Success Story Heather Staples LavoieAfter nearly 30 years in the field, across start-ups, small and very large organizations, I can tell you that the single most important aspect of building the right team is finding the right cultural fit. It’s obvious, but too often overlooked or ignored. Let’s be honest, we’ve all heard the adage “culture eats strategy for lunch”. It’s true. Organizational health is the single greatest determinant of success.

As a company is rapidly growing, and you are still building the plane as it is flying, it’s far too easy to skip the effort and expense of intentionally defining and building culture and basing hiring practices upon it. Compound the internal effort required with a competitive marketplace that sets a frenetic pace and the pressures of too much demand for too small a pool of specialized talent – and the likelihood of applying cultural discipline dramatically lessens.

After some painful lessons at Geneia, we took a giant step back as a leadership team to assess and explicitly define our culture and what we mean by “organizational health”. We examined our core values – who we are as an organization, what is most important to us, what we hold to be true about ourselves and our purpose. The outcome wasn’t a surprise – but when we drove down to the very essentials – we understood that we value, at the core, passion, persistence and the desire to transform our healthcare system into something better. It would have been all too easy to stop there and rest on our laurels, pat ourselves on the back for a job well-done – but that was just the beginning. Defining culture is one thing, embodying it is altogether something else.

We used the work of Patrick Lencioni, author of The Advantage, as a framework to focus our efforts and set up the structure, processes, behaviors and reinforcement of those behaviors to make our core values actionable and sustainable. We set expectations of how we should behave and codified those as part of the performance objectives for every person in the organization. We assess whether we are achieving it on a global and individual basis. And we further designed our interview process to detect clues as to the existence (or not) of those behaviors in candidates, giving every interviewer a role and accountability of assessment. We understand that it is not enough to merely establish core values; they need to be a living and guiding force.

To expand on the team development aspect of this, our behavioral interviewing approach explicitly considers each core value and the behaviors that demonstrate them, and we hire to that standard. Every candidate is interviewed by multiple people from varying company roles. Each person is assigned specific questions to draw out behavioral clues. Our process is collaborative; each person has an equal voice on whether to hire the candidate or not. It has often proved eye-opening and validating as candidates true selves shine through, and they too have an opportunity to assess whether we are a fit for them.

Let’s be honest, behavioral interviewing is a lengthy process that consumes valuable time from top company resources. It is easy, especially in the high-tech world that over-values technical competence and speed, to believe that you can find the brightest and most enthusiastic candidate, hire that person and it will all work out. From experience, over companies large and small, I can definitively say that nothing could be further from the truth. It is easier for the law of averages to smooth this out in a large organization, but in a small organization, and particularly in a start-up, any one person can have a tremendous impact across the entire company. We want people who come to Geneia to be passionate, persistent, transformative, and feel fulfilled, and for that to happen, we all need to be aligned.

The upfront and ongoing investment is decidedly worth it, and we see it paying off in communication, cohesiveness and productivity. More than anything else, team members want to contribute meaningfully and feel appreciated for what they do. An explicit and strong commitment to the culture and health of the organization establishes an environment where this is possible.

We are growing our staff of physicians, nurses, technologists, analytics experts and business professionals. To learn more about Geneia and our career opportunities, visit or connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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