Los Angeles, CA
Super Trends Shifting the Market for Healthcare Leaders
By Adam Burns
The healthcare industry is being buffeted by change, and by forces that go well beyond the global pandemic. There are a few key “Super Trends” that are shaping the way that organizations hire, and retain, top leadership. As a principal in WittKieffer’s Interim Leadership Practice, I see interim executives as one key solution to weather the following challenges:
1. Bye Bye Boomers.
Demographics are significantly impacting leadership. Baby Boomers, in particular, are retiring at record rates – 11,000 per day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Given the trauma that healthcare has endured in the past year or so, expect it to be among the hardest hit sectors.
Implications: Healthcare organizations will need a strategy to replace outgoing executives. One viable solution will be to hire interim leaders to stabilize a role until a permanent replacement can be found. Also, it may not be safe to assume that younger generations want those jobs and have the necessary skills (evidence points against this, in fact). It also means that the executives that organizations need to fill leadership roles may not share the same values as their predecessors, preferring a different environment.
Leadership Questions: What should your talent acquisition strategy for leaders be as the workforce undergoes a massive generational shift? How do you intend to close the skills and the experience gap which are being created by baby boomers retiring? Could interim leadership be part of your solution?
2. Job Hopping.
The BLS estimates that people today change jobs more than a dozen times in their careers, and the figure is climbing.
Implication: Turnover is expensive. It requires that people be rehired, retrained, and onboarded into new roles. It also means loss of productivity when the employee/leader leaves and the job is unfilled, as well as a loss of productivity while a new employee/leader is getting up to speed. In leadership, a vacant position equals an opportunity cost that is measured in millions of dollars. One way of salvaging some of that cost is to hire an interim leader to manage the ship until a new permanent leader is identified.
Question: How does your value proposition speak to younger generations, the emerging leaders who have different expectations? Is it strong enough to retain these valuable executives?
3. Battling Burnout.
In a WittKieffer study conducted before the pandemic, 79% of healthcare leaders believed burnout was negatively impacting their organization and only 21% believed their organization was doing enough to reduce or prevent executive burnout. 51% agreed that burnout could cause them to leave their current position. Burnout has only become a greater issue during the pandemic.
Implication: The performance of healthcare organizations suffers due to burnout of key leaders, clinicians and staff. In addition, the reputation of the organization may suffer as a relatively small percentage of leaders believe their organization is taking enough action to reduce/prevent burnout. In addition to the “boomer” leaders that will already need to be replaced, organizations can expect to have to replace/relieve other key staff due to burnout.
Questions: With the talent pool shrinking, what is your strategy to identify and compete for the leaders you need to run your organization? What are you going to do to create a culture of wellness that attracts and keeps the leaders you will need? What role can interim leadership play in your strategy to alleviate pressure on the permanent team?
Dramatic shifts in the market for healthcare executives will surprise organizations looking to hire and retain top leaders. With Boomers retiring, the talent pool for replacements is shrinking. Those executives who are available may be looking for a value proposition that is beyond what today’s hospitals and health systems offer. Therefore, healthcare organizations that are not building a recruiting plan to identify replacements (and sometimes interim leaders) will fall behind in hiring the leaders they need. In addition, they should close the skills gap by building a leadership development/succession planning function that gives emerging leaders the skills they need to be successful in new roles.