Developing a Succession Plan Takes Great Care

 jon-sammons*As seen in McKnight's Long Term Care News*

A 2018 survey by Ziegler indicates an urgent need for succession planning within long-term care. Approximately 73% of senior living CEOs whose organizations were represented in the specialty investment bank’s survey could be retiring within the next 10 years. Yet 65% of the organizations in the survey don’t have formal, written succession plans in place for the CEO position.

Ziegler polled almost 145 senior living chief financial officers and financial professionals, 62% of whom were from single-site organizations and 38% of whom worked at multi-site organizations.

Having a succession plan is essential in the long-term care industry, given its care-oriented nature, management experts note. Having strong, solid leadership in place can be essential in an organization’s efforts to maintain trust with residents and their families.

"Dependability is a priority when caring for seniors," says Jon Sammons, director of LeaderStat Premier.

“Any time a transition occurs at any level, there is always a potential for a loss in transfer of information,” Sammons says. “The impact of this loss can have a major impact on the quality, service and experience for residents, so it is critical that leaders plan and partner with the new leader so the organization will continue to thrive.”

The first step is communicating retirement plans early, allowing time for the organization, especially the board of directors, to prepare, he says.

“Depending on the level of the role, letting your company know sometimes even a year in advance of your impending retirement is a good guide,” Sammons says.

Others suggest that good leaders should always have their departure in mind, keeping an eye out for talented employees who might be suited to take over when the time comes. “One of the most important roles of a leader is to enable others to lead,” says Mario McKenzie, a Charlotte, NCbased partner of CliftonLarsonAllen who specializes in succession planning for senior living executives. While executive hiring searches should always include outside candidates, passing the torch to someone internal can be an important step in maintaining an organization’s culture.

“Taking the time to create opportunities for different experiences in the organization will help people get out of their current mold and prepare them for bigger roles in the workplace,” McKenzie says.

It’s also important that executives and boards understand that the skill sets of the current leader may not be the ones needed by the person who will be leading the organization five years down the line.

“The future of healthcare indicates that we will need a much stronger link between operations and finances, and providers need to keep this in mind when making the investment in their leadership transitions,” McKenzie says.

Once succession decisions have been made, preparing a proper hand-off is another important element in retirement planning. Leaders should start to take inventory of their roles, whether clinical or operational, and compile the institutional knowledge that they have gained over the years.

“This information can be some of the most invaluable for a new leader coming in as a replacement,” Sammons explains. If a leader is in the middle of survey preparations or planning for a new service line expansion, their bosses must manage more closely to understand what needs to be shared with other leaders and future replacements. In preparation for the leadership change, clinicians should continue to strengthen their partnerships with fellow clinical leaders and physicians, including local hospitals. Administrators must assure their staff that the transition will be a smooth one," notes Sammons.

“Making sure that the organization is well-positioned from a leadership and process level is critical for a departing administrator,” he says. 

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LeaderStat specializes in direct care staff, interim leadership, executive recruitment, travel nursing and consulting for healthcare organizations nationwide.