As Boomers Retire, Look to Leadership Development

C-suite turnover rates aren’t going to slow down as baby boomers continue to reach the ends of their careers. Here’s how one association is helping younger leaders get ready to step into higher-level positions.

Hospital CEO turnover increased slightly in 2012, to 17 percent, according to a report issued last week by the American College of Healthcare Executives. Over the last decade, turnover has stayed between 14 and 18 percent, but that rate is higher than ACHE would like it to be, the group said in a statement.

I don’t see any decline in that turnover rate in the near future, especially as the baby boomer generation retires.

“I don’t see any decline in that turnover rate in the near future, especially as the baby boomer generation retires,” said Thomas C. Dolan, Ph.D., FACHE, CAE, president and CEO of ACHE. “We’ve been talking to the boards that are in charge of the hospitals, and the board chairs, telling them, ‘It’s really important to have a management succession plan, certainly at the CEO level, but even in other levels within the organization.’”

ACHE is practicing what it preaches, putting greater focus on preparing its own future leaders early on—a task that many associations struggle with.

“The data in the for-profit world is pretty clear that the most successful successors are people that have been groomed from within,” Dolan said. “We don’t have enough of that in healthcare management, and so we encourage that.”

For staff and members alike, ACHE makes education a priority. If they don’t have one already, new members are urged to pursue a masters’ degree and ACHE’s certification.

“We think volunteering at the chapter level is important too,” Dolan said. “Early careerists oftentimes don’t get the opportunity to lead individuals in their jobs, and a wonderful opportunity is to do that as a volunteer in the chapter role.”

A successful leadership development program has several components, according to Dolan. Associations “should have an active tuition remission program—we’ll assist anybody in getting their graduate degree here, as long as it’s related to our work,” he said. Other steps include “getting them involved in [professional development organizations], giving them opportunities to volunteer, and making sure they get the continuing education opportunities that they need to advance in their careers.”

A well-structured succession plan combined with a system to groom young leaders should be a priority for any association board, Dolan said.

“The work has to be done,” he said. “It has to be driven by the board because it’s the board’s organization, and they have to partner with the CEO in doing that. Together, they have to look at all the potentials and work to set young professionals, and the organization, up for success moving forward.”

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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