5 Things to Consider About Healthcare Succession Planning

5 Things to Consider About Healthcare Succession Planning
Marketing Director

Strategic leadership is a key component for successful healthcare organizations in the industry’s current landscape. Unfortunately, healthcare leadership positions have experienced high levels of turnover, making it challenging for healthcare HR to maintain stable leadership. Whether your organization has a succession program in place or you have yet to create one, here are five things to consider when putting together an effective program.

1. Organizational Leadership Vulnerability is Increasing

Healthcare organizations overall are more susceptible to leadership voids, according to a June 2014 article in Becker’s Hospital Review. Specifically, the combined scores of high and acute levels of leadership vulnerability rose from 13 percent in 2008 to 41 percent in 2013. During the period of vacancy, “there will be the need for others to take up all or part of the responsibilities, adding to the complexity of other leaders in the organization,” says Tom Olivo, President and CEO of Success Profiles. When the levels of vulnerability are high, filling a vacancy could require looking outside the organization.

2. Succession Planning Supports Strategic Initiatives

Succession planning involves far more than backup and contingency planning. “Succession planning is critical to the achievement of strategic initiatives and it can help ensure competitive success,” states Kathy Noland, PhD, in a 2011 B.E. Smith white paper. “It can increase motivation and often helps identify strengths, as well as weaknesses, that need to be improved upon. Succession planning also ensures an engaged, accountable workforce and drives improved morale.”

3. Succession Planning is the Responsible Thing for Healthcare Leaders to Do

Even without considering the high turnover rates in healthcare leadership positions, succession is a natural and inevitable event in the life cycle of a leader. Whether leaders choose to leave, are promoted within the organization on their terms, or are asked to leave, the outcome should be the same: there is someone better prepared and more talented to take the reins, according to healthcare expert Sarah Richardson. Responsible leaders build a leadership pipeline that ensures a smooth transition and continuity of operations when key roles become available.

4. Succession Planning is Basically Replacement Planning

Succession planning in today’s healthcare environment focuses on building robust pipelines that lead to filling specific roles and positions. In other words, it’s replacement planning. “The pipeline approach gives organizations a clear picture of their pipeline vs. positions—usually via a ‘names in boxes’ exercise,” according to a 2015 article in HealthStream’s Healthcare Workforce Advisor quarterly magazine. The primary goals are to identify and replace current positions, prepare individuals for their next role in the organization, and report to executives and board leaders on pipeline health.

5. Succession Planning Needs More Attention in Healthcare

Not nearly enough attention is currently being paid to succession planning or talent management activities, a 2010 study by the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) reports. “Nowhere is the need for effective succession planning more pronounced than in the complex healthcare industry, where leaders face unprecedented pressure to transform their organizations so they can meet growing demands for high quality, cost-effective care and adhere to legal regulations,” according to an article from the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

Succession planning is a must-have for healthcare organizations serious about achieving long-term success and continuity in their leadership workforce. Studies show a clear need for having a program in place and experts agree it’s only the responsible thing to do.

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