Human Resources: The Good and the Bad

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Sound promotion policies include honest assessments of employees' standing.

Competition for qualified, skilled healthcare professionals in clinical, business, and administrative areas will get tougher in the coming years.

The ideal candidates for leadership positions will have their specific strengths and weaknesses. But true leaders all share a common ambition to advance their careers. As a result, hospitals and other healthcare organizations must have comprehensive promotion and career advancement programs in place across all levels of management to not only provide opportunities to advance, but also to clearly spell out to ambitious employees what is expected of them.

"The employee is responsible for his or her own development, as well. We can help them get there, but they have to take a more proactive stance in terms of where they want to go," says David Lawson, senior vice president of human resources at Franciscan Health System, a five-hospital health system headquartered in Tacoma, WA, that is a market-based organization within Catholic Health Initiatives.

If your best and brightest employees don't know what is expected of them, Lawson says, they'll have difficulty preparing for that next level and they may look outside of your organization for more structure. Be clear. Be direct. Be honest. Be constructive.

"If an internal candidate applies and they don't meet the requirements, we are trying to be much more intentional about telling them about what they need to do to develop and be in position for the next time a position opens up," he says.

It's equally important, he says, to have that same frank conversation with the employee who's not on the career fast track. "You have that candid conversation, saying, 'This won't happen based on some of the derailers you have in your background already.' We need to be intentional in letting them know 'You are not going to be a candidate for promotion to this level, at least not in this situation at this time,'" he says.

Chris A. Roederer, senior vice president of human resources at the 968-licensed-bed Tampa (FL) General Hospital, says management "owes" employees an action plan for advancement and an honest assessment of their capabilities. "I wouldn't want to mislead somebody and tell them, 'You get this degree and work three years and take in-house programs and you will get to the next level,' when they don't have the behavioral characteristics or other leadership qualities to get them there. That is misleading," he says.

While blunt honesty about professional shortcomings could turn an ambitious employee into a malcontent, Roederer and Lawson say they're protecting the trust their institutions have built.

"We've got a reputation from the top down of being honest with the employees. We sometimes tell employees things they don't want to hear. We share the bad as well as the good," Roederer says. "You hope to get respect, even if they don't like it." It's not just about identifying and developing tomorrow's leaders. Hospitals that don't have firm and uniform employee promotion evaluations and guidelines risk chaos. "The healthcare industry has a whole lot greater number of position classifications than a lot of other industries. So the opportunities for advancement are usually greater," Roederer says.

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