5 Steps to Building a Stronger Healthcare Executive Leadership Team

Published March 12, 2021

Healthcare executives and professionals alike have been faced with more challenges than ever anticipated in the last year—and those challenges continue as the world still faces COVID-19. Unfortunately, not only has this pandemic changed our world forever, but it is also deeply affecting healthcare workers and their ability and desire to do their jobs.

In fact, 1 in 3 healthcare workers reported making more mistakes at work, according to Brexi’s State of Healthcare Workers 2020 and 48 percent are considering retiring, quitting, or changing careers altogether.

While this pandemic has pushed hospital and healthcare leaders to their brink, there is an opportunity to emerge stronger than before. The only way to do that, however, is to look at your executive leadership team and find ways to address issues with communication, support, burnout, and patient experience. 

Most importantly, the goal for all healthcare leadership teams should be to build a resilient team that is able to handle the challenges of COVID and beyond. Use the following strategies to assess your current executive leaders and organizational processes so you can start building a stronger, more resilient team, today.

1. Find and Address Gaps Ahead of Time

As the Brexi survey suggested, many healthcare professionals are considering leaving their job. When someone leaves, their co-workers have to pick up the slack, covering until a replacement is found. This weakens your overall team and puts pressure on your executive team to find a new hire quickly, potentially leading them to someone who may not be the best fit. 

Addressing this gap ahead of time is critical for building a stronger team proactively, but it is not the only place to look for potential holes in your leadership. In assessing your executive leadership team, consider older generation employees who were ready to retire pre-COVID and want to do so now. 

Do not forget to also look at leadership team members who are not able to support staff effectively. You will get a better understanding of who may fall into the latter category with leadership surveys.

2. Initiate Leadership Surveys

The best way to build a stronger healthcare leadership team is to figure out what your current team is not doing for their staff right now. An anonymous leadership survey, paired with leadership reviews, is a strategic way to uncover this information so you can start to rebuild. Here are some questions to include in your survey:

  • Do you feel mentally supported in your day-to-day job?
  • Do you feel you have the tools needed to do your job correctly and well?
  • Is the leadership team in regular contact with you and your co-workers?
  • Is your manager present and accessible when needed?
  • Do you feel your mental health is supported?

Do not forget to pair these surveys with 1:1 reviews and meetings. Staff may say more in a meeting than on paper and reviews allow you to address the issues with leadership employees head-on. Reviewing the data in-person will help you understand if the leaders in question can shift the way they work, or if they need to be let go.

3. Leverage Mental Health Assessments

COVID has likely been one of the most stressful experiences any of your staff has gone through as a healthcare professional. As a result, mental health issues are running rampant among these workers. A survey from Mental Health America found that the issues stem from fear, burnout, and frustrations on the job.

The problem, however, is that 39 percent of healthcare workers surveyed said that they do not feel they have adequate emotional support, and 45 percent of nurses, specifically, reported feeling this way. It is the executive leadership’s job to both address the mental health issues being experienced and build a leadership team that can continually provide the support the staff needs. 

To find the areas where staff need to be most supported, implement a mental health check-up. It may be wise to hire outside health professionals to do assessments, so the staff feels safe to open up and share. In doing this, the goal is to understand:

  • How is the staff struggling? 
  • Where do they need support? 
  • What resources are they lacking and wanting access to?

Pair this data with the information received in the leadership survey to start understanding which executive leaders are not actively providing this support and whether they are able or willing to do so in the future.

4. Evaluate Patient Experience

The patient experience ultimately falls on the shoulders of your executive health team. While day-to-day staff works with patients, it is the systems, workflows, and culture that is put in place by senior teams that dictate how that experience goes.

If you have suspended patient satisfaction scores during COVID, it is important that you reinstate them now. When comparing this data with what was collected before the pandemic, you can start to identify issues that need resolving.

In doing this, you have to ask yourself: What are you doing as a leader to stay connected with the patient? How can leadership continually be involved in patient experience and satisfaction? Is there a need for a higher level of training for senior leaders or do you need to hire someone to focus solely on this one critical aspect? 

Let the data guide you in building a strong healthcare leadership team that is connected with the patient experience.

5. Work with Healthcare Recruiting Experts

When you are ready to rebuild your leadership team, it is important that you hire based upon the overall culture and experience you want to bring to the organization. This is why hiring with in-house HR teams, based on a singular role, is not as valuable as working with a recruiting firm that can build a search around the overall goals. 

For example, you may want to focus on restoring community or restoring patient experience. Working with a trained executive recruiting firm allows you to not only develop a vision around your hiring process but find the best applicants for the role based upon an extensive pre-determined strategy.  

Once you are ready to rebuild, make sure you do it the right way to ensure long-term success among your healthcare leadership team for many years to come. 

Build a Stronger Healthcare Leadership Team

Your leadership team is only as strong as it is built. Now is the time to assess what changes need to be made to ensure the patient experience is exceptional, the staff feels fully supported, and challenges are managed appropriately and effectively during COVID and otherwise. Use these strategies to address the gaps and implement surveys and assessments to build a stronger, more resilient healthcare leadership team.

Marion Spears Karr MA, FACHE, Managing Director, Atlanta is Comhar Partners’ Healthcare and Life Sciences Practice Leader. He has over 30 years of experience in healthcare executive recruiting and talent acquisition. He brings a distinguished set of skills in leading successful recruitment teams that specialize in nursing leadership, C-level, Vice President and Senior Director-level searches. He has developed a deep understanding of the complex challenges facing healthcare leaders across all sectors in the current market.

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