I remember working for a company and moving up the ranks pretty quickly. My input was requested in making hiring decisions not only for our company, but also for the clients we served. How exciting was that?! As I referred to the client’s employees as “associates” I was quickly corrected. They were employees, not associates. I took the feedback and nodded my head with understanding. In reality, I didn’t understand. Are they employees or associates, I couldn’t yet articulate what it was. I also started to question which one I was, which one I wanted to be, and what I would accept.

An employee is generally referred to as someone who provides labor to another person or a company. That’s it. So basically, an employee is an individual contributor that seeks a wage in exchange for labor.

An associate, in contrast to an employee, is a person united with another or others in the business. The key work being ‘unity’. When you are working towards a common goal (to complete business) in a unified group there is equality despite the title of each person in the organization.

The difference between being an employee or associate is really about working individually for a wage or working in unison towards a common purpose.

This revelation got me thinking about turnover rates. Do some company’s struggle year over year with retention because they don’t understand their culture? Are they hiring collaborative individuals and sticking them on an assembly line? Are really focused/introverted people being forced into uncomfortable group projects?

Through a lot of my own soul searching, I discovered that I am an associate. I need purpose and want to work with a team that is all striving toward one common goal. As referenced earlier, not everyone needs collaboration to feel engaged. Some people prefer to be an employee- they prefer to work in peace, within their cubby providing quality work to their manager. There is a need for both employees and associates, but there is also a greater need to hire the right one for your organization.

As an organization, it is important to ask yourself this one question before you make your next hire- do you hire employees or associates?

About Tantam Health

Tantam Health specializes in onsite clinics, worksite clinics and nearsite clinics. Their innovative programs, advanced reporting capabilities, and unique structure of their team allows them to deliver customized solutions that exceed their client’s expectations. The company takes a team-based approach to their worksite healthcare delivery model, adhering to patient-centered medical home (PCMH) guidelines set forth by the NCQA. Learn more at www.tantamhealth.com

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