3 Top Challenges Healthcare Talent Development

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Health Meeting
For the recent issue of TD at WorkCoaching in Healthcare,” authors Darelyn Mitsch, MCC, Mark Greenawald, MD, and Cindi Ackrill, MD, surveyed Association for Talent Development members and other healthcare professionals on three key areas:

  • What are the biggest healthcare talent development challenges for organizations? 
  • How do healthcare organizations currently perceive and use coaching? 
  • What is most needed now to bring the power of coaching to the forefront in healthcare?

    The survey uncovered themes that were consistent with what the authors have found in their own coaching and educational experiences. Essentially, the responses point to three key challenges:

  1. complexity and a loss of hope that conditions will improve 
  2. culture and how to retool providers to become leaders 
  3. the high cost of caring, with nearly 70 percent of respondents choosing lack of self-care and burnout as a top challenge.

    Complexity: A Growing List of Stakeholders  

    TD at Work reports that healthcare support occupations and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations are projected to be the two fastest growing occupational groups, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “These groups are projected to contribute the most new jobs, with a combined increase of 2.3 million in employment, representing about 1 in 4 new jobs,” says BLS.

    The authors go on to explain that there are at least 16 key players in the quickly expanding and evolving field of healthcare, including patients, policymakers, physicians, pharma, press, to name a few. Leaders in each of the 16 groups of stakeholders have “vastly different needs, accountabilities, and business imperatives, as well as varying understanding of their and others’ responsibilities and obligations,” explain the authors.

    No doubt, so many points of entry make addressing the healthcare community a complicated endeavor for talent development professionals. To address some of these issues, the authors recommend organizations apply “coaching at a high-level context and then take a deeper cut into the center to determine where coaching supports talent development professionals and executive sponsors in finding their own competitive edge.”  

    Culture: From Transactional to Transformational 

    Like every industry, healthcare is experiencing unprecedented innovation in such areas as data science, genomics, biomedical engineering, neuroscience, and nanotechnology. At the same time, say the authors, the gap between healthcare “haves” and “have nots” seems to be growing ever wider. According to the authors, this feeds a culture that is “overwhelmed and stressed,”


    “When a system feels chaotic, cultivating a culture of wholehearted engagement or teaching leadership skills can seem like a burden on already strained agendas, headspace, and budgets. Many leadership initiatives get labeled as nice to do but not necessary for survival,” the authors write.

    What’s more, coaching can be seen as an isolated part of a performance improvement plan and, therefore, may be poorly received and misused as a form of remediation. When this happens, the authors warn that the healthcare industry “misses out on the impact expert coaching can have on engagement, retention, and accelerated leadership development.”

    To change this perception, they advise organizations to “determine what your performance measures are, and find the entry point for coaching to ensure attainment of your goals.” This helps the talent development function move coaching from a transactional approach to using coaching to truly transform the workforce. 

    Burnout and Lack of Self-Care  

    Uncertainties and high levels of burnout are realities for more than half the population of professionals and clinicians, according to two Mayo Clinic studies reported on in U.S. News and World Report. “The ongoing management challenges this causes has become a central, costly, and amorphous problem,” the authors explain. 

    Although, ongoing recruitment of the right people to fill key roles is priority for healthcare executives, a bigger challenge may actually be how to quickly assimilate individuals into networks of teams across a stressed and highly competitive landscape. In fact, TD at Work reports on data from Lori Schutte in the Journal of the Association of Staff Physician Recruiters, which explains that turnover of key people in healthcare can cost from $700,000 to $1.4 million per vacancy. “Never mind the long hours and heartburn for those in talent development and HR whose jobs include addressing this core challenge,” the authors say.

    This begs the question: “How can talent development leaders help our staff move from burnout or mere survival to become energized and thriving?” The answer is often coaching.

    For advice on how to use coaching to its best advantage, check out “Coaching in Healthcare.” You will find you will find tips for building a case for coaching, descriptions of different types of coaching, sample coaching questions, and a coaching journey map.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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