Re-recruiting Your Top Talent

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The distraction of low performers can lead to neglect of future leaders.

You have top talent in your organization, but what are you doing to keep them from getting poached by other hospitals or health systems? If your answer is something akin to "nothing" or "I don't know," you'd better change, and quickly.

That's because retaining key operations or clinical leaders is becoming more and more important as delivering value in healthcare has become an organizational imperative, says John Haupert, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, who puts development and retention of key physician executives at the top of his list of priorities.

"One of the most difficult searches is for physicians who have been involved in quality improvement long enough to have achieved results," he says. "That pool is pretty limited."

Haupert actively searches internally for physicians who have demonstrated leadership ability but might not have the necessary training or experience to perform administrative responsibilities.

"We work with physicians who have interest developing administrative skills to get them the experience on what it would mean to be a director of a clinical service," he says, noting that it's easier to recruit internally for medical directors of clinical service lines than for senior physician executives like chief medical officers. Beyond physician leadership, Parkland works to identify young administrative talent early and encourage the idea that it's possible to advance from within by taking on an organizationwide strategic initiative. For instance, a young executive is currently leading a major performance improvement project on how the hospital delivers care in the emergency department, he says.

"We'll work with people if there's a learning deficit," says Haupert. "We will help them get that additional education so they're armed with prerequisites for advancement."

Glenn Crotty Jr., MD, chief operating officer at Charleston (WV) Area Medical Center, also works with junior leaders to help get them the educational prerequisites they need, and tries to assign strategic initiatives to them that are outside their area of responsibility.

"You give them graduated responsibilities and see if they can deliver. That way, they can show an ability to execute plans and projects," he says. "Then every three to five years, you're looking for an opportunity to promote them, so they get to a position where they feel accomplishment and a greater sense of respect and accountability."

Crotty also has an important piece of advice for senior leaders:

"It's so easy to become distracted by lower-performing individuals and dedicate yourself to improving that person, to the detriment of not reinvesting continually in top performers," he stresses. "As a result they don't get the attention that low performers might get, and that's a huge mistake. You have to reinvest your top performers every day. It shows them they're valued."

Philip Betbeze

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