An hfm Web Extra

U.S. demographic data clearly indicate that our population is aging and that we cannot take our general workforce nor our leaders for granted. Good staff and good leaders are especially hard to find, so we cannot afford to settle for the luck of the draw. We must do everything possible to select, develop and retain our leaders carefully in order to safeguard our own self interests-to perpetuate our organizations "by filling the pipeline with high-performing people to assure that every leadership level has an abundance of these performers to draw from, both now and in the future," as the authors of The Leadership Pipeline, Ran Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel, state.

To be most effective when selecting and retaining the right people, an organization's human capital strategies should be proven and practical, employed in a well-thought-out and deliberate manner, integrated to support our strategic initiatives, and hardwired for the long term.

Integrating evidence-based human strategies into key initiatives requires that healthcare organizations anticipate what their workforce needs will be, who they will need to replace, and their desired mix of internal promotions vs. external hires. "Fresh blood" is not always better, as there are dangers inherent with transfusions and transplants. Many have experienced situations in which their organizations welcomed people from competitor hospitals who failed to live up to high expectations. Also, the best organizations recognize that not all resignations are "bad;" rather, some resignations should be expected, and others should be encouraged. Regardless, primary attention and resources should be invested in developing and retaining a healthcare organization's "stars"-key talent who will guide the organization through the challenges ahead.

Some of the most practical ways healthcare organizations should respond to the increased external demand for great people are the following:

  • Incorporate the need (and resources) for workforce management initiatives into an organization's strategic plans
  • Increase the talent pool of our promotable employees
  • Provide additional opportunities for "high potential" workers through both clinical and leadership ladders
  • Help employees realize their career path options within the organization
  • Mandate the ongoing administration and follow-through of data obtained from employee engagement surveys
  • Use forced rankings as a component of succession planning
  • Establish individualized developmental action plans
  • Reduce head count to essential workers only
  • Prepare for the after-effects of downsizing (in part, by including transitional periods to facilitate effective knowledge transfer of select, long-tenured employee
  • Quantify and track the efficacy and ROI of these various initiatives

How to Attract and Retain the Right Talent

In determining where an organization should get its talent, here's one of the deepest darkest secrets that the traditional executive search firms know, but are reluctant to reveal: All other things being equal, internally promoted leaders stand a much better chance of succeeding and remaining with our organizations than do leaders brought in from the outside.

Effective internal promotions based on good performance create win-wins for everyone involved, as they demonstrate that working hard and achieving the right results will be expected, recognized, and rewarded by our hospital.

That's why leadership assessments and evidence-based succession planning are absolutely essential. In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins writes that the old adage "People are your most important asset" is wrong-but the right people are an organization's greatest asset.

Below are sample questions that can be used to create a job profile that will help to ensure that healthcare organizations are seeking the right matches for leadership positions-and that key leaders agree on the necessary competencies for leadership positions.

For more information, visit  or contact the author via email at

For more information, see Kenneth Cohen's "The Case for Evidence-Based Human Capital Management," hfm, August 2011.


Publication Date: Monday, August 01, 2011

Login Required

If you are an existing member, please log in below. Username and password are required.



Forgot User Name?
Forgot Password?

If you are not an HFMA member and would like to access portions of our content for 30 days, please fill out the following.

First Name:

Last Name:


   Become an HFMA member instead