Healthcare Executive Turnover Reaching All-time Highs in 2022 – What’s Next for Healthcare Organizations

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Healthcare Executive Turnover Reaching All-time Highs in 2022 – What’s Next for Healthcare Organizations

How to Prepare and Respond to Burnout and Attrition Among Healthcare Executive Leadership 

Executive turnover among healthcare organizations has reportedly reached unprecedented levels this year, after a pandemic-induced decline. Attrition at the executive level slowed during the pandemic as leaders frantically tried to keep their organizations afloat and manage the fallout from Covid. Now that the dust is settling for many healthcare systems, their executives are on the move at a significantly increased rate.

What is driving this trend, and what can be done, if anything, by healthcare organizations to retain their valuable executives?

Losing a key leader creates many challenges for healthcare organizations, especially when turnover occurs at a time such as now, when strong leadership and forward momentum is vital to the success of healthcare systems across the country.

This increased movement is part of the reason why Adaptive Medical Partners (AMP) launched its new executive search division this summer of 2022, after many years of unofficially conducting executive searches for clients in need of assistance with leadership recruitment.

The leadership team of AMP and AMP Exec provide some insight into this trend and how health systems can try to prevent executive turnover, and/or deal with the aftermath of turnover.

Why is healthcare executive turnover so prevalent this year?

“CEOs in healthcare spent the last few years during the height of the pandemic plugging constant holes in their ship. Everything rolls up to the CEO, including but not limited to, any turnover or problems among physicians and clinical staff, patient complaints or issues, financial strain, staffing shortages and so on. Everyone throughout the organization looks to the CEO for the solutions. During the pandemic especially, those answers did not come easily, and, in some cases, there wasn’t an answer to be found. The burnout factor is real. At some point, CEOs, like other staff members, are left with one solution and that is to make a career change. In some cases, they may leave healthcare altogether,” said Steve Korinek, Managing Director of Business Development for AMP Exec.

Clearly, one of the broader impacts of the pandemic was severe burnout among the healthcare workforce, according to David Fontenot, CEO of AMP.

“While physicians and clinicians were the most affected, the administrative and leadership staff have been severely impacted as well,” Fontenot said. “Essentially everyone in healthcare has been deeply affected by the immense workplace and psychosocial disruption caused by the pandemic.”

How can leadership teams plan for, and respond to, executive attrition?

“Early warning systems help us to predict storms; they don’t help us prevent them, unfortunately,” said Tim Ketterman, Chief Operations Officer at AMP. He suggests keeping things simple when responding to turnover. “The leadership team needs to take a step back, open the dialogue, practice transparent communication, and get on the same page with each other. Give yourselves a break, start delegating tasks and asking others for help. You might be surprised which team members are ready to step up and take on more responsibility,” he added.

Most healthcare executives and staffing experts agree that these unprecedented times in the industry require new strategies, unique approaches, and innovative resources.

“The hiring market is much different today than pre-pandemic, or even a year ago. Many of today’s candidates have a totally different mindset towards work and career and are shifting their focus and priorities to factors such as company culture and work life balance,” said Fontenot. “Therefore, recruiting methods and messaging that once worked well may be failing you now. It’s time to get creative, be open to new tools, new resources, and possibly outside partners – even if you’ve never had to go outside of your internal team before now,” he added.

4 Key Strategies for Minimizing Impact of Executive Turnover

Below are a few key strategies and methods the AMP Exec leadership team suggests for responding to turnover. Additionally, these pointers may also help to prevent some turnover if implemented proactively:

  • Plan – Planning proactively for turnover, and how to recover from turnover, is paramount. For example: “Ensure that there is a specific and executable plan to debrief exiting executives. Take time to truly listen to their reasons for leaving,” Korinek suggested. “Formulate a plan based upon the feedback of departing executives to mitigate the issues they’ve identified.” Don’t allow mistakes or shortcomings to be repeated and cause more turnover.
  • Communicate – Communicating after a departure is key, but don’t wait until it’s too late to start keeping in close communication with the entire staff. Keeping lines of communication proactively could help prevent some future turnover, perhaps allowing executives to feel more comfortable discussing their needs prior to making the decision to resign. “Leadership teams that ‘lock arms’ and face challenges together as a cohesive unit will always fare better than those teams which are segmented,” Fontenot said. “Just having someone to talk to, who shares your same stressors and challenges, can help immensely during trying times,” he added.
  • Delegate – Designate a core team of people who will be tasked with managing the fallout from executive turnover and directing the search efforts for a replacement. “Assemble a small ‘search team’ that includes at least one of your executive leaders,” Fontenot suggests. “Even if you have an internal Talent Acquisition or HR team who handle your staffing, you’ll want an executive leader involved, primarily to maintain best practices and ensure that any breakdowns in standard operating procedures are addressed quickly.”
  • Outsource – One can only delegate so much, especially when key leaders have left, and your remaining executives are overloaded with additional responsibilities. Therefore, enlisting some assistance and resources of third-party experts allows your internal leadership team to focus on their most pressing objectives and productivity, rather than being bogged down with recruiting tasks, which can be very labor-intensive.

To that last point, Korinek explains that outsourcing is often necessitated by the sheer volume of work, especially after the departure of key stakeholders and leaders.

“Those who remain in the organization must form a sound and proven recruitment strategy to address the vacancy. The remaining administrators have plenty on their plate, as they will be forced to take on the additional tasks left behind by the departing executive. Therefore, placing the additional workload of executive recruitment onto a professional firm instead of handling it internally allows the system’s administrators to focus their business and handling the increased responsibilities resulting from the executive turnover. Furthermore, the leadership team or sub-committee should formalize a plan for retention of all executives including new ones and tenured. In addition to compensation and benefits, an effective retention plan must address the exorbitant levels of stress that leaders face in today’s healthcare climate,” Korinek continued.

It’s time for healthcare leaders to look in the mirror.

“Healthcare execs and their leadership teams have put so much focus on managing their staff and all the challenges brought on by the pandemic, that their own personal and professional needs have been largely ignored. Even the best systems and teams will start to show cracks when operating under extreme pressure for a prolonged period of time, and I think we are seeing those cracks now. It’s important to focus on the health of their staff, but they can’t forget that they are an integral part of that staff as well,” advised Ketterman.

Stay the Course Despite Challenges and Pitfalls

Even with all the best strategies in place, there will be many challenges faced in executive search in the near future. Therefore, it’s critically important for leaders to stay positive, focused, motivated, and optimistic for their teams.

“There tends to be more open roles in healthcare executive leadership than there are qualified candidates for those roles,” Korinek explained. “The market is highly competitive, and that is only increasing with time. Organizations must position themselves competitively, and approach recruitment efforts aggressively.”

To effectively gain exposure to the right candidates more efficiently and properly engage with those candidates, it is often necessary to engage a retained executive search firm that has specific experience in the healthcare industry, according to Korinek.

Conclusion:

“There are some clear consequences and many more hidden consequences of executive turnover in the healthcare industry,” Korinek added. Attrition can have negative impacts across many, if not, all departments, which can include executives feeling overworked, uncertain, unappreciated, misunderstood, and eventually feeling completely burned out themselves. This can trickle down through the organization, ultimately impacting clinicians, staff, and even patients. “It is evident that healthcare organizations need to pay close attention and listen to their executives, then take action to proactively resolve issues such as burnout and churn among the executive team,” he concluded.

 

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To discuss your Healthcare Executive recruitment needs and explore potential solutions, contact Steve Korinek, skorinek@adaptivemedicalpartners.com.

 

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