With the implementation of health reform initiatives, quality and patient safety improvements and information technology, hospitals and health care systems must position themselves to lead delivery system changes. Strong leadership is especially crucial for health care organizations to navigate change successfully and balance competing demands. Fortune 500 businesses have understood the importance of ensuring that skills, rewards, talent management and overall organizational culture are aligned with the intended change. In health care, consistent use of leadership development practices varies.

The National Center for Healthcare Leadership partnered with Health Forum to administer a survey to assess the extent to which hospitals and health care systems have adopted leadership development practices. These practices fall into six categories:

Competency model: Developing and using a competency model of behaviors required of future leaders.

Governance: Board of directors monitoring the progress via a human capital dashboard.

Succession planning: Leadership planning at multiple levels and in different departments, such as nursing, medical and administration.

Learning and development: Using 360-degree feedback and other learning approaches to develop future leaders in nursing, medical and administration.

Performance management: Holding managers accountable for their responsibilities and using approaches to identify top, average and under-performers.

Selection: Using behavioral and competency-based interviews to select new talent for the organization.

Hospitals and health care systems responding to the survey reported the most widely used practices were behavioral interviewing for selecting new employees and holding managers accountable for carrying out their responsibilities. Survey respondents reported using 360-degree feedback less frequently than the other practices.

Health care systems, hospitals affiliated with health care systems, large hospitals, nonprofit hospitals and members of the Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems reported a wider use of leadership development best practices than did other types of hospitals. The survey also was fielded to a sample of Fortune 500, nonhospital, health care organizations, such as medical device and technology manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and distributors of medical supplies to allow for benchmarking. The benchmark organizations reported using the applicable leadership development best practices more frequently than what was reported by hospitals and health systems. Finally, linking the survey results to data from the Hospital Compare website showed that implementing leadership development best practices has a small positive correlation with overall hospital performance.

The survey results provide several opportunities for next steps for hospitals and health systems. These opportunities include educating health care leaders and boards about the importance of talent management, succession planning and implementing the proven best practices being underutilized by health care organizations.

As hospitals invest in human and technological resources in preparation for a changing delivery and payment environment, opportunities exist to adopt best practices to develop leaders who are equipped to inspire and manage in a challenging and changing environment.

For the full National Healthcare Leadership Survey Implementation of Best Practices, click here.

H. Awo Osei-Anto is a researcher at the Health Research & Educational Trust. Visit Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence at www.hpoe.org to explore these and other topics.