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NCHL expands its November conference

Throughout its history, NCHL’s annual conference has followed a brisk half-day format, followed by an award / recognition dinner. This year for the first time we are expanding the format to two half-days. Most fundamentally, the change reflects NCHL’s expanding role in supporting healthcare leadership development, as well as the pace of evolution currently taking place in the health sector.

Understanding and preparing for sector-level change

The November 20th afternoon sessions will focus in on sector-wide changes and adaptive responses to these changes. Tom Main from Oliver Wyman and Roy Smythe, MD, from AVIA and HX360 will provide the former, with Rick Brush from Collective Health and David Erickson from the Center for Community Development Investments introducing the latter. In between sessions attendees will be encouraged to participate in discussions about what these changes mean for their own organizations, as well as how we can best move forward collectively in support of improving health.

Best Organizations for Leadership Development

The November 21nd morning sessions feature presentation teams representing many of the organizations being recognized this year as Best Organizations for Leadership Development, including Penn Medicine, NorthShore-LIJ, Sutter, Duke Regional, University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, Henry Ford Health System, Stanford Health, Cone Health. and Cleveland Clinic. Sessions will focus on high-priority topics including strategic alignment with organizational goals, physician leadership development, diversity & inclusions, and innovations in efficiently recruiting and developing leadership talent. We will also be discussing work NCHL and our partner organizations are doing to support more collaborative approaches to the national administrative fellowships process.

The Gail L. Warden Leadership Excellence Award

The evening of November 20th, we have the opportunity to recognize two outstanding healthcare leaders, Nancy Schlichting and Dr. Glenn Steele, Jr.  In addition to providing well-deserved recognition for these two pioneers in the field, this fundraising  event helps support NCHL’s work throughout the year in support of healthcare leadership development.

We hope you will join us in November for these terrific events, and help us spread the word.

On behalf of NCHL and its stakeholder groups, thank you for your support.


– Andrew N. Garman, PsyD

NCHL Chief Executive Officer



Assessing high-potentials and senior executives: Healthcare vs. Top Companies

Of all the areas known to contribute to the effectiveness leadership development systems, there is none for which the evidence base is stronger than the use of high-quality assessments. But it is also well-known that management practices, like clinical practices, often take quite a while to catch up to science.

What is the current state of assessment in practice? Recently two industrial psychologists, Allan Church and Christopher Rotolo, conducted a study to find out. Both work for Pepsico, a company well-known for its sophisticated leadership development practices, and are well-connected to other companies that emphasizing leadership development as a core competency. (Most had received national recognition for their leadership development programs.)  From the 84 companies responding to their survey, insights included:

  • The most frequently cited populations the organizations used assessments with were senior executives (90%), followed by middle managers (81%) and high-potentials (75%).
  • The most frequently used assessments were 360-degree feedback (60% for senior executives; 66% for high-potentials), followed by personality inventories (57% for senior executives, 66% for high-potentials).
  • The most frequently cited purposes of assessments were to identify development needs (74% for senior executives; 82% for high-potentials) followed by identification of potential (30% for senior executives, 50% for high-potentials).  The least frequently cited purpose was external recruitment / selection (25% for senior executives, 14% for high-potentials).

At NCHL’s annual conference on November 19th in Chicago, we will be taking a look at how Allan and Christopher’s results compare to the 104 leading U.S. health systems who participated in NCHL’s 2013 survey of leadership development practices.  (A quick preview: although the use of high-quality assessments in healthcare leadership development is growing, we still clearly lag behind the best-in-class companies from other industries.)

Several organizations presenting at the annual conference have particularly strong assessment programs as part of their work. We look forward to hearing more about them very soon, and hope many of you will be able to join us.  For those who can’t, we will be providing a white-paper on our findings.  Look for it this winter.


Part 3: Deliberate Practice – The Science Behind NCHL’s 2013 National Health Leadership Survey

Every 2-3 years, NCHL conducts a national survey of leadership development practices as part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the evidence base supporting these practices. If your hospital or health system did not receive an invitation to participate (or if you’re not sure but would like to participate), please contact Joyce Anne Wainio at 

Strategic alignment

In 2011, we published a literature review summarizing the research linking management practices to organizational outcomes.  Among other conclusions, research suggested that leadership training and development programs have greater impact on organizational performance if they are tied to the strategic objectives of the organization.

Most of the research reported in that article came from other industries, so later that year we conducted several additional analyses to see if the findings would hold up in healthcare.  The first of these was a re-analysis of our 2010 leadership practices survey data, to investigate relationships bewteen individual practices and the results hospitals were finding on the new value-based purchasing measures.  Although many relationships were found between leadership practices and either clinical or experience of care outcomes, only one item correlated with both: “Leadership learning and development is aligned with organization’s strategic goals and priorities.”

In a separate study, published earlier this month, we surveyed 50 health systems to examine the extent to which strategically aligned HR practices enhanced health systems’ capacity to respond to health reform. Here too, we found that alignment was associated with expanded capacity to pursue cost reduction, access, and quality improvement efforts.

Several questions on the 2013 survey relate to senior leadership involvement with leadership development programs. While this is not as comprehensive a measure of alignment as the survey work mentioned above, it provides a reasonable proxy. If senior leadership has an active hand in these programs, participants are far more likely to be exposed to the strategic relevance of what they are learning.

Involving senior leaders as teachers pays other dividends as well, including opportunities to practice critical communication and reflection skills, and do so in an environment that is more feedback-rich than their operational roles.

Part 4: Accelerating Development – The Science Behind NCHL’s 2013 National Health Leadership Survey

Several weeks ago, NCHL launched the most recent round of its triennial national survey of leadership development practices in healthcare.  An announcement was sent out to a national sample of CHROs and COOs, with an open invitation to other hospitals and health systems who may be interested in participating to benchmark their own practices.  While we work on collecting results, I will be sharing a few posts about the science behind the survey.

Hiring Practices

The current survey asks many more questions than previous ones about hiring practices for healthcare leaders.  The simple reason for this is that personnel selection practices can be unusually potent tools for ensuring leadership bench strength.  For the interested reader, a 1998 review article by Frank Schmidt and John Hunter, summarizing 85+ years of personnel selection research, shows clearly just how much the more systematic approaches outperform the more informal approaches managers tend to naturally gravitate toward.  Much of this research points to the fundamental rule that the best predictor of future performance is past performance under similar circumstances.  In a subsequent review article in 2005, I demonstrated that the same is true for leadership positions .

Many health systems have adopted pre-screens and other structured assessment protocols for their staff positions; remarkably, however, many of these organizations do not exercise the same care when it comes to hiring new leaders.

Why is this the case?  I suspect it has to do with the reality that healthcare has been slower than other industries to recognize what the profession of human resource management has to offer by way of evidence-based approaches to process improvement. Because HR grew up in an era of compliance, this remains the lens that many healthcare systems still look through.

That noted, I am optimistic that our newest survey will reveal expanded use of effective selection tools across the health system.  Given the challenges our sector is facing, I certainly hope this will be the case.

About the survey

If your hospital or health system did not receive an invitation to participate in NCHL’s survey (or if you’re not sure but would like to participate), please contact Joyce Anne Wainio at

NCHL-LENS organizations presenting at the Annual Congress of the American College of Healthcare Executives

NCHL and our colleagues in the Leadership Excellence Networks will have a number of presentations on the ACHE program next week, which I hope you can join us for:

  • Sessions #01A / 01B:  Joe Cabralfrom Northshore-LIJ will present “Talent Management: Impacting Business Outcomes.”
    • Examine the strategy and executon of North Shore – LIJ’s successful strategic talent management process.
    • Choose the latest tools and technologies currently in use to align talent with business goals.
  • Sessions #29A / 29B:  Tim Rice and Joan Evans from Cone Health will present “Integrated Talent Management Strategy Ensures Leadership Pipeline”
    • Explore critical steps for designing and imple- menting a talent development program to iden- tify and develop high potential leaders.
    • Demonstrate how to link the leadership devel- opment strategy to the strategic planning process. 

Andrew will also be at the Health Administration Press booth on Tuesday at 4:00.

  • Sessions #50A / 50B:  Tricia Johnson, Andrew Garman, and Steve Meurer will present “World-Class Healthcare: Global Innovations in Quality, Safety and Efficiency”
    • Identify major innovations occurring in the United States and abroad that will influence how healthcare is delivered in the future.
    • Examine how innovations in healthcare quality, safety and efficiency will influence your organization.


  • Masters Series Session #2:  Nancy Schlichting from Henry Ford and William Schoenhard, Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will present “Executive Leadership”
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Fieldnotes on Leadership in Health and Healthcare