Succession Planning Best Practices for Healthcare Boards

The COVID-19 crisis has forced healthcare organizations to change in many ways. It has prompted boards, in particular, to be more observant and focused on succession planning, should a C-suite executive (or board member) contract the coronavirus and fall gravely ill, or if they retire or resign abruptly. Chaos can ensue if an organization is not adequately prepared to address a sudden vacancy in its leadership. WittKieffer’s Jim King, a senior partner and leader of the firm’s Board Services Practice, recently spoke with reporter Melanie Blackman of HealthLeaders on this topic.

Read the full Q&A here: How Hospital Boards Can Succeed at Succession Planning

In their lengthy conversation, King offers strategies that hospital and health system C-suite members and boards of directors can implement for successful succession planning as well as diversity and inclusion recruiting best practices.

The following summarizes some of this observations:

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way boards look at candidates for C-suite positions.

Succession planning now includes looking at the C-suite and having an idea who could step in should an opening occur, or even developing a list of two or three names of individuals who could fill a spot in the event of a sudden retirement, resignation or opening due to some other reason. More boards are now taking a hard look at placing interim leaders in executive positions when vacancies occur during or due to a crisis like the one we are experience at this time. In some cases, a board member with CEO experience, for example, agrees to step into the chief executive opening until a permanent replacement is identified.

Best practices for hiring C-suite executives can be applied to the recruitment of new board members.

This latest health crisis has forced boards to plan for succession several layers down in the organizations. While most boards are prepared for the succession of board leadership, we are now seeing these groups consider leadership two and three layers deep, building a pipeline for the future. Pre-COVID, these types of conversations were not taking place, King notes.

In order to be prepared for the unexpected, succession plans should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis.

The pandemic has shown us that boards that are doing well were prepared and had appropriate succession in place. Boards that were updating their succession plans maybe only every two or three years were finding themselves a little light in terms of successors.

Boards that place an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion are leading the way.

It is absolutely a board’s responsibility to be focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the end of the day, it’s important that the board and CEO embrace diversity, equity, inclusion because everything starts with leadership at the top. They have to model it and work closely with the chief human resources officer and other key leaders to develop short- and long-term objectives for how their organization can continue to grow and be more diverse and more inclusive.

Featured Leader