While COVID-19 has tested the healthcare industry, it has also allowed the best performers in individual organizations to shine.
These are the people who stepped up to the challenges, who either found new ways to operate and remain financially viable or aided in efforts to do so. These are the leaders who inspired their teams and offered a shoulder to cry on or a hand to help their struggling colleagues.
We’ve heard how many employers have already recognized their staff for performing above and beyond by providing additional benefits, perks and other rewards.
But there’s another way to acknowledge hard work and consistent contributions that will deeply benefit the business as well: identify who should be placed in line to succeed your top leaders and yourself.
Healthcare historically has had trouble creating succession plans for their top executives and directors. In fact, 70% of healthcare industry leaders report there is no succession planning in their organizations. Training and filling open roles can cost an organization $200,000 to $500,000 per year, according to a well-known 2013 study.
The financial and operational cost of losing a leader at any level should be incentive enough to start looking at those organization charts.
But there’s another reason that might encourage succession planning. Healthcare leaders can use it to fix another historic problem for the industry: lack of diversity.
The issue came up during a conversation hosted by Modern Healthcare last week in honor of the 25 Minority Leaders in Healthcare.
“I look at those of you who have a C in your title right now. What’s your succession plan? Who are you grooming and who are you looking at to potentially take over the reins when you leave?” asked Carladenise Edwards, chief strategy officer for Henry Ford Health System and a rising leader in healthcare.
Edwards lauded the efforts of Bernard Tyson, the late Kaiser Permanente CEO, who she says was very intentional in both succession planning and sponsorship of emerging leaders. Tyson chose Gregory Adams, a Black man, to succeed him at the integrated giant system.
Edwards also pointed to Henry Ford’s own track record. The system is led by a Black CEO, Wright Lassiter III, and half of the Detroit-based system’s C-suite leaders are women or Black.
Lassiter’s own history at Henry Ford kicked off when he was handpicked by his predecessor, Nancy Schlichting. She began looking for her replacement years before she retired and admits to specifically looking for the most qualified diverse candidate and one who shared her philosophy of inclusion.
That advocacy from a white executive is key to addressing the problem, said Dr. Tom Sequist, chief patient experience and equity officer at Mass General Brigham said during last week’s conversation.
“The typical department chair is there for 10 to 15 years,” Sequist said of a position that can lead to a C-suite role.
“So how do we get diversity in a shorter than 25-year timeline,” he asked.
We already have opportunity.
According to the American College of Healthcare Executives, almost 70% of healthcare leaders are expected to retire within the next 10 years and by 2030, over 20% of the U.S. population will be of retirement age.
Perhaps more diverse leadership could have helped react to the COVID-19 pandemic. A disproportionate number of people of color have died from the virus, and culturally sensitive outreach, treatment and testing efforts may have helped.
Healthcare leaders can look to their own career trajectories and see how others helped them reach the pinnacle of their careers, and how they can help others forge similar paths.
COVID-19 can help make healthcare stronger for the next challenge by finding leaders who showed true dedication to their organization’s mission, taught others to see things differently, and inspired their colleagues during these difficult times.