Succession Planning Approaches for Healthcare Organizations-1165268887(1)

Succession Planning Approaches for Healthcare Organizations

June 8, 2021
June 8, 2021

In addition to many other impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the extreme importance of succession planning within healthcare organizations. According to Modern Healthcare, “Before the pandemic, a majority of U.S. healthcare industry leaders—including nearly half of the nation’s hospital boards—said their organization did not have a formal succession plan in place. Those who did have plans rarely revisited them, rarely updated them. Additionally, very few CEOs report that they had picked a successor.” The same article offers two best practices for the succession planning process:

  1. “It should be done continuously, on an annual basis — not only at the CEO level, but the management team and really all levels within the company.”
  2. “Be really clear about the criteria, and the traits and attributes that you want in [a] leader.”

Burnout and Retention Are Even Larger Issues in Healthcare

Even before the pandemic, healthcare organization had a people problem. A past HealthStream blog post about healthcare workforce trends shared that “Many nurses older than 60 are retiring, and they are joined by senior administrators in every other aspect of healthcare. When these people head out the door, they are taking their vast institutional knowledge with them.” It also asked the questions:

  • “Are there strong replacements waiting in the wings?
  • And if that pipeline isn’t robust enough, where will the next generation of leaders come from?”

Now we are looking at a situation where even worse burnout is the result of the stress and pressure of providing COVID-19 care, and many healthcare professionals are proceeding with their retirements or leaving the field altogether in response to more than a year of working under emergency conditions.

A Good Time to Make Some Changes to Succession Planning

It may be that COVID-19 is creating a good opportunity to completely overhaul an outdated succession planning process. If anything, for example, it is very possible that a program component like performance reviews can take on an entirely new character as a result of the pandemic. An article in HRExchangeNetwork suggests that succession planning and candidate identification may benefit when “examples of good leadership become easier to see in teams who embraced remote work and remained productive, and high performing talent can be more easily judged by the substance of their work rather than the presence of their persona within team and personnel dynamics.”

Succession Planning Beyond Leadership

Gallup offers that organizations “must also devote equal attention to ensuring there is a focus on identifying future leaders—specifically in mission- and operation-critical roles.” In healthcare and elsewhere, succession planning needs to adopt a longer view, keeping in mind that “developing and leveraging future talent is even more important than it was a quarter ago—this is the time to redraft your succession planning process for maximal results. “

Healthcare Succession Planning Needs to Begin for Staff Immediately

In an ideal world, succession planning would start on day one of a healthcare worker's job. A good place to begin is with assessments of leadership aptitude. HealthStream has advised industry organizations in a past blog post to “Use healthcare-specific, predictive data to recognize and target the right people. Best practice leadership data is forward-looking and predictive for your needs. Best practices include casting a wider net than usual and assessing 25 percent of your labor force for succession suitability, including all frontline managers. By identifying potential in this way, you can also develop a larger group for a more robust pool.” It is extremely important to base leader development training on data, as well as customize it to a learner’s preferred learning mode.

Healthcare Workforce Leadership Development and Succession Planning

Creating an environment for healthcare leaders to thrive is one of the most important responsibilities within a healthcare organization. Identifying emerging leaders, cultivating existing leaders, and planning for the future all represent a significant investment of time and resources. HealthStream Leadership Development Solutions empower HR professionals to help high-potential employees grow into high-performance leaders with powerful assessment, learning, and tracking tools.