Leadership Recruiting and Development 2009

HealthLeaders Magazine , August 13, 2009
Finding the right leaders to guide an organization to the other side of this recession is extremely challenging. With half of all hospitals losing money, the housing crisis, layoffs, and a massive scale-back of services, recruitment efforts have been severely hampered. That?s not exactly the environment that a new leader wants to walk into right now. What strategies can organizations use to get the right talent in the door? How can organizations develop internal leaders? What role do interim executives play in the current market? HealthLeaders Media recently convened a panel of experts to seek answers to those questions and many more.

Panelist Profiles

Carrie Vaughan
Senior Editor/Technology
HealthLeaders Media, Brentwood, TN

Ann White
B. E. Smith Interim Director
of Perioperative Services,
Regional West Medical Center, Scottsbluff, NE

Dolores MarshalL
Chief Nursing Officer,
Methodist University Hospital, Memphis, TN

Doug Smith
CEO, B. E. Smith,
Lenexa, KS

Debra A. Canales
Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President
of Organization and Talent Effectiveness, Trinity Health, Novi, MI

Roundtable Highlights

HealthLeaders: What impact has this recession had on recruitment and leadership development?

Dolores Marshall: The average tenure for a CNO now is two and a half to three years and a CEO is about the same. The time to replace these positions continues to increase and the number of qualified candidates continues to decline. For many organizations, this has translated into ?real? or ?perceived? instability, which could negatively impact recruitment and retention, not to mention the negative influence this could have on maintaining focus on the organization?s mission.

Debra A. Canales: You want to emerge through this economic challenge positioned appropriately to lead. We?ve made a shift from working on transformation to focusing on our ministry. We?re looking at how we leverage people across the enterprise. This is the time when investing in people is critical to emerge strong, nimble, and ready to engage as the business evolves. We have utilized interim assignments as part of the focus on continued development and have made permanent appointments when leaders have been successful in those interim roles.

Doug Smith: One reason interim leadership continues to grow through the recession is because it gives organizations an opportunity to sit back, take a breather, and decide if they really need to fill the opening. We don?t see knee-jerk reactions to get jobs filled. This process is something that has been needed and our healthcare system will emerge out of this [recession] stronger.

HealthLeaders: In the current economy, should hospitals take the time to find the right fit or quickly plug a vacancy?

Ann White: For an area as critical as the operating room, the hospital cannot afford to be without adequate leadership for very long. The organization may get surgical procedures done, but there will be no one to look at management of supplies or financials every month to say, ?Are we headed in the right direction??

Marshall: One thing we haven?t done well in healthcare is succession planning. When there is a key leadership vacancy?especially an abrupt departure?it often sends organizations into a panic. They are forced to make a reactionary decision instead of implementing a well-thought-out plan. Given the challenge of the current economy and the crucial role that leadership stability plays in the performance and survivability of organizations, some of the old tactics, like hastily placing people without the necessary skill sets, will not work. Caution should be taken, which means adding time to find the right fit.

HealthLeaders: If the organization has had layoffs, are people uneasy about going into a leadership role?

Canales: Certainly there?s anxiety from leaders, especially going into new roles that may be uncharted or based on the shift in the business model. That?s why, going back to our question about fit, you shouldn?t be placing people to shift a change in behavior. It?s making the correct decision on selection to begin with and that?s why those fit assessments are so important. My expectation is that you come to the table with the technical skills, education, and track experience. I want to understand what am I getting as a leader. People are skeptical about joining new organizations right now. We?ve tried commuting policies to let people try on an opportunity when they are not willing to make a commitment to move right away. We?ve done it for six to nine months?even a year?and had a successful outcome.

Smith: The emphasis now is more on fit than expediency. For a number of reasons, we are seeing clients take longer in the search process, but finding the right fit is certainly a driving factor. They are expecting more vetting from search firms and they are asking questions at a deeper level than what we have seen in the past.

HealthLeaders: How has the housing market and the fact that people might not be able to sell their homes changed your recruitment strategies?

Marshall: We have been told by potential candidates that they have received job offers out of state, but have had to turn them down because of the housing market. Moving out of town and owning two homes is not an option. Some of our leaders are commuting from several hours away. We?ve set up a hotel-type concept in some of our vacant units where nurses, who are coming from Arkansas and Mississippi, can stay and then they go home on weekends. It used to be you gave three months of housing, but we?ve put in more flexible benefit packages. They won?t come to you whole if they?ve got things they?re worried about at home.

Smith: The housing crisis has been the most disruptive event in executive search?at least in my career. There is less turnover as people cannot sell their homes. When a search does come in, it will be more difficult to fill than it was a year ago. When candidates are approached, you must have a relocation solution. It has driven the price of talent acquisition higher.

Canales: It used to be, ?Here?s the package,? and we didn?t have any variation. Now we?re doing more front-end discussions. ?What is it going to take for you to get here?? People have choices, especially if they?re a very attractive talent. Now candidates?those that are coming from four or five hours away?are asking for car rental as a part of the compensation package.

HealthLeaders: Some baby boomers have postponed retirement because they lost a good chunk of their investment portfolio. Now you may have five generations in the workplace. What impact has that had on recruiting?

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