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Long term succession planning strategies

Experts don’t agree on much, but the Institute of Medicine (now Health and Medicine Division), The Bureau of Labor and Argentum all agree a major senior living workforce shortage is approaching in the next 15 years. By 2030 20% of the US population will be over the age of 65, due primarily to the aging “Baby Boomer” generation, as compared to the current rate of 14.5%.  This means not only will a much larger segment of the general population require healthcare and senior services, but additionally a large proportion of the existing senior living workforce will be exiting for retirement.  The increase in demand for senior housing as well as the exodus of existing employees will have a direct effect on the demand for not only skilled healthcare workers, but experienced senior living executives.  When evaluating your company’s long term growth strategies, how are you planning to hire experienced executives when all the experts are predicting an influx of new employees?

In a recent publication, Argentum predicted the senior living industry will need to recruit 1.2 million new employees by 2025.  Now, not all of the 1.2 million will be senior living executives. However, 1.2 million new employees will be working the senior living industry, under the management of senior living executives, making it imperative your company has seasoned and experienced executives in place to lead teams that may be staffed primarily with inexperienced senior living talent.

On-the-job executive level experience doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen more quickly if you implement formal executive development strategies.  So, how do you go about doing that?

Recruit smart
Recruit for the current job you’re filling and for potential.  Look for candidates with entrepreneurial experience, who’ve successfully launched and developed initiatives with past employers, problem-solvers and go-getters.  Consider this, employees who see potential for growth, receive on-the-job training, feel challenged and engaged are more likely to stay with the company longer.  If you’re constantly developing new skills and see plenty of room for advancement, why would you leave?

Promote from within
Promote from within and give employees the opportunity to learn about other areas within the company that interest them.  Long term management succession planning is one of the most effective ways to retain good talent.  Jeff Immelt, C.E.O. of G.E., explains their succession planning philosophy as such: “You don’t become C.E.O. for what you know, you become C.E.O. for how fast we think you can learn.” In other words, identify the key individuals most likely to fill executive positions should they become available and focus on developing the skill set necessary to prepare those individuals for the next level.

Consider developing a mentorship program to strengthen your succession planning. 71% of Fortune 500 companies have a formal professional mentorship program in place specifically to promote from within and retain talent.  Surprisingly, a formal mentorship program benefits both the mentee and the mentor.  In a Gartner case study it was observed “mentors were promoted six times more often than those not in the program; mentees were promoted five times more often than those not in the program; and retention rates were much higher for mentees (72%) and mentors (69%) than for employees who did not participate in the mentoring program (49%).”

Train to retain
Your employees are one of your most valuable assets, so invest in them.  Think professional development, conferences and certifications.  If you’re going to pay for a certification or degree, stipulate the employee must remain with the company for a certain amount of time or pay back the cost in full.

One of the most successful executive training tools senior living facilities can implement is creating an Associate Executive Director role.  The Associate role acts as an Executive Director training program and is incredibly effective because employees have been trained according to your company standards and within your culture, making them a natural fit, someone who will acclimate quickly and contribute immediately once promoted.

This relationship can also work within the sales and marketing departments in either a formal or informal capacity.  The key is creating a corporate culture wherein employees are engaged and committed to helping those with less experience and expertise.

Create an evolving culture
Workplace culture is changing and will continue to change in the next 15 years; it’s the rise of the Millennials (individuals born between 1981 and 1995).  By 2020 Millennials will represent 50% of the US workforce and are the generation from which you’re most likely to find your developing executives.  Every generation has its defining characteristics, and Millennials are often labeled as tech-savvy and entitled, and dismissed.  What is almost always overlooked is the Millennial generation is highly passionate about social causes and communities, thereby making them excellent candidates for the senior living industry.   Start evolving your workplace culture now to appeal to Millennials.  Develop a reputation as an early adopter of technologies, tout a strong work/life balance and implement a quarterly review system to offer Millennials the job performance feedback they need.

Identifying and developing the next generation of senior living executives isn’t going to happen overnight, and that’s exactly why you should begin now.  Make no mistake, the Baby Boomers are coming and with them comes an increased demand in the senior living industry.  Beginning to plan now for the inevitable puts you in an enviable position in the future.

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