be filed inaccurately and late. Workers’ compensation carriers will delay payment. A reputation for mediocrity will quickly circulate, and very soon the service will be in trouble.”

A strong work culture is the key to reversing these trends. It is incumbent on the occupational health service’s “culture leaders,” usually managers, physicians, nurses and other clinicians, to create an environment that cultivates motivation, good morale and creativity for all staff members. In turn, this work ethic promotes senior executive commitment and success in the greater marketplace.

“The (program leaders) must live and believe in the occupational health service’s culture as well as articulate it. If they demonstrate a sincere and strong culture, employees will always be doing the right thing – because they will always be acting in the best interest of the worker, the employer and the service providers,” we say in the book.

In addition, “staff has to participate in creating the work culture if they are to ‘own’ it. Otherwise, it will never become the strong work culture the occupational service needs to do its job consistently and well.”

Sounds simple? It’s not!

We have found that employees, in general, are much more eager to come to work every day when they feel:

  • they are part of something bigger than themselves
  • their jobs are rewarding, challenging and exciting long after the honeymoon period is over
  • their number-one motivator for coming to work is recognition for their accomplishments, not just a paycheck
  • they always know what their manager expects of them so they can respond accordingly and be fairly evaluated

The overall objective is to develop a collective vision that engenders a desire among all staff members to provide amazing customer service. In occupational health settings, the result is the provision of higher-quality care and meaningful support for injured workers, their families and employers, which in turn stimulates economic growth and productivity for everyone’s benefit – the type of chain-reaction we all hope to generate.

Thousands of customers, including hospitals, clinics and Fortune 100 companies, use UL’s health solutions to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses and improve awareness of health and safety issues.