The real staffing puzzle

Share this content:
John O'Connor
John O'Connor

When you ask people in this sector about the biggest staffing challenges ahead, responses often pour into familiar buckets.

Some will say administrators need better training and incentives. Others will insist that greater clinical abilities will be paramount. Some will add that frontline workers need fairer compensation.

These are all valid concerns. But focusing on the so-called worker bees ignores a larger challenge: the importance of finding the best future leaders. Here the stakes could not possibly be higher. The right people at the top can help open new doors and opportunities that currently don't exist. The wrong choices will at best hold back operators — and in worst-case scenarios crash their firms while spreading ill will.

This observation is hardly an epiphany. Progressive steps are in fact already being taken. But so much more needs to be done, and it won't be easy.

First and foremost, our future leaders will be tasked with thinking through — and perhaps dramatically altering — their organization's mission. Put another way, these executives will need to determine the answer to this two-pronged question: What is our business and what should it be? Has there ever been a less certain time to contemplate such foundational matters?

Moreover, many current CEOs in this sector are nearing the end of their tenures. So it's fairly apparent that CEO succession will soon become a common challenge.

For an excellent primer, you can do far worse than Ram Charan's article in the December Harvard Business Review, titled “The secrets of great CEO selection.”

Charan argues that good judgment will be critical here. He notes that board directors should identify the two or three distinct capabilities their next CEO must have.

He adds that directors should stay flexible and allow for flaws in the chosen candidate, with the idea that competence gaps may be filled by other executives or corrected with coaching.

Of course, Charan's guides won't ensure that your next CEO is a huge success. But they can  help you find the best possible hire. And from the looks of things, many firms in this sector will need all the help they can get.