In any organization, the arrival of fresh leadership can bring a period of adjustment and the prospect of upheaval. In the healthcare industry, where executives grapple with the 24/7 pressures of potentially life-or-death decision-making, the need to instill stability during a leadership transition is more pronounced.
“Healthcare organizations need continuous and effective leadership to be successful and fulfill their mission of delivering quality medical care,” the American College of Healthcare Executives noted in its report Improving Leadership Stability in Healthcare Organizations.
“Both real and potential leadership instability has negative consequences not only for the organizations involved but also for the nation’s health,” according to the 2011 publication.
In an era of growing patient demand, advancing medical technology, and increasing regulatory and compliance requirements and costs, healthcare leaders must clear numerous obstacles on the path to stabilizing operations.
Here are six key areas for healthcare executives to consider when mapping a strategy for stability that can translate into long-term viability:
1. Limit Staff Turnover
Employee departures, regardless of the underlying reason, can create organizational instability, hamper efficiency and dampen morale. They can also carry a significant organizational cost. Hospitals reported an average turnover rate of 16.2% in 2016, according to the 2017 National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report published by the recruitment firm NSI Nursing Solutions. Rates varied by job title; for example, turnover among medical technologists was 10% but 14.6% for registered nurses. Turnover among RNs alone cost hospitals between $5.1 million and $7.9 million each year, the report found.
2. Champion Employee Development
Training and continuing education are important factors in boosting employee engagement and retention. “If employees are not given opportunities to continually update their skills, they are more inclined to leave,” the Society for Human Resource Management noted in its 2017 report Managing for Employee Retention. In a complex and quickly changing industry such as healthcare, organizational leaders must ensure team members can regularly sharpen their knowledge and expand their skill set. The fastest-growing jobs in the coming years will be those requiring a master’s degree, with many of them in healthcare, federal statistics show.
3. Incorporate Workforce Planning
Significant employment growth is forecast for the U.S. healthcare system as the aging of the baby boomers, evolving technology and other dynamics drive demand for services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects 2.3 million healthcare jobs will be added between 2016 and 2026, with healthcare administrators expected to see 20% job growth. The healthcare transformation has heightened the need for “more effective and efficient workforce planning models,” the American Hospital Association has noted. In a 2013 report, the association said workplace planning models for healthcare organizations should comprise data, strategy, planning and evaluation, and should be reviewed and adjusted annually.
4. Implement Measurable Goals
Goals should be attainable, measurable and transparent. Large, intricate goals that require high levels of interdependency can sow confusion and sap enthusiasm. Starting with simpler targets gives mid-level managers and team members a greater likelihood of success, which can encourage buy-in and build momentum across an organization. “Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the given timeframe,” the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends.
5. Eliminate Impediments
Well-intentioned processes and policies can become hindrances to the very systems they were designed to enhance. This may become clear soon after implementation or it may be revealed slowly. For new leaders, identifying and removing these obstacles should be a priority to ease employee frustration and streamline the delivery of care. As the Health Research & Educational Trust concluded in its 2014 report Building a Leadership Team for the Health Care Organization of the Future, healthcare providers must “adopt flexible organizational structures, processes and cultures that allow them to adapt quickly and efficiently to market opportunities and changes. This is a time to be nimble.”
6. Tap Into Data
From telemedicine to predictive modeling, the digital age is revolutionizing the delivery of healthcare services. “Data is permeating every component of the health care ecosystem,” notes Stanford Medicine’s 2017 report Harnessing the Power of Data in Health. This is reflected in professional fields such as health informatics, where the BLS projects employment growth will far outpace the national average through 2026. For their organizations to remain efficient and competitive, 21st century healthcare leaders must ensure initiatives are underpinned by data and analytics.