<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=353110511707231&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Are Hospitals Rolling the Dice When they Hire Senior Leaders?

December 17, 2015


In the past week, alone, we’ve been asked to use our executive assessment process to help choose a Chief Nursing Officer, Chair of Neurosurgery, and Senior Counsel and VP. We’re also using these assessments to evaluate the leadership skills of fifteen medical chairs as a developmental exercise to help them lead their system through the era of healthcare reform.

These are the exception, though. Even hospitals that have embraced progressive selection tools for nurses, support staff, managers, and even physicians, still roll the dice when selecting senior leaders. 185118373

The science and data are in. Well designed behavioral assessments, used correctly, improve the odds of identifying candidates who are likely to succeed. Pre-employment assessments are used by as many as 75% of leading companies. Now, the pressures facing hospitals are forcing them to play catch up and adopt progressive talent strategies including a selection system focused on behavioral skills. In the past few years nearly every hospital has adopted behavioral assessments. They are willing to use relatively short online tools to help screen out candidates but still resist deep, even more predictive executive assessments.

Executive assessments include an entire battery of proven psychological tests, combined with an interview with a Ph.D. level psychologist. The result is a custom report providing a deep understanding of a candidate’s abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Most hospitals still rely on a resume, references and unstructured interviews to choose between candidates. Resumes and references have limited predictive value. Unstructured interviews have little value and the reality is that senior leaders are notoriously bad interviewers.

These are incredibly important decisions but they are made with almost no objective data. And the results reflect the lack of a deliberate process. Consider these points:

  • One third of executive placements fail
  • Executive turnover is costly
  • There is a particularly high failure rate with external placements
  • Executive exits are primarily related to poor relationships, lack of alignment, wrong “fit” or lack of integrity

Moreover, senior leaders are notoriously bad at selecting other leaders. See the quote from management guru, Peter Drucker:

  • “By and large, executives make poor promotion and staffing decisions. By all accounts, their batting average is no better than .333. At most one-third of decisions turn out right; one-third are minimally effective; and one-third are outright failures. In no other area of management would we put up with such miserable performance.”

In healthcare, competent leadership is more important than ever. It’s somewhat shocking that organizations leave important leadership placement decisions almost to chance. I’m hopeful that the recent increased interest in a proven executive assessment process is a good sign. To learn more about Select Assessment for Executives, click here.

leadership healthcare


Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.