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Succession Planning Done Right: 5 Critical Steps

July 19, 2017

We’ve got a looming healthcare leadership crisis. Almost everyone acknowledges that the healthcare industry is playing catch up with progressive talent strategies. Human resources professionals are working diligently to make up ground, but one area that’s still struggling is leadership – finding and developing leaders who are ready to deal with the unprecedented changes facing the industry.healthcare succession planning

How bad is the situation?

  • Senior leader turnover is pushing 20%[i], the highest it’s ever been. Turnover at this level negatively affects strategic planning, service development, and physician and employee engagement.
  • A survey of CEOs revealed that only 51% have worked with management to identify a successor and only 17% say that successor is prepared to assume the role![ii]
  • CCL also found that nearly 40% of new leaders fail in the first 18 months, 50% feel they are ineffective and as many as 60% receive little to no help developing the skills necessary to be successful!

Fortunately, progressive organizations are finding that talent strategies and resources help. Deliberate leadership support and development initiatives, talent assessment practices, and onboarding programs have a positive impact and correlate with better HCAHP scores, turnover, and diversity.

One specific area that we are getting more requests for help from healthcare organizations is succession planning. The problem is not unique to healthcare. SHRM estimates that 50 to 70% of companies do NOTHING in this area and only 20% of those who are doing something, feel they do it well. Given healthcare’s unique challenges, though, the lack of an effective succession plan could have a catastrophic impact on some organizations.

I talked to Paul Glatzhofer, an Industrial Organizational Psychologist and Director of Select International’s Leadership Solutions team, about this problem. Paul has worked with some of the top healthcare systems in the country and with the leadership teams of companies around the globe. 

I asked, “Why don’t companies do succession planning?” He cited the three most common reasons:

1. A perceived lack of time
2. Senior leadership doesn’t see the value or believe they need a formal plan; and
3. Those who do recognize the need don’t know how
I then asked, “For those that see the value and want to do it right, how can they ensure success?” Paul noted that there are plenty of tools and processes out there. It’s not the most complicated problem. It can be pretty straight-forward.

Those who succeed at succession planning make sure they do five things:

1. Involve the CEO and the Board.
2. Create accountability for the process at the executive level.
3. Perform regular (annual) talent reviews.
4. Align this process with the overall business strategy so that leaders see the value.
5. Think of succession planning as a process - not a one-time event.
Our team helps clients create new leadership competency models, build a more efficient and effective leader-selection process, and integrate our tools into leadership development and succession planning programs. To learn more about healthcare’s unique challenges, download our free white paper:

Is Leadership in Healthcare Different?

We presented last month with CHRISTUS Health, one of the nation’s largest non-profit health systems, at LEAP HR Healthcare. Lisa Reynolds, Vice President of Talent Management, told the audience that by incorporating some of the strategies discussed here, her team has reduced leader turnover by 50%! In an upcoming blog, we’ll provide a summary of that presentation and their innovative approach!

 leadership healthcare

[i] Industry Report:  Looming Talent Shortages Require Attention, B.E.Smith/AMN Healthcare, 2016

[ii] Witt/Kieffer survey of 200 system CEOs over 55

[iii] Addressing the Leadership Gap in Healthcare, Center for Creative Leadership, June, 2011

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.