I have always believed that building a strong employee culture is a huge key to success. In the service business, your people are your only product – therefore you have to invest in your people to create an extraordinary product.
At Encompass Health – Home Health & Hospice, we have spent the last 21 years creating a remarkable culture that allows us to draw in the best people, empower them for success and recognize their impact. Through this process, we have created an industry-leading organization that has grown from a single location to now over 330 locations in 32 states.
I’m often asked, “How did you create such a great culture?” Believe it or not, the answer is pretty simple: I start and end every day with a goal of delivering a better way to care to our Encompass Health team so that they can in turn deliver a better way to care to our patients and their families.
In other words, I have built a daily method to ensure I never lose focus of that goal and challenge myself to make every decision through the filter of how it aligns with it.
If a particular decision would make the company more money but not deliver a better way to care to our people in the process, I choose another path. At the end of the day, we always succeed by simply asking our people to give us their best while giving them our best in return.
But what does it really mean to deliver a better way to care to your team? I believe it means the following:
Delivering a better way to care to our team starts by making their jobs easier. One of my favorite sayings is “Culture follows process.” You can never show people too much kindness to overcome an environment of daily chaos. For us, the foundation of a great culture has always been a great process that is efficient, technologically advanced and accountable.
At Encompass Health, everyone knows what is expected of them. Everyone is given the tools they need to meet these expectations and are then held accountable for reaching them. The reality is that accountability is the magic that makes process work. You have to hold your team accountable or the process will erode, and chaos will ensue. Don’t view accountability as the antithesis of culture, but instead treat it as the foundation.
Once you have an efficient process established, your focus should then turn to policy. As leaders, we must ask ourselves how our policies align with our goals and stated intent for employees. Policy is almost always well-intended to control risk for the company or ease the burden for corporate personnel, but without diligent effort it can deviate from being employee centered.
Be careful how policy is established. As a leader, you must always know what is being included in your employee policy manual in order to protect your employees from administrative deficiency that may undermine your commitment to putting them first.
After the right process and the right policy comes the right people. As a leader, you can set the tone for your organization’s culture, but at the end of the day it is local leadership who will determine if it is really achieved. At Encompass Health, we are discerning about the local leaders we bring on to our team. We don’t just interview for skills and experience; we realize that culture fit questions are every bit as important.
I don’t believe a vibrant culture can survive a toxic leader, so when we find that a team member doesn’t align with our culture, we act swiftly to remove them before our culture is undermined. This is not just true for local leaders; it is true for every member of the team. I often tell our leaders, “I will not let you make me a hypocrite by treating our culture as less important than it is, and you should not let anyone on your team make you a hypocrite either.” To sustain culture, you must guard it and protect it by never letting anyone undermine it.
In addition to process, policy and people, you must add passion. At Encompass Health, our culture has spread across our national footprint because we have made every member of our team passionate about our company’s purpose: to provide a better way to care that elevates expectations and outcomes. For us, a better way to care is not just a tag line; it is our guiding principle, our very reason for being.
The thing I love about that statement is that it applies to every employee. Each of us, no matter the role we play in the organization, can live out our purpose every day by delivering a better way to care to all those we come in contact with, from our co-workers, to our patients, to our referral partners. Everyone has a role in living out our purpose and can use our company values to guide their daily actions.
Building a great culture is simple, the challenge comes in staying committed and focused on it every day. As you develop your own leadership style and your company’s culture, make sure you follow the four Ps: process, policy, people and passion. Then you too can build a remarkable, award-winning culture like we have created at Encompass Health.
April Anthony founded Encompass Home Health & Hospice in 1998 as her second successful home health venture. She has led the company’s expansion from a single start-up to an industry leader and has guided the company’s long-standing culture, which has received national recognition as a best place to work. She is a graduate of Abilene Christian University where she received a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Tips from the top is an ongoing series highlighting Encompass Health leadership and what inspires and motivates them.