American companies are hurtling toward a severe leadership crisis. Eighty-four percent of them admit that they don’t have the human resources to refill key leadership positions as older employees retire in the next five years, according to Brandon Hall Group. Eighty-three percent recognize their need to develop leaders, but only 5 percent have implemented a holistic plan to do so. Amazingly, 25 percent of companies have no succession plan in place for more than 90 percent of their critical leaders. And healthcare leadership is no exception.

In fact, for healthcare organizations, it’s worse. Staffing shortages and shifting expectations have made the problem all the harder to address.

Consider these words from the American College of Healthcare Executives:

“…the field may be facing a cliff in terms of large-scale retirement of the most senior executives. And, there does not appear to be a sufficient number of highly experienced, well-prepared, more junior executives to take their place. As one executive search firm representative said: ‘We need to be focused on the pipeline.’”

The call-to-action is clear: Develop a pipeline of new healthcare leaders or prepare for a serious dearth of qualified leadership in the healthcare industry. What will the healthcare industry look like if the current leadership fails to heed this call?

Here are the three most pressing issues I can see as an experienced healthcare talent management professional:

 1.  Employee Disengagement

Disengagement is something of a pandemic in the modern American workplace. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the Workplace Report, disengagement has infected more than seven out of 10 workers. Its symptoms are varied — from chronic tardiness all the way up to gross employee misconduct.

In Gallup’s analysis, the number one contributor to employee disengagement is poor management. As it turns out, the X factor in whether an employee will thrive or not lies with her immediate supervisor’s ability to inspire, encourage, and draw out her best work. In companies that lack robust leadership development programs, managers simply won’t have the skills and training needed to engage employees on that level.

This is one thing when it means WidgetPlex International won’t be able to meet its quarterly revenue projection. It’s quite another when we’re talking about organizations charged with the sacred responsibility of tending to people’s health. As another Gallup study shows, the engagement level of nurses is more closely related to patient mortality than any other factor.

Translation: The more disengaged the nurses are at your hospital, the more people die.

2.  Wasted Talent

In case you haven’t heard, organizations across the board are engaged in a war for talent right now. While low unemployment numbers have been great for the American economy, they’ve also made it exceedingly difficult for companies to fill open positions with high-quality personnel. Once again, healthcare is no exception. From nurses to physicians to administrators, the industry has been wracked by staffing shortages.

Employee retention is every bit as important as recruiting. Human resources professionals in the healthcare space must work as hard to keep employees as they do to find them. If you don’t, the reality is there will always another organization — with the same staffing pressures as your own — waiting in the wings with a better offer.

For one thing, retaining high-quality personnel means recognizing talent, cultivating it, and unleashing it within the organization. If you don’t, talented young employees will have no outlet to grow into their capacity. For some of them, this will lead to the disengagement noted above. For others, it will result in defection as employees choose to take a better offer from the hospital down the street.

3.  Long, Expensive Searches

At the head of this article, I quoted a survey from the American College of Healthcare Executives to highlight the upcoming healthcare leadership needs. What I didn’t mention was that this survey was comprised of responses from leading healthcare executive search firms.

Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, we see something of the challenge facing the industry. When the very professionals who specialize in tracking down talented executive leadership struggle to find qualified candidates, then we know there’s a problem.

We also know that the costs for conducting these searches will continue to rise as top-notch candidates become harder and harder to find. What’s the most effective way to decrease the amount of resources wasted on searching for and recruiting executives? You guessed it: proactively preparing employees for new roles and growing your leaders from within.

Developing Healthcare Leaders Is the Answer

Today, 10,000 baby boomers will retire. Some of them will be senior healthcare leaders. Based on the numbers I shared earlier, they will likely leave a leadership vacuum behind as their organizations scramble to find a successor.

If this sounds familiar, then you can solve this problem, and, in so doing, significantly transform your organization by developing healthcare leaders from within your ranks.

The result? A well-stocked leadership pipeline, maximum output from your most talented employees, and a fully engaged workforce.


Are you interested in learning more about the best practices associated with hiring and developing healthcare leaders? Download our free how-to guide:

How to Improve Patient Care: 3 Steps to Recruit and Retain Great Healthcare Leaders

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Natasha Bowman, JD, SPHR

About Natasha Bowman, JD, SPHR

Natasha has been leading organizations through the complex, fast-changing human resources landscape for more than 10 years. As the former Director of Education and Organizational Development at White Plains Hospital and through her talent management and leadership development consulting firm, Performance Re-New, she has developed a reputation as an expert thought leader for organizations like The Heritage Foundation, Knowledge International, and Wiley Publishing. She is a highly sought after presenter, and has spoken and taught at some of the most prestigious corporate classrooms and graduate business schools in the country such as Fordham University, Walmart Stores Inc., Manhattan College, Northwell Health, Georgetown University, and The Jack Welch Management Institute. Her latest book, YOU CAN'T DO THAT at WORK! is an Amazon best seller and has been featured in media publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg BNA, Fast Company, and Business Insider.