It has frequently been suggested that minority healthcare executives face barriers to joining senior-level healthcare management teams that are predominantly made up of white males. If this is the case, as the current leaders move towards retirement, are the candidates for future leadership roles diverse enough to erase those barriers for future generations? And will they still be working in your organization when their time comes? The short and simple answer, on both counts, is probably not. This situation has to change. The most successful healthcare organizations of the future are the ones that are currently identifying and developing high potential executives, of any age, culture, ethnicity, gender, geographic background or sexual orientation. With appropriate successionplanning strategies and training, these individuals will broaden their leadership skills and step into senior management roles when the appropriate time comes. As healthcare organizations grow and develop, they must focus on succession-planning - who will lead them in the future? They can choose to fill their leadership positions with internal candidates in whom they have invested over a period of time, or they can look externally. Both sources of candidates offer different benefits for the organization. Internal candidates are accustomed to the organizational culture and have well-developed networks; the organization can be sure that internal candidates have good motivational fit and do not require extensive orientation; and companies don’t have to guess about the quality of internal candidates’ past experiences, so they can be guided through a series of customized development experiences that will ensure success in their future positions. External candidates can be more appropriate during periods of rapid expansion, and can bring fresh perspectives and new skill sets. Bridge Partners LLC’s article “Why A Diverse Leadership Team Is Not A Matter Of Choice” (Future Healthcare, December 2006) explores the positive impact that a diverse senior-level management team has on a healthcare organization, particularly its ability to recruit and retain a diverse employeebase. But in order to effectively include diverse executives in a succession-planning strategy, and ultimately ensure a diverse leadership team, diverse candidates have to be recruited into the organization at the middle-management level, in the first place – and healthcare organizations still need to work on attracting more women and minorities, at all levels of the organization. A key factor in successful diversity recruitment initiatives is approaching candidates from a broader variety of sources, expanding beyond traditional networks by exploring new avenues and utilizing the services of a recruitment organization that is experienced in attracting candidates from geographies where there is a more diverse demographic, and has existing relationships within diverse healthcare networking groups and public hospitals, following the logic that, for a variety of reasons, the public sector employs more minorities than the private sector. So, what happens if you have recruited a diverse middle management team and decided your successionplanning strategy will be to draw predominantly from that internal executive bench….only to find that the executives you have developed, and now intend to promote, have decided to go elsewhere for their next career opportunity? Recruiting diverse talent, and developing/training those executives for future roles is important…. but keeping that talent once you have invested in it is absolutely critical. Of course, it is impossible to entirely prevent promising executives from moving to other organizations but it is possible to make it a tough decision for them. There are many factors involved in retaining high caliber executives within an organization, be it a new hire, or a fast-track executive who has been (or will be) promoted into a key role. These factors include a clear career path, training and development opportunities, job security, work/life balance, a progressive/ innovative leadership mindset, and a belief in the core values and philosophies of the organization, including diversity-inclusion. So, once again, diversity-inclusion plays a key role in developing executive talent. Not only can diversity be leveraged to attract the best talent, it can also be harnessed to retain talent. A

consistent recruitment theme is that high caliber executives (of any age, culture, ethnicity, gender, geographic background, race or sexual orientation) are more attracted to an organization where diversity-inclusion initiatives are under-pinned by a fundamental belief, throughout the organization, in diversity as an economic imperative. The next logical step in the above assumption is that once those high potential individuals are a part of an organization that places value on diversity-inclusion initiatives, retention rates will increase as employees take pride in those initiatives, viewing their firm as an employer of choice, where appreciation for all people and their differences creates a work environment where all can thrive. The flip side is that, in companies where diversity initiatives are a low priority, employees may leave because they don’t believe they are valued, because they perceive a workplace to be unwelcoming, or because they believe a competitor organization shows precedent in developing careers paths for a more diverse range of executives. Both money and time invested in those employees are lost. Without a strong retention plan an organization cannot formulate an effective succession plan and will lose its investment. Without a succession plan an organization will find it harder to grow. Without a strong diversityinclusion initiative, retention is a whole lot more difficult.

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Bridge Partners LLC (www.bridgepartnersllc.com) is a retained executive search firm founded by principals with extensive experience and credentials in leadership and senior-level recruitment, both in the US and internationally. Our executive search offering, capability and experience cover many industries and functions. Through a combination of a research-based methodology and well-established networks, our team has an unrivalled ability to successfully and efficiently execute senior search assignments, bringing to each project a focus on ensuring that our clients are presented with a diverse slate of candidates.

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