Hospital Succession Planning

May 21, 2021

Salvatore Parisi


What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is a process of recognizing and preparing new leaders who can take the leadership roles and replace the old leaders once they leave due to retirement, resignation, promotion, transfer, or death.

Importance of Succession Planning in Hospitals

Like other organizations, succession planning in hospitals is vital to ensure leadership continuity. An effective hospital succession plan is essential for the executive leadership roles and the orderly transitions of clinical leadership positions, providing the quality maintenance of in-patient safety and care services. [1] Moreover, it also acts as an incentive for the current employees to obtain a leadership role and subsequently increases their work engagement and performances. [2]

In the absence of a proper succession plan in place, a hospital organization can find itself stuck in the recruitment stage and may fail to timely fill a vacant leadership position, which can cause a significant negative impact on the healthcare organization. [3, 4]

Key Steps of Effective Hospital Succession Planning

Following are the key steps for successful hospital succession planning;

  • Develop a Strategic Plan

Specifying the strategic imperatives is the first step in succession planning. [5] It is essential to understand the short and long-term goals of the organization. [6] In simple words, first identify the vision, purpose, or objectives of a hospital organization that need to be accomplished through succession planning and then devise a strategic plan accordingly.


  • Determine the Required Skills and Needs

Before identifying the available candidates for future leadership and checking the bench strength, it is essential to determine which positions are needed to be filled, currently or in the future, and what level of skills and expertise should be present in the successful candidates to take those positions. Therefore, administrators should evaluate the gaps between existing skills and core competencies of the posts to be filled and look into the work details for future competency requirements. [6, 7]


  • Identify the Potential Candidates

Hospital organizations should regularly obtain competitive information from the administrators and evaluate the talent available within the organization. It is the most dynamic and vital component of succession planning, which engages the leaders and administrators in a thoughtful and productive appraisal of each candidate regarding his/her potential eligibility for a leadership post.[8]

Candidates will most likely be discovered within the same functional area and team of people who have similar experience or exposure to responsibilities like that of the current leader. However, the talent review should also look for potential talent across the traditional organizational boundaries. By using this method, succession planning promotes the leadership of the whole organization. [8]


  • Determine Whether Interim Leadership is Needed

We are seeing a significant increase in the number of healthcare organizations utilizing and leveraging interim leadership not only for Director and Manager level positions but also for C-Suite requirements to drive operational, financial, and clinical improvement.


  • Leadership Development Programs

After discovering potential future leaders, it is essential to put them in leadership development programs to develop their skills. This will minimize the gap between the existing talent and competency requirements of the posts to be filled and will assist in preparing future senior leaders of the system. [9] This includes mentoring or coaching the employees by the seniors within the healthcare system. [10] This approach will allow hospitals to train the new leaders within the organization and effectively “grow their own.” [11]

Other development processes may include the exposure of the employees to the developmental competency opportunities, developing education and growth plans, and assigning responsibilities outside the area of expertise, etc. [5, 12, 13]


  • Allocation of Resources

For successful succession planning, it is also essential to determine the resources available to conduct the plan and allocating it to the different components of the succession plan as per the needs and requirements. Hospitals should recognize which part of their succession plan is lacking and need more time and money for better outcomes. They should then allot the available resources accordingly.


  • Evaluation

Lastly, an effective hospital succession plan is incomplete without the evaluation process. It allows us to determine how effective the succession plan is and tells us whether the organization’s goals and program objectives have been met. It should include evaluating policies and methods used in this process, the criteria and basis for selection, the extent of involvement of relevant personnel, return on investment, degree of patient satisfaction, and assessment of resources allocation. [6] An evaluation process helps to improve both the plan and strategy.

Bottom Line

Succession planning is important in hospitals to ensure orderly replacement of executive leaders and senior healthcare members after they leave their leadership posts vacant. Effective hospital succession planning can be done through strategic planning, understanding the needs and desired skills, identifying the potential candidates with leadership qualities, formulating leadership development programs, allocating resources, and evaluating the evaluation process. Visit us at



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