How to Make Culture Your Home Care Agency’s Competitive Advantage

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

You’ve probably heard this line before, attributed to famous business strategist Peter Drucker.

While this idea is on the right target in my experience, it’s easy to misunderstand what culture means in this context.

Culture is talked about often as an important element of a company, but companies that try to focus on it often fixate on frivolous surface-level facets of culture while ignoring the elements that really shape the organization.

You’ve probably seen some of these well-intentioned but ill-conceived efforts. Tech companies buy ping pong tables and standup desks, enforcing mandatory company happy hours after work. Corporations invest in awkward weekend retreats full of trust-building exercises that lead to more eye-rolling than anything. Small business owners hang up cheesy motivational signs and reminders for employees with cringy slogans like YOU’RE NEVER FULLY DRESSED WITHOUT A SMILE.

All of these, frankly, miss the mark pretty hard in my opinion.

What Organizational Culture Really Means

Culture isn’t ping-pong tables, trust-building exercises, or motivational posters.

Here are a few good definitions I’ve heard for what it really means in an organizational context:
1. Culture is the worst behaviors that a leader is willing to tolerate in an organization.
2. Culture is what employees do when the boss isn’t looking.

And my favorite:
3. Culture is the attitudes, behaviors, and social norms that are enforced, encouraged, and reward both implicitly and explicitly within an organization.

Implicit vs. Explicit Culture

The implicit part is key. Many managers say they want one thing but enforce another.

When I worked in academia, I had a boss who consistently and vocally reminded employees that he wanted our meetings to be free exchanges of ideas where any idea could be challenged and candor was king.

Despite saying this, however, he would quickly shut down and publicly humiliate any subordinate who challenged his ideas.

Explicitly he encouraged free discussion, but implicitly he encouraged us to reinforce his ego by telling him only what he wanted to hear.

You can guess which behavior became our culture.


Why Culture Matters So Much

The right culture is a company’s fuel for growth. Properly set and maintained, it powers individual and team motivation, creative thinking, problem-solving, work ethic, morale, and persistence.

What a negative work culture looks like:
– Employees spend more time worrying about what their boss thinks of their work than how to drive results
– Good employees still needing to be coached in every area of their job
– Employees counting time until the workday is over

What a positive work culture looks like:
– Employees feel a sense of unity driving toward a purpose
– Employees taking the initiative to figure out how to be better at their jobs because they’re motivated by the overall culture of accomplishment and mission
– Employees feel trusted, supported, and constructively challenged in their work
– Getting a lot done but having a good time while doing it

We often talk about culture like a soft, intangible thing—but it’s not difficult to envision the difference in hard, quantifiable business results being produced by each of the above team cultures.

So, what can you do build a culture in your home care agency that will contribute to growth and success?

1. Decide the culture you want to create in your agency and put it in writing.

Writing down the expectations, values, and behaviors that are important to you helps eliminate any misunderstandings and avoid any gray areas for employees.

Avoid writing outcomes, like “Everybody loves coming to work and feels motivated to do their best.”

Instead, identify the daily behaviors that would lead to this outcome and put them in writing.

Here’s the one my team and I use at Careswitch. (Scroll past the caregiver jersey to see the full thing.)

2. Get buy-in from your employees.

Understand what kind of environment they want to work in and pay attention to the areas where it might differ from yours. Find the common ground and lay it out explicitly as the goal.

3. Assume that your employees will assume that anything you do is acceptable.

Your example will largely dictate the way your employees act. You shouldn’t expect them to approach their work with quite the same level of investment as an owner, but otherwise you should expect that your attitude toward work and personal conduct will determine what they see as the norm.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” is a leadership style that will never produce the results you want.

4. Don’t make excuses to hire or keep the wrong person.

At the end of the day, some people’s behavior may simply run counter to the way you want your organization to run. Learn to develop awareness of when someone simply needs the right coaching/motivation and when they aren’t a culture fit.

As painful as it can be to let go of an employee in today’s hiring climate, you’ll thank yourself for it later.

5. Praise in public and correct in private.

Your example will largely dictate the way your employees act. You shouldn’t expect them to approach their work with quite the same level of investment as an owner, but otherwise you should expect that your attitude toward work and personal conduct will determine what they see as the norm.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” is a leadership style that will never produce the results you want.

6. Align your staff around human-focused goals and business
goals—and give them a stake in both.

This is a tricky one that very few companies get right. Most companies that try to unite employees around a common purpose focus on a human-centered mission (the “making the world a better place” side of the business), which is good but a little bit disingenuous.

At the end of the day, everybody knows it’s a business and not a nonprofit, so motivating employees only by making the world a better place is a little dishonest if the owner is substantially motivated by making money.

Similarly, you’re missing a big opportunity to motivate your team if you only motivate them based on money. Home care is full of goodhearted people who want to make a difference, and they’re in a job where they can.

The solution: unite people behind business goals (hitting X in revenue) and human-centered goals. Then give them a stake in both.

When you see evidence that your company is improving a client’s life, share this with your team and show them how their work played a role in it.

Similarly, give your team financial incentives that give them a personal stake in the company’s growth metrics.

Shoutout to Careswitch, a company that’s not perfect but is better at this point than any place I’ve ever worked at. All of our employees own shares in the company and understand the benefit we get as the company grows, but we also all feel invested in Careswitch’s mission of bringing economic opportunity to caregivers and share a genuine feeling of common purpose in
achieving it.

7. Make gratitude a core element of your leadership style.

My experience is that almost nothing lends itself to creating a positive culture than living a life of gratitude. Frequently express gratitude to and for your team, among anything else. This doesn’t mean ignoring or downplaying challenges, but rather living in out-loud appreciation of the good you see.

Culture is a Garden

Culture can be compared to a garden. At the end of the day, some type of culture is going to grow in your organization whether you focus on it or not.

It might be well-planned lines of useful plants that provide food and beauty. Or it might become overgrown with weeds that choke out and overwhelm the plants you want.

It’s up to you to decide which it will be.

PS: There’s a lot more where this came from. If this was useful to you, go check out The Frequently Asked Questions of Home Care, where we’ve brought together home care experts of all kinds to give quick, meaty answers to all the burning questions every home care owner asks at some point.

Connor Kunz is VP of Growth at Careswitch, the first free home care agency management software which you should totally go check out and start using. Before working at Careswitch, Connor led marketing and agency education at Home Care Pulse, including founding the Home Care Growth Summit and being the project lead for the annual Home Care Benchmarking Study. When he’s not working, Connor enjoys hiking with his wife, eating shredded cheese out of the bag, and watching TV while his gremlin-like cats judge him from across the room.

Grow Home Care Marketing

Hope you found this to be helpful, if you’re ready to take your agency to the next level schedule your free home care marketing session with us now:

Download our ultimate home care SEO and website checklist

Grow Home Care Marketing

Watch how we grew an agency’s care hours by 400% (and how you can too)!

Grow Home Care Marketing

Schedule Your Free Ultimate Home Care Marketing Session, And We Will:


Build a keyword list

The list is based on your services, service area and search trends. We’ll use our state-of-the-art tools to find the most-searched-for home care agency services and keywords, and we’ll show you which keywords will drive the most traffic to your website (Valued at $197).


Run a ranking report

You’ll see exactly where your agency currently ranks online for those “money” keywords that will bring in hot prospects. (Valued at $97.)


Review your website optimization

You get a complete analysis and explanation of why your website is not ranking at the top of the search engines. More importantly, we’ll show you how to launch it to the top so your best prospects see it (Valued at $97).


Review your website conversion

 You’ll discover what might be turning website visitors off and how to turn them into clients (valued at $97).


Provide your local internet marketing domination plan

We will outline step-by-step how you can leverage the internet for more calls, leads and profits.

A $500 Value Yours For Free

Schedule Your FREE Strategy Session Now

You'll get a custom Home Care Digital marketing strategy blueprint to grow YOUR Agency, an SEO Checklist, and a Home Care Digital Marketing secrets training video for FREE

A $500 Value For FREE