Cultivating a Family Culture in a Corporate World

Not long ago, I was traveling on Christmas Day when complications from a recent surgery I had undergone landed me in an Ohio emergency room. The nurses had some uncertainty about how to treat me. Two of my Northside Hospital colleagues jumped on a call to offer advice and assistance. Despite the fact that it was Christmas Day, neither of them hesitated to help me. At that moment, I was confident that we had created a family culture.

I know, like many, that a corporate environment can be a demanding and fast-paced place to work. There are pressures everywhere, from profit to performance and beyond, and they never let up.

And when it comes to working in a healthcare system, you have to add in the extra stress of dealing with life and death situations hour by hour and day by day.

Against this backdrop, creating a culture of family — where workers collaborate and feel encouraged and empowered — can be a real mission. Nearly all corporations talk about this goal, but making it happen for every employee is much easier said than done.

At Northside Hospital, one of Atlanta’s largest and most renowned health systems, we’ve made building a true family culture a priority. From both working in this environment and talking with my coworkers, I can attest that we’ve succeeded on many levels.


Take a look at these five principles, which serve as a guide for our leaders as they set expectations for our Northside family. Creating that family culture starts here.

1. Be Human

One of our Talent Acquisition Supervisors, Jenn Gilbert, sums up what this means at Northside:Kindness is everything, and I love working for an organization that treats people like people.”

[Relared: Employees First: 4 Ways to Create an Engaging Culture]

2. Be a Resource

Northside has programs in place that help employees find mentors and build their careers with continuing education. The Internal Employee Portal is designed so that it’s easy for all employees to get relevant and specific information.

From experience, I know that nobody is just a number. I think this principle speaks to how we value the individual here at Northside.

Jenn believes that another key component is the willingness of team members to pitch in and help each other, especially with difficult tasks. “At Northside you are not alone,” she told me. “You will work with people from a myriad of backgrounds and experiences that will help you along the way.”

3. Show Some Personality

What gives a corporation its personality? It starts with how it treats its own team members, because that translates directly into how those employees will treat clients, customers or patients.

Talent Acquisition Supervisor, Erin Powell, believes creating the right corporate personality can start with little things that send big signals.

“I’ve always loved that Northside STILL gives employees a holiday gift card to Kroger in early December,” Erin shared with me. “While this may seem old-school or traditional, it tells me that Northside encourages me to enjoy the holidays with my friends and family, and cares enough to contribute to that celebration. To me, this represents appreciation and a healthy work-life balance.”

A corporate personality is also shaped by how it treats the community and how it encourages its employees to treat the community. That’s a huge focus here at Northside. We publish a digital magazine called Northside Life to showcase our employees who are making a difference in the Atlanta area and beyond.

When our team spends time together in our communities, it brings us closer together and creates lasting memories. Erin brought up how our team spends time each month giving back to the community by completing a myriad of service projects and donating to national and local causes. We’re committed to one another and to giving back together.

4. Allow Employees to Have a Voice

One of the key things in creating a family culture is ensuring that all employees feel that their voices are being heard — and paid attention to. It means creating platforms from the top-down to address issues that matter to front-line team members.

We have a very easy AskHR button on the employee portal where, in one click, employees can get answers to pretty much any question they might have on their mind. Leadership is committed to making Northside the best it can be for our employees. I have been fortunate to participate in several Task Force Committees comprised of leaders and staff all coming together to hear and address staff concerns or suggestions for improvement. It is so magical to watch the change happen!

[Related: Glassdoor Gives Employees a Voice — Here’s Why You Should Listen to It]

5. Live Your Values

This is perhaps the biggest key to building a solid and lasting family culture. People see right through corporations that say one thing but do another, so Northside has cultivated and practices a culture that is consistent with its overriding mission of helping others. That culture is outlined by “Service Standards” and reinforced by daily action.

I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t see someone helping another person with directions in the hospital, or offering to walk with them if they are lost. This is a good place to be, whether a patient or an employee — you can feel it just about everywhere you go.

That feeling is contagious and forms a strong foundation for a real family culture, one in which everyone feels pride in being part of.

Jenn summarized our culture well when she said, “Northside emulates a culture of service. Service to its employees, its patients and its community. I am proud to work at Northside.”

It’s not easy to do, but creating a family culture in the midst of a corporate world can be done. We see it every day here at Northside. Erin echoes the sentiment of our team when she says, “Whether it is donating luggage to foster children, participating in one of the many 5K races, donating to patients and their families or volunteering at the local animal shelter, there is something you can connect with at a deeper level. Northside employees are everywhere, volunteering or donating to every type of service or community event. I feel extremely proud to say that I am a part of our local community, and that is possible through Northside Hospital.”

Learn More & Download:

Culture Codes of Best Places to Work