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February 3, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

The Importance of HIT Succession Planning
By Frank Myeroff

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While getting ready for HIMSS 2016 Conference & Exhibition, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many healthcare IT leaders about what’s on their priority list this year when it comes to acquiring, promoting, and retaining key HIT talent. One response that I heard over and over again was “Succession Planning.”

The HIT profession is seeing shortages of talent, making succession planning more important than ever. Having a well-developed and current strategic plan in place will help your organization prepare for the future in these vital areas:

  • Prevent vacancies when baby boomers retire. As senior HIT personnel begin to retire, including many CIOs, the industry will lose leadership, knowledge, and skills and that won’t be easy to replace. However, even after having this advanced notice, many organizations are still unprepared for their absence. Therefore, they will find themselves with many vacancies, and consequently may cause them to make quick and rash hiring decisions.
  • Recognize and develop future leaders. As we face a leadership shortage in HIT and in just about every industry across the board, companies must identify and foster those individuals demonstrating leadership skills and abilities through mentoring, training, and stretch assignments so they are ready to take the helm when the time comes.
  • Prevent turnover and costs associated. Employees at all levels are less likely to leave a company that is committed to providing meaningful work and opportunities to grow. A continuous flow of engaged people with defined career paths will stop the revolving door which can be detrimental to any firm. A high turnover is quite costly. According to the Wall Street Journal, experts estimate that it costs upwards of twice an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement.
  • Maximize organizational value. Healthcare organizations with an HIT succession plan in place are more attractive. Management teams having a strategy for when a key player exits protects the value, integrity, and longevity of the company. As a result, your company’s reputation stays positive and in turn, attracts top performers to your company.
  • Meet growing demands for high quality, cost-effective care patient care. Healthcare leaders face unprecedented pressure to meet the ambitious expectations of health reform, i.e. to reduce costs and simultaneously assure high quality patient care. Therefore, the industry needs to better prepare their HIT professionals to manage the complex organizations that provide and finance care.
  • Guarantee the stability of business operations. HIT succession planning helps to mitigate risks and ensures business continuity. People are your greatest asset. They can also be its greatest downfall. If your company becomes overly dependent on the services of a few key individuals, it can lead to operational risks that can cause damage when one or more of those key people are no longer there.

With HIT succession planning on the minds of so many organizations right now, there are a number of ways to find the HIT talent who can ultimately step-in to fill those current and future roles:

  • Hire more military technology veterans. Organizations are on a mission to find, hire, train, and accommodate US military veterans who possess the IT skills in high demand, such as cybersecurity. The military represents a large IT talent pool even though military technology experts may not have civilian HIT certifications or experience. Savvy organizations are able to look past that when onboarding and then later assist returning vets in obtaining those civilian credentials, including IT certifications. In addition, when hiring military veterans, they bring so much more to the job such as leadership skills, ability to perform under pressure, teamwork, respect for procedures, and integrity.
  • Implement college-level internships. More and more organizations are moving towards creating HIT internship programs at the college level. They consider it a year-round recruiting tool which means having an ongoing pipeline of future HIT talent. In addition, interns are an inexpensive resource while at the same time are some of the most highly motivated members of the workforce. Internships.com allows a company to post a profile free of charge. This way, a company gets exposure to top colleges and candidates without breaking their budget.
  • Re-hire retirees for expertise and training. One way organizations will succession plan is to pay retirees to come back. Many IT professionals are now returning as consultants operating under one- to two-year contracts for their help and expertise. In addition, they are being asked to train and mentor promising IT professionals. These seasoned workers have experience and a tremendous amount of knowledge to share.
  • Hire and promote from within. In many cases, organizations lay out an HIT career path that they use to retain quality people. This approach fosters loyalty and also positions your company as a place that career-minded individuals want to work. If you hire or promote from within, it also helps you to retain other key people.
  • Acquire talent from outside or competitors. If an organization does not have confidence that an internal candidate is ready for the position, they may have to recruit from outside and from the competition. Hiring from a rival firm can mean bringing aboard someone who already knows your industry, your HIT initiatives, and/or can bring valuable new project knowledge.

Healthcare IT succession planning should be a part of every company’s strategic plan. It’s vital for the vision of where your company will be going in the future and how it will get there.

Most importantly, succession planning in general will shape how your organization develops and nurtures its people, assures a continuing sequence and pipeline of qualified people to move up and take over when needed, and assures that key positions will be filled with the right people able to carry your company into the future.

Frank Myeroff is president of Direct Consulting Associates of Cleveland, OH.

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