4 Steps For Health Care Companies To Jump Start Succession Planning

It’s well-documented that the health care industry is already facing a talent crunch — and all signs indicate that challenge is only going to get more severe in the coming years. An aging customer and employee base, government reforms and rapidly changing business models are poised to put health care organizations under an unprecedented amount of pressure as they try to maintain a dynamic workforce.

That means succession planning, leadership development and talent development have become increasingly important components to long-term success in the health care field. Fortunately, if your organization has not yet invested the proper resources in succession planning, it only takes a few steps to get the process rolling in a meaningful way.

Here’s an overview of a presentation I gave to health care business leaders recently at the Mid-South Critical Access Hospital conference in New Orleans coordinated by Louisiana Hospital Association. I believe these tips can help your organization get on track in only 90 days and start planning for your future in a smart and effective way.

Consider The Human Implications Of Your Strategic Plan

Too many companies spend significant resources at the top of their organizations. The reality is that succession planning is not just about your CEO. The risks run much deeper, well into the middle of your organization and all along your talent pipeline. Much of your focus should be in these areas.

The initial step in your 90-day action plan is to think about what the human implications are for your company’s strategic goals.  Will your business be growing?  In what areas? What services may be increasing or decreasing?  What clinical or technical skills will need to be added to a team or department?  What does competition look like –for services and employees? With strategic planning it’s easy to become focused on the number you’re trying to hit, the new programs you’re going to introduce or the markets you’re going to pursue and overlook the people needs for your company to achieve these goals. We often incorrectly assume the people gaps and issues will just resolve themselves naturally. The truth is they won’t — and understanding those needs within your organization is critical to managing the risk associated with losing key leaders.

Review Your Org Chart

People often get stalled out with succession planning because they try to make it bigger than it actually has to be. I always tell companies that a good risk-reduction strategy does not try to take care of every issue your organization is facing at once. Rather, it starts with an understanding of where true risks or needs are in the short term, then developing a plan to address those issues.

With that philosophy in mind, a good succession plan can start with the simple exercise of pulling out an organizational chart and performing a simple assessment of the big picture around your personnel.

The goal is to go through the org chart in a simple way and look for hotspots — such as positions or people that have or require a rare skill or knowledge — as well as flight or retirement risks and people who have an oversized impact on your bottom line. These are your key leaders and roles that should be a focus in your succession planning efforts.

Assess Talent Pool

Once you talk about risk, you need to understand the status of your organization’s bench strength — the leadership talent you either already have or can develop. When performing this step, we have to be careful how we identify talent, as well as how we grow employees. It takes a combination of things to ensure we’re focusing on the right people as emerging leaders.

This is where we have to start thinking carefully about performance versus potential. Consider a  study by the Corporate Leadership Council that found that fully 71% of high performers were not high potentials. It’s a good indication that performing well in their current job is not the only indicator that a person will excel in a next level or bigger leadership role.

In fact, the biggest predictor of ability to promote is learning agility: the ability to learn from experience is what differentiates successful executives from unsuccessful ones. People with this skill are able in new and challenging circumstances to not only learn how to be successful but to take what they learned and apply it to the future. Keep this in mind as you assess high-potentials in your organizations.

Take Action to Address Risks

The final step in your 90-day succession planning process is to craft a strategy to address your risks by challenging, developing and rewarding talented employees. That means a combination of programs to close development gaps for high-potentials and emerging leaders, along with knowledge transfer and baton-passing for retirements and making good strategic hires when there are no internal candidates.

There is a substantial and growing body of research and data on best practices for employee development and knowledge transfer. An expert can help guide your organization through the process.

There’s never been a more important time for health care organizations to think about people strategy and succession planning — identifying and addressing your risks and needs for the future.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.