North Shore-LIJ grows its own lead­ers through novel High Po­ten­tial pro­gram

Modern Healthcare - - BEST PRACTICES - By Mau­reen McKin­ney

Some years back, lead­ers of 12-hospi­tal North Shore-Long Is­land Jewish Health Sys­tem re­al­ized the sys­tem needed to do more to iden­tify po­ten­tial fu­ture lead­ers in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, de­velop their skills and en­sure smooth tran­si­tions when top brass de­parted. The Great Neck, N.Y.-based sys­tem had just a few years ear­lier es­tab­lished a sweep­ing em­ployee ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing pro­gram, but more ag­gres­sive lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment was still needed, ad­min­is­tra­tors said.

Hos­pi­tals that have a ro­bust suc­ces­sion plan and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment strat­egy are the ex­cep­tion rather than the rule, said Andrew Gar­man, CEO of the Na­tional Cen­ter for Health­care Lead­er­ship and pro­fes­sor of health sys­tems man­age­ment at Rush Univer­sity in Chicago. “The rea­son it’s so of­ten over­looked is be­cause of the tyranny of the im­me­di­ate,” Gar­man said. “There are so many com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties. What brings it on the radar screen is some­one pass­ing away or leav­ing, and then the hospi­tal is in a tight spot.”

North Shore-LIJ’s lead­ers were de­ter­mined to avoid that sce­nario. In 2008, the sys­tem es­tab­lished its High Po­ten­tial De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram to spot the most promis­ing lead­er­ship can­di­dates, re­tain them and give them the skills to move up within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The High Po­ten­tial pro­gram draws people from ev­ery area of the health sys­tem, from house­keep­ing to ac­count­ing to pa­tient care. Par­tic­i­pants are nom­i­nated by their man­agers. Last year, 50 people were cho­sen from a pool of more than 200.

The High Po­ten­tial pro­gram is housed within North Shore-LIJ’s Cen­ter for Learn­ing and In­no­va­tion, which the sys­tem launched in 2002. It is mod­eled on cor­po­rate lead­er­ship uni­ver­si­ties founded by com­pa­nies such as Gen­eral Elec­tric, and of­fers a wide ar­ray of ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing and men­tor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Con­ceived by North Shore-LIJ CEO Michael Dowling, the cen­ter ex­panded quickly, of­fer­ing sim­u­la­tion train­ing, pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and a va­ri­ety of spe­cial­ized cour­ses and pro­grams. Since its in­cep­tion, more than 130,000 em­ploy­ees have re­ceived train­ing at the cen­ter, which now oc­cu­pies a 45,000-square­foot stand-alone fa­cil­ity in Lake Suc­cess. “Noth­ing like it ex­isted in health­care be­fore,” said Joe Cabral, chief hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer for the sys­tem.

Suc­ces­sion plan­ning is an area where many hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems strug­gle, said San­jay Sax­ena, a part­ner and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at the Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group. For some health­care or­ga­ni­za­tions, such plan­ning doesn’t even be­gin un­til a CEO or other top leader an­nounces plans to leave. “It’s a mixed bag right now,” Sax­ena said. “For­prof­its tend to think about suc­ces­sion plan­ning with more fore­sight. For the rest of the in­dus­try, it’s very hit or miss.”

Cul­ti­vat­ing lead­ers and build­ing a pipe­line of top talent has to be done in a sys­tem­atic way, es­pe­cially now that hos­pi­tals are see­ing far more C-suite turnover than in pre­vi­ous years, he ar­gued. “It needs to be an in­sti­tu­tional ac­tiv­ity, not some­thing that is done on an ad hoc, start-stop ba­sis.”

North Shore-LIJ se­lects people for the High Po­ten­tial pro­gram based not only on their strengths but also on the health sys­tem’s an­tic­i­pated lead­er­ship needs. “If we know we will need a few CFOs be­cause a cou­ple will re­tire in the next few years, I will give pri­or­ity to those folks who could fill those

roles,” Cabral said. “We do this very me­thod­i­cally.”

The year­long pro­gram is highly cus­tom­ized. Those with lit­tle or no lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence, for in­stance, spend more time in the class­room learn­ing the fun­da­men­tals of man­age­ment and fi­nance, while those with more lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence spend less time on for­mal in­struc­tion and more time on hands-on projects ad­dress­ing ar­eas such as sep­sis, ICD-10 con­ver­sion, read­mis­sions and ad­vanced ill­ness.

Carolyn Swee­t­ap­ple was in the first class of the High Po­ten­tial pro­gram and re­called tak­ing part in a num­ber of projects re­lated to ef­fi­ciency and op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing one aimed at re­duc­ing noise on a unit plagued by poor pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence scores. “They re­ally en­cour­aged us to be in­no­va­tive and think of new ideas,” she said.

Since com­plet­ing the pro­gram, Swee­t­ap­ple has been pro­moted twice, first to vice pres­i­dent of North ShoreLIJ’s Qual­ity In­sti­tute and then to her cur­rent role as as­sis­tant vice pres­i­dent of sys­tem op­er­a­tions. “When you’re done with the pro­gram, you’re chal­lenged to lever­age the knowl­edge right away,” she said. “It builds a com­mit­ment to the or­ga­ni­za­tion. They’ve in­vested in me and I want to re­turn that in­vest­ment.”

That in­vest­ment in­cludes the op­por­tu­nity to earn an MBA with tu­ition paid by the health sys­tem. It’s a perk that many High Po­ten­tial par­tic­i­pants take ad­van­tage of, Cabral said. North Shore-LIJ has a part­ner­ship with nearby Hof­s­tra Univer­sity.

Of the 500 people who have par­tic­i­pated in the High Po­ten­tial pro­gram, 85% have been pro­moted or changed roles. The re­ten­tion rate among those who go through the pro­gram is 95%.

Cabral and his col­leagues also hold yearly suc­ces­sion plan­ning meet­ings to iden­tify where fu­ture open­ings might be, as well as quar­terly meet­ings to re­cal­i­brate those an­nual projections and con­duct ex­ec­u­tive talent re­view. “We talk about who is ready now, who will be ready in two years, who will be ready in three,” he said. “For those who aren’t ready yet, we talk about what skills they will need to be ready to lead.”

Gar­man, of the Na­tional Cen­ter for Health­care Lead­er­ship, said North Shore-LIJ has mas­tered a sys­tem­atic ap­proach to lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment. “They have a fully in­te­grated cy­cle of ac­tiv­i­ties, “he said. “They’re do­ing it about as well as I’ve seen any­one do it.”

In 2011, the health sys­tem ex­panded the pro­gram with the ad­di­tion of a two-year High Po­ten­tial pro­gram cre­ated just for physi­cians. Dr. Kevin Bock was part of the 47-mem­ber in­au­gu­ral class of that pro­gram, which ended in 2013. A crit­i­cal-care physi­cian with a deep in­ter­est in med­i­cal in­for­mat­ics, Bock said the pro­gram pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to learn more about lead­er­ship and fi­nance, skills miss­ing from tra­di­tional med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion. He also earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in health­care de­liv­ery sci­ence at Dart­mouth Col­lege, paid for by North Shore-LIJ.

Since com­plet­ing the pro­gram, he was pro­moted from di­rec­tor of clin­i­cal in­for­ma­tion sys­tems to his cur­rent post as as­so­ciate chief med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer. “There’s a tremen­dous sense of in­debt­ed­ness,” he said, “that some­one thought of you this way and in­vested this much in you.”

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