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Succession Planning: Keeping Knowledge and Expertise in the Workplace


The healthcare industry needs reliable, capable leaders as it weathers a period of great change. As the cost of care continues to rise, new healthcare technology comes on the market. As baby boomers age and require more around-the-clock care, industry leaders will need to help their colleagues and employees make the right decisions for their patients.

However, the healthcare industry can also be extremely volatile. Nurses and other healthcare workers are often subjected to long hours on the floor, stressful situations, and even unsafe working conditions. Employees and managers may leave their roles unexpectedly, either to relocate to another facility or to retire from healthcare all together. Replacing employees and healthcare leaders isn’t always easy, considering the nature of the industry. Furthermore, healthcare is expected to add another 1.9 million jobs over the next ten years, which means competition for top-tier recruits will only heat up.

While many healthcare facilities focus on hiring and retaining new recruits, succession planning doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Find out how to prepare your existing employees for a change in leadership, so all that valuable experience and expertise don’t go out the window.

Why Succession Planning Is Important

Your nurses and staff members know your facility inside and out, but when they leave, they take all that valuable knowledge and experience with them. Without a comprehensive succession plan in place, staff members may leave without properly training their replacements. Hiring talented workers in the healthcare industry can be a challenge, especially if your facility is in a rural area or there are lots of competing facilities in the community. New hires will have limited knowledge of your establishment, which will reduce productivity.

Succession planning is even more important at the C-suite level. If the head of your organization unexpectedly retires or takes a new job, employees may lose faith in the leadership that remains. This can lead to miscommunication and missed deadlines and opportunities. The facility may also fall behind on the latest trends, putting it at a disadvantage in the marketplace. A study of the world’s 2,500 largest public companies shows that companies without a specific replacement in line for outgoing CEOs forgo an average of $1.8 billion in shareholder value.

Succession planning ensures your team has the right staff members in place to keep your facility moving in the right direction. If a staff member falls ill, retires, or takes another job, your team will be more than prepared to pass the baton of leadership.

Healthcare Succession Planning Tips

Every healthcare facility is different, but there are certain common pitfalls that come with succession planning that you’ll need to avoid. Keep these tips in mind when creating your succession plan:

  • Evaluate and Identify Current Duties and Responsibilities

It’s best to create distinct succession plans for every role in your facility, including entry-level employees and those at the very top. Every succession plan should include specific duties and responsibilities, but these should go beyond a typical job description. Talk to your existing employees about all they do for your organization, some of which may catch you by surprise.

You should also consider how much time you’ll need to replace these individuals, whether you’re promoting someone in-house or hiring from outside your organization. Set clear requirements in terms of how much notice you need from your employees if and when they plan on leaving your organization.

  • Opportunities for Leadership

Many organizations will identify potential replacements for outgoing leaders and C-suite executives. Existing employees will already be familiar with your organization, which streamlines the succession process. This also gives the replacement a chance to spend more time with the departing team member before they leave.

Promoting in-house employees also improves workplace morale. Millennials in particular tend to value leadership opportunities and career mobility. Hiring outside your organization may dissuade your existing workers from sticking around. According to a recent Gallup poll, 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job — far more than non-millennials.

  • Create Consensus

You’ll need to get everyone on board with your succession plans before you make them an integral part of your organization. If some of your employees do not approve of your succession plans or they aren’t aware of them at all, there’s bound to be some confusion as you go about replacing these employees. No one knows these roles like your current employees, so ask for their input and consent. Ideally, everyone will be on the same page when someone announces that they’re leaving your organization.

  • Leave Room for Flexibility

Every employee has their own preferences when starting a new role at your organization, so avoid being too rigid with your succession plans. Leave some room for flexibility, so future hires and recently promoted employees can put their unique stamp on the position. If you try to force new recruits into a box, there’s a good chance they won’t stick around for the long haul.

  • Emphasis on Technology and the Future of Your Workplace

The healthcare industry isn’t set in stone. In fact, it’s accelerating and evolving at a rapid pace, and your succession plans should reflect that. Consider how your facility may evolve in the months and years to come when working out the details of your succession plan. Even if you’re not sure what the next big trend in healthcare might be, you can invest more time and money in researching potential new trends if and when new leadership roles become available.

No one wants to lose their best employees, but turnover tends to be high in the healthcare industry. Stay one step ahead of the curve and start hammering out a comprehensive succession plan today.


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