health care

Making the Case for Succession Planning in Healthcare

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The healthcare industry is confronted with a series of challenges that affect the management and development of its workforce. The National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) conducted a study on the systematic failure of healthcare organizations. The finding indicated that not nearly enough attention is currently being paid to succession planning or talent management activities. Succession planning isn’t just for top executives; it is a documented talent development plan for all levels in the organization. Simply stated, succession planning is about developing future talent. Period.

Nowhere is the need for effective succession planning more pronounced than in the complex healthcare industry, where leaders face unprecedented pressure to transform their organizations so they can meet growing demands for high quality, cost-effective care and adhere to legal regulations. 

There are two forces driving more healthcare organizations to consider some form of succession planning as a component of their overall talent management strategies. Namely, these forces are 1) the aging of the workforce and 2) a shortfall in the skills possessed by those available for recruitment. What’s more, both factors are projected to become more pressing. 


In Ten Key Steps to Effective Succession Planning, William Rothwell explains that succession planning “is perhaps best understood as any effort designed to ensure the continued effective performance of an organization, division, department, or work group by making provision for the development, replacement, and strategic application of key people over time.”

Typically part of a larger talent management program, succession planning is a comprehensive organizational key strategic process for every critical position in the organization. For the healthcare industry specifically, key talent shortages, high turnover among leaders, and attracting workers from other industries pose a great challenge. Consequently, healthcare organizations are more at risk—and need to put in place best practices related to succession planning and talent management. To delve more deeply into these issues, please join me and fellow panelists William Rothwell and Christina Barss for Session M303 “Developing a Succession Plan for Healthcare Organizations” at the ATD 2016 International Conference & Exposition.

We will discuss the changing landscape of healthcare, address the challenges of talent management programs, and moderate a discussion to build a case for a succession planning program. In addition, a facilitated activity will help attendees develop a strategy to analyze risk and build a commitment to develop a succession management plan.

About the Author
Aileen Zaballero is a senior partner at Rothwell & Associates and a dual-title PhD candidate in workforce education and development and comparative international education at The Pennsylvania State University. She is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) with more than 20 years of experience in the learning and development field. Her most recent project was developing a competency model and career map for an advanced commercial building workforce, utilizing the U.S. Department of Labor's competency model framework and aligning it with the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines. Presently, Aileen is working with IACET to develop principles to guide competency-based learning as a standard framework for quality learning and development through accreditation. In addition, her current research is a cross-cultural comparative study that aims to better understand how national culture interacts with emotional intelligence to drive performance among healthcare professionals in a multicultural environment.  Aileen authored or co-authored chapters in Performance Consulting (Wiley, 2013) and Organization Development Fundamentals (ATD Press, 2014), co-edited and co-authored Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce (Management Concepts, 2014), and co-edited The Competency Toolkit, 2nd Ed. (HRD Press, 2014).
About the Author
William J. Rothwell, PhD, SPHR, is the president of Rothwell & Associates ( and professor in the Workforce Education and Development Program at the University Park campus of Penn State University. As a researcher he has been involved with the last five competency studies conducted by Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD). In 2012 he won the association's prestigious Distinguished Contribution Award. He is author of 81 books and 250 articles in the field and had 20 years of experience in government and the private sector before becoming a college professor in 1993.
About the Author
Christina Barss is the corporate director of leadership and learning at Houston Methodist Hospital System. She has extensive global experience, and has coached and developed senior and C-suite healthcare executives; her resume includes spearheading innovative international executive education programs for Cleveland Clinic Health System. Christina’s holistic approach leverages her lean Six Sigma black belt skill set with an academic approach. She believes in building enterprise capability that truly sustains organizational transformation, and requires an executable and measurable plan including both business systems redesign and executive leadership development. A credentialed researcher at multiple institutions, Christina is exploring the concepts of authentic and inspirational leadership. She also presents on operationalizing empathy to improve patient safety and satisfaction as well as employee engagement and innovation. Christina has a PhD from Case Western Reserve University in management, a master of science in strategic leadership from New England College, a master of education in instructional design technology from American Intercontinental University, and a bachelor of science in organizational management from Daniel Webster College
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