Culture Through Crisis: Leading Effectively During Talent Shortages

Praise Teammates and Put People First

One remarkable way to build healthier cultures is to acknowledge teammate contributions. Knowing that their efforts aren’t made in a vacuum helps sustain them when times are hard, driving up the temptation to quit.

Staff recognition is a must. Otherwise, people picture their efforts disappearing into a void, and the default mood can pivot from enthusiastic to apathetic.

Medix leadership encourages teammate involvement in one or more of our seven Impact Groups (often called employee resource groups at other companies). Impact Groups allow teammates to mentor and support one another, network, and just relax and be social.

And Medix uses our soft skills assessment MyPrint® to help match our teammates to the professional development and advancement opportunities in which they’re most likely to excel. We want everyone here to thrive by being confident and productive.

A continuous goal of mine is to sustain a workplace where teammates feel almost as safe as they do in their homes. That might not be possible when your teammates are nurses, many of whom feel threatened by violence every day. However, it is possible to help teammates feel safe within the constructs of organizational leadership and culture.

Medix also works to ensure that teammates feel safe sharing feedback with leadership, can express concerns, and offer recommendations, trusting that they will be respected and heard.

Think about ways your workplace can praise talent and put people first. It might be through plaques, awards, mentions in your organization’s communications, or a designated parking space. Emails, phone calls, and a literal pat on the back work wonders. Cash awards and salary bonuses translate into real-life necessities like food, rent, and diapers.

But what about you, an individual leader in your organization, you, just one person? What are some ways that you can praise teammates and put others first?

Show Up for Your Teammates’ Loved Ones

When someone shows kindness to a member of my family, I immediately feel connected to that person. Organizations should put teammates and their families at the center of everything. Those that do will be stronger in the long run thanks to those deeper connections.

Remember: It’s not only teammates who work for your company; their families do, too. When it’s all hands on deck, and staff are working long hours to achieve a company goal, their loved ones work at it too by sacrificing time with that teammate and picking up the slack. Acknowledging this in meaningful, tangible ways equals future goodwill. Consider these possibilities:

  • Establish easily accessed “libraries” and databases with information on childcare, eldercare, and other hot topics for teammates with families
  • Hold family-friendly events
  • Review company policies and benefits packages for opportunities to improve them, such as more generous flextime options and job-sharing
  • Remember that not all teammates have kids, so be mindful of the sacrifices of spouses, partners, and significant others


I wouldn’t say that any company should just wing it, but any workplace can benefit from a healthy spirit of improvisation. Being able to improvise means fewer lags when the unexpected happens.

Improvising helped Medix thrive during COVID’s darkest days when our sales reps couldn’t reach their customers on the phone.
But we improvised. Our executive leadership empowered staff to think like entrepreneurs and forge new pathways. We got flexible with sales territories to widen each sales rep’s reach, added client companies outside our usual industries, and networked with friends and family.

What we feared would be catastrophic proved liberating. We taught each other, we taught ourselves, we got brave, we took chances, and we learned that sometimes Hail Mary passes end in touchdowns. Soon, other departments embraced the improv spirit, and business continued to flourish.

People need a sense of purpose, and this improvisation exercise, launched solely to solve an immediate need, gave that to our teammates. Helping employees find a sense of purpose, as teams and individuals, gets you ahead of the game.

What about your organization? How can it adopt a spirit of improvisation? Are there ways for you and other leaders to devise out-of-the-box talent sourcing and hiring practices, such as teaming with trade schools and rethinking minimum qualifications? What about empowering teammate creativity and encouraging them to suggest better ways to do their jobs and accomplish company goals?

Be Intentional and Transparent

Let’s start with what it means to be intentional. At Medix, it means intending to live our core values:

  • Desire to serve others
  • Willing to do what others won’t
  • Never, never, never give up
  • Locking arms to achieve goals

Knowing and living your organization’s core values helps instill them within your staff as employees share a heightened sense of commitment. I think every teammate should be able to quote the organization’s mission and values because those statements are peppered all over the walls, the elevators, and the stairwells. I’m only exaggerating a little.

As to transparency, it must start with organizational leadership. For Medix, it means being as open and honest as possible in everything we do.

When we’re transparent as leaders, we encourage trust and goodwill that might just save us all when the waters get choppy. When we aren’t transparent, we risk fostering suspicion and resentment. Transparency encourages commitment, but the lack of it hurts employee retention and productivity.

I encourage you and your organization to be as open as possible in all your dealings, communications, and partnerships. This includes those with customers, clients, and teammates, and it demands that we be vulnerable, which is a brave thing to do.

Culture is Magnetic

I can tell you that good organizational culture is magnetic. It draws teammates and leadership together with goodwill and energy. I’ve seen it happen. And in tough times such as staffing shortages, culture’s effects on staff, patients, customers, and clients can pull everyone together.

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