Healthcare firms seeking to fill important leadership positions will often elicit the services of premiere healthcare executive recruiters to conduct their searches. It makes sense for myriad reasons, particularly in this extremely competitive marketplace where talent is at a premium as the most experienced and talented executives are often pursued by several companies at any one time.
Premiere healthcare executive recruiters have the established networks, personal relationships, and battle-tested policies and practices in place to move quickly to identify and screen potential candidates, build robust and diverse candidate pools, assist in the selection of finalists, and participate in offer negotiations to secure the individual who is the right match for the job. Not all healthcare executive recruiters are the same. Some are more focused than others on specific geographic markets or nonprofits versus industry, but others, like Slone Partners, are nationwide and serve clients in multiple healthcare categories.
There are many challenges for healthcare executive recruiters who are seeking to fill top leadership positions across all four sectors of the industry – healthcare services and facilities; manufacturers of medical devices, equipment, and hospital supplies; medical insurance, medical services, and managed care; and pharmaceuticals and related segments. Companies operating in one sector may be looking for leaders with different skillsets and experience than companies operating in a different sector. The most respected and touted healthcare executive recruiters recognize the distinctions inherent in each company in each sector. Premier healthcare executive recruiters like Slone Partners are attuned to these distinctions and work closely with their client partners to ensure a smooth, efficient, and successful search. Each search process is slightly different, but all successful searches are characterized by five primary characteristics.
The most esteemed healthcare executive recruiters do their homework in order to learn everything possible about their client partners and the positions they seek to fill. Their preparation is designed to identify unique opportunities and challenges inherent in each search. They know the healthcare industry inside and out and pay close attention to market trends and leadership moves. Their research departments follow developments in the market through their industry involvement and keep their executive search teams updated. Firms like Slone Partners lead and participate in industry events, conferences, and workshops to learn, exchange information, and form connections. These important connections are what sets great healthcare executive recruiters apart from average ones.
Confidentiality and discretion are critically important in the talent acquisition business, so the best healthcare executive recruiters build relationships by earning the trust and respect of their client partners and candidates. All parties must feel comfortable knowing that privileged and sensitive information will remain private. Establishing that level of comfort is a tall order, but the most experienced and professional healthcare executive recruiters take the time and effort to do it, knowing that leadership searches will only succeed when there is a high level of trust, honesty, and mutual respect.
Developing relationships with prospects is also critically important, which is where the best healthcare executive recruiters bring demonstrable value to the table. They develop and maintain a healthy rolodex of candidates and networks that they can leverage immediately upon launching a search. Building and maintaining personal relationships with industry leaders is a priority for healthcare executive recruiters who know that a personal touch can make all the difference when seeking out candidates for open leadership positions. As Leslie Loveless, CEO of Slone Partners, wrote in a 2020 essay addressing new college graduates planning to enter the life sciences published in the California Business Journal, “Effective relationship building and maintenance will serve you well, not just now, but over the course of your career.”
3. Talent pools
At the end of the day, the most important function that healthcare executive recruiters perform is developing a pool of highly qualified prospective candidates to present to the client partner. The most proficient firms perform this function seamlessly, with great care and thought so that the pool of talent is both robust and diverse and meets the needs of the client. Companies in every sector are now more committed than ever to attracting more women and people of color. The gender imbalance in healthcare leadership is particularly acute as was reported in a 2018 essay in Harvard Business Review:
“Currently in the US, only 3% of healthcare CEOs are women, 6% are department chairs, 9% are division chiefs, and 3% are serving as chief medical officers. This is despite women comprising 80% of the healthcare workforce and evidence that having women in upper management and on corporate boards is associated with improved financial performance and enhanced accountability.”
With the objective of building a more diverse workforce, healthcare executive recruiters assist their client partners in crafting engaging and inclusive job descriptions to appeal to the widest and most qualified pool of potential candidates. Accurately identifying and articulating the leadership position specifications, based not on how it was defined in the past, but on how it will evolve in the future, is a critically important factor in attracting top-quality candidates.
And, while it is true that the healthcare industry as a whole is facing a serious talent shortage, a silver lining resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in the number of talented workers across the country who are now prepared to change jobs. This trend is an opportunity for healthcare executive recruiters to seek out talent outside of conventional sectors and networks. That said, the pressure is still on healthcare executive recruiters as they need to move quickly to keep top leadership candidates engaged before they are willing to entertain other offers.
Once the interviews are complete and the client partner has selected its top candidate, the difficult process of sealing the deal begins. As has been reported in Harvard Business Review, negotiations at any level can be tremendously stressful, but that stress is magnified when negotiating contract terms with a coveted healthcare leader in an extremely tight labor market. The most respected healthcare executive recruiters have vast experience in negotiations and will act as trusted partners with their client partners when they are at the table with the chosen candidate. They draw upon their experience to help keep the clients focused and resolute while keeping the process moving forward. Business consultant Harvey Mackay writes that “negotiation is not just about winning, it’s about win-win,” such that both sides ultimately get what they want. The most seasoned healthcare executive recruiters subscribe to this theory and take seriously their role in helping to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
Onboarding plans should be constructed long before the offer is accepted to ensure a smooth and efficient transition for the new leader once they are in place. The plans must be customized to meet the particular needs of the new leader and their company. Healthcare executive recruiters can assist with this process by drawing from previous experience working with other client partners in similar sectors.
The importance of onboarding cannot be overstated. Research by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) shows that as many as 50-to-70 percent of newly hired or promoted leaders fail within the first 18 months, and the challenges for new leaders are even greater today in the age of COVID-19 and remote workforces. The financial cost of losing one of these new leaders can often be enormous, several times the executive’s salary. Worse yet, when indirect costs such as lost business, botched relationships, business delays, and internal cultural damage are calculated, the losses can be staggering.
Research on organizational performance by McKinsey senior partners Scott Keller and Mary Meaney reveals that three-quarters of new executives consider themselves unprepared for their role because of inadequate onboarding processes. The study also showed that successful transitions can result in 90-percent higher likelihood that the team will meet their three-year performance goals and generate up to five percent more revenue and profit than average.
“When the transition is done well, the company is prepared for a new leader with a change agenda, and the new leader is more tuned in to power dynamics and how the culture will influence a strategy shift or what cultural changes will be necessary to support it,” writes Dan Ciampa in Harvard Business Review. “The transition establishes a solid path toward productive relationships between the CEO and key stakeholders—including, most crucially, board members.”
As a service to its client partners throughout the U.S., Slone Partners has partnered with Fortify Leadership Group to offer transition coaching to each of its newly-placed executive leaders, an extremely valuable service that many other healthcare executive recruiters do not offer.
Securing the most talented leaders for your life sciences organization can be daunting, but healthcare executive recruiters like Slone Partners, which was recently selected as one of the Top Workplaces 2021 by the Washington Post, can provide your team with the strategies, guidance, and support needed to ensure a smooth and successful executive search.