Culture is king when counteracting healthcare’s workforce challenges 

Commitment to employees – proven in word, thought and deed brings a reciprocal response of loyalty and perseverance – is borne out at Galen Healthcare Solutions.

Healthcare organizations have had an extra helping of pressure over the last two years – providers performed heroically to deal with the coronavirus caseload, staff and financial shortfalls, changes in care delivery, and more. 

IT played a support role, and now, it is that department’s time to deliver. With the country emerging from the depths of the pandemic, the industry will be in catchup mode – delayed tech initiatives will be back in play, provider consolidation is likely to continue, and expectations will be high for IT to boost efficiency and augment shrinking clinical staff. And to accomplish that, IT likely will be asked to do more with less. 

As performance pressure grows, there may be little attention paid to organizational culture. But that focus is precisely what’s needed to pay long-term dividends in healthcare IT departments, and more broadly, for the organization overall. 

Culture investments pay off 

For Steve Brewer, CEO of Galen Healthcare Solutions, paying attention to and investing in the organization’s culture has produced exactly the type of results that provider organizations need. The consultancy has worked hard to build and maintain its culture, through activities such as company retreats, newsletters, recognition programs, informal applause channels on company communication apps and more. The result has been an uncanny ability to attract bright talent to the consultancy, and to keep them. 

That stable of longevity-laced, seen-it-done-it-all consultants has resulted in loyal, happy clients, with Galen’s success being reflected in its recognition as Best in KLAS for Overall Implementation Firm in the 2022 Best in KLAS Report - Software and Services

Brewer came to lead the consultancy about seven years ago because of the reputation of its culture, which it builds around five key tenets – service excellence, integrity, learning and sharing, having fun and working profitably. Those undergird the environment and are layered on top of a specific moonshot-scoped mission, he says. 

“We’ve just been very fortunate that we’ve got folks who understand the mission of our client is really important – it’s improving healthcare,” Brewer says. “So as we go in and augment (provider) teams and join those efforts, we’re part of something that’s really important that we take seriously, and our people are continuously learning.” 

Nurturing and protecting the workforce 

Galen balances that devotion to the greater good with an emphasis on nurturing and protecting its 100-plus workforce. “We always try to keep in mind that (our staff) are living their own lives, and we’ve got to manage that, that work-life balance,” he adds. “We’re in a company where we have people raising families and putting kids through school and doing all sorts of neat things in their community, in addition to the work they’re doing for our clients. So from that standpoint, culture is the key.” 

Feedback from customers show the devotion to culture pays off in performance, says Adam Gale, CEO of KLAS Research. “It’s not just that [Galen] has high quality people that seem to go above and beyond, but they seem to stay,” Gale observes. That is a challenge that dogs a variety of healthcare organizations, known increasingly as The Great Resignation, a nationwide trend exemplified by employee mobility and propensity to quit jobs for better opportunities or for lifestyle choices. 

Galen’s culture emphasizes recognizing its employees, building a group cohesion and opening opportunities for the workforce to define culture. One outgrowth of that is its Culture Club, an employee-driven initiative that draws participation across all job functions. “It’s a fun thing put together by one of the founders of the company, and they come up with things that we should be doing and ideas; they just kind of comment and make recommendations on anything and everything,” Brewer explains. 

The company is re-instituting its annual company retreat for all employees this April – put on hold last year because of the pandemic. Communication across the company is enhanced by the recent development of a newsletter and other recognition efforts, such as a Slack channel termed “Applause,” which is used to recognize individuals’ performance.  

“Almost every day, something gets posted on there, about a new project or a go-live and recognizing somebody on their team or even on another team that might have just worked on a small part of the project,” Brewer says. “So those are really fun to read literally every day.” 

Keeping it real 

Culture creation goes beyond words. During the pandemic, it involved tangible indicators, such as stipends for performance during the pandemic, or on the flip side, simply retaining staff without layoffs as business slowed down, Gale notes.  

"So if you put your people first, the clients are really going to benefit."

“A lot of organizations talk about [culture], about having a good culture, trying to take care of employees, but when the rubber hits the road, I think is when things really are different” during crises,” Gale adds. “It's not just the delivery for clients. It's the environment you create in your own company where employees really are critical. The culture really is critical.” 

Investment internally in a worker base has an outward influence on an organization’s ability to instill confidence in its ability to deliver on partnerships and other relationships, which Brewer believes is a takeaway from Galen that can be extrapolated across the healthcare industry today. 

Partnership relationships have to be earned, and imply mutual investment and commitment, he explains. “For us, a partnership means we’re really investing the time to learn the client’s business and help them solve a particular issue, but they’re doing the same for us. In true partnership, both sides are engaged and committed to it.” 

There’s payback and symbiotic opportunities in these close relationships, Brewer continues. “The clients that you get the most from are the ones that really embrace us, and let us be a part of the team – let us really get in there and help because we do things differently than their team. Our clients have tremendous skill sets in all sorts of areas.” 

But close relationships with other organizations inevitably fall back on the individuals working on joint projects, again underscoring the importance of hiring staff that transparently reflect the company’s mission and fit into its expressed culture, Brewer says. 

“There's a lot of people with the skill sets we're looking for, but we're also looking for a good fit,” he explains. “When we're interviewing, we're looking for people who will get along well with the Galen team and who understand it. So if you put your people first, the clients are really going to benefit.” 

And company success is shared – for example, by awarding bonuses in recognition for this year’s Best in KLAS recognition. “I think people appreciate that, especially in times like this” with the impact of the pandemic felt by all, Brewer concludes. “They understand that there's a company that has a vision and plans on sticking by his people and continuing to grow and doing neat stuff.” Watch the full video

Best in KLAS leaders share success principles BEYOND THE RANKINGS

EPIC Systems:

Where will healthcare be in 2 years…20 years? Epic’s Judy Faulkner shares insights. 

The Chartis Group:

Purpose, impact, respect, caring – those who work for it have value to contribute back to the world


Provider/vendor partnership – not 50-50 split but each 100% committed.

Galen Healthcare Solutions:

Culture is king when counteracting healthcare’s workforce challenges  

Best in KLAS Report

2022 Best in KLAS Awards - Software and Professional Services

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