Bridging the generation gap in healthcare leadership


With baby boomers retiring, a leadership gap is widening at hospitals. The problem is exacerbated because many hospitals lack adequate programs to identify and train new leaders, Hospitals & Health Networks Daily reported.

"One of the things we're finding is so many of the leadership positions in healthcare are filled by baby boomers," Jim Diegel, president and CEO of St. Charles Health System in Oregon told H&HN Daily. "And we are starting to exit at a pretty rapid rate."

With healthcare CEOs quickly nearing retirement, industry execs worry about an insufficient talent pipeline to meet their leadership needs, Diegel noted.

According to an August 2012 survey, that worry may be well-founded: Search firm Witt/Kieffer found less than 40 percent of healthcare CEOs have worked with their board to develop a formal succession plan and only one-third have mentored a successor.

Hospitals need a leadership succession plan that identifies and develops leaders early in their careers rather than bringing in outside talent, according to H&HN Daily.

Such a strategy would not only ensure qualified leaders but also save dollars. An April survey found it costs hospitals less to develop and retain leadership in-house than to hire and train new management, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Hospitals that don't groom internal leaders spend four times more than hospitals emphasizing leadership development, according to a survey conducted by Talent Management Consulting.

Succession plans and leadership development programs must address the professional and lifestyle differences between Generation Xers and Millennials and their baby boomer counterparts--the former wanting flexible schedules, front-end compensation, and willing to change jobs to move up the ranks quickly, H&HN Daily noted.

As hospitals face shrinking state Medicaid funds and budget constraints, succession planning needs to stay off the chopping block, according to physician executive and Hospital Impact blogger Jonathan Burroughs, M.D. "Leadership succession planning is an investment in the organization's future and will ensure that leaders can successfully implement and manage the organization's strategic vision," he wrote last fall in a Hospital Impact blog post.

For more:
- here's the H&HN Daily article