Healthcare Perspectives


3 Key Measures to Put Your Health Care Organization on the Path to Successful Succession Planning

Feb 14, 2018
By: Tina Nazier

What’s more central to your long-term strength than cultivating good leaders? Healthy organizations grow the next generation of leaders from within and look for leaders who have proven themselves ready to translate strategies into actions and make decisions and judgments that affect both daily and future outcomes.

Succession planning is a deliberate approach to human resource planning to ensure a consistent pipeline of talent for all critical roles within an organization. CEOs—and the board of directors when planning for the CEO’s position—are primarily responsible for succession planning.

However, many health care organizations fail to dedicate the resources and energies needed to achieve a deep bench of talented leaders. In a study conducted by the National Center for Healthcare Leadership on the systematic failure of health care organizations, the group found that not nearly enough attention is paid to succession planning or talent management activities.[i]

For example, the majority of respondents believed that leadership skills represented the single most important factor driving overall organizational performance; yet only 35 percent of them actually focused on developing those skills.

Developing future leaders is imperative to fulfilling your organization’s potential, and succession plans should be in place for all formal leaders and all critical roles as you’ve defined them. Three predominant measures can provide a strong framework for establishing a strong pipeline in your organization.

1. Assess Current and Future Succession Needs

Knowing what you need starts with knowing what you have. First, identify the leadership roles that make up the driving force behind your organization’s ability to achieve its strategy. Then identify the leadership roles that provide the “glue” that keeps your organization together. This simple exercise will help you begin to find the gaps your organization has in its leadership roles.

When it comes to your future needs, assess the leadership roles you will require based on your organizational strategy. That includes one-year goals, two-year, three, four, as well as objectives for the five-year mark, and even further out as defined by your strategy. Those needs can be further defined by developing a strategic human resources plan (one that aligns with your overall organizational strategy) and by taking a talent inventory and comparing it against your strategic goals. The information you gather can form an assessment matrix that will help direct your talent-building efforts.

2. Define Critical Roles and Competencies

There are a number of roles and competencies that can propel your organization and drive its performance. However, only your organization can determine which competencies to hone as you create succession plans.

Some examples of competencies might include:

  • Client service.
  • People development.
  • Problem solving and decision making.
  • Active communication.
  • Conceptual thinking.
  • Relationship building.
  • Strategic thinking.
  • Teamwork.
  • Learning agility.
  • Technical competence.

Determine those competencies that align with your strategy and matter most to your future success.

3. Grow Your Own Talent

Rising CEO turnover and accelerated retirement rates are a current reality so is the shortage of management talent in the marketplace. Why not look within to find your next superstars?

Once your organization has defined its critical roles and competencies, turn a discerning eye to your existing talent pool by conducting a current-state assessment. Look for those people with the greatest potential. They are your high performers with high-performance ratings. They are recommended by peers and demonstrate an eagerness to grow and learn. And they reflect attributes that align with your organization’s values, vision, and mission.

After selecting your future leaders, assess each individual’s talents and then establish a career path and talent development plan for each potential leader. Provide coaching and mentoring as well as rewards and recognition that will help motivate them to achieve their future state.

Start Today for Tomorrow’s Sake

Even if you identify just one critical role on which to apply this approach, you will be further along the succession planning path than you are today. You will also be developing a process you can roll out and apply to other critical roles in your organization.

[i] Best Practices in Health Leadership Talent Management and Succession Planning: Care Studies, National Center for Healthcare Leadership, 2010.


Tina Nazier, MBA, CPC
Director, Strategic Alignment
View Profile
Healthcare Perspectives blog
Subscribe to Healthcare Perspectives