Brain Drain: Industry survey points to major shortage of CIOs in coming years

For healthcare IT workers eager to move up into the ranks of CIOs and other senior hospital management, the future has never been brighter. That's according to a new industry survey conducted by HIT recruiting firm Kirby Partners, which interviewed 350 members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

The survey questioned respondents on their future career plans, and while the median age of those in the survey was 54 (ages ranged from 32 to 67), 47% of these executives indicated they plan to retire in the next 10 years. Additionally, a third of respondents expect their CEO to retire within the next four years, which will also likely contribute to CIO turnover reaching record highs in the near future.

Of the executives who responded to the survey (72% of them CIOs), 31% said they planned to retire directly from their current position. The remaining 69% said they planned to transition into other roles. An equal number of respondents plan to transition into the CIO position or into a new hospital management role (27% each). Notably, 11% plan to seek employment outside of the hospital setting.

The most interesting detail from this survey is that only 27% of current CIOs will seek another CIO position in healthcare. This means that with increased turnover expected due to retirement and industry movement, there will be fewer qualified individuals to fill the increased job opportunities. That presents a challenge for healthcare facilities, but it offers tremendous opportunity for those eager to climb the corporate ladder.

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Previous research conducted by Kirby Partners indicated that the most common reasons for leaving the healthcare sector were:

1. To pursue better compensation

2. To seek out jobs with less stress and/or better work-life balance

The takeaway here is that as it struggles to implement the best and most cost-effective uses of technology, healthcare continues to be a pressure-filled industry.
These imminent changes in staffing levels highlight the need for organizations to prepare for increasing turnover, but few have any type of succession plan. In fact, more than half of the respondents say their organization lacks someone groomed and ready to replace senior management.

Succession planning should be a priority. Done correctly, it ensures a successful transition when executive leaders step aside and younger employees take over. Several organizations have found success by identifying up-and-comers and implementing mentoring and other initiatives to prepare them for leadership roles in the next five to 10 years.

Overall, this survey represents tremendous opportunity for those seeking increased responsibility and executive roles in healthcare IT. For younger employees with these aspirations, this means seeking out a mentor, obtaining an advanced degree, and acquiring the new skills that will prepare them to step up and fill the void left by departing senior executives.

Judy Kirby is President and CEO of Kirby Partners, an executive search firm specializing in healthcare IT for the past 23 years.

Fight the healthcare IT talent war with these hiring tactics

By Judy Kirby
With demand exceeding supply for some healthcare IT jobs, hospitals and other providers cannot afford to drag their feet when looking to fill open positions. With that in mind, here is a list of best practices for hiring the best employees possible.

Develop a project plan and timeline

Top healthcare organizations approach the hiring process with a detailed project plan and timeline agreed upon by all key stakeholders. They begin by thoroughly outlining the position requirements and specifications to determine exactly what they are looking for in a candidate prior to starting the search process. They ensure key decision-makers are in agreement about the type of candidate they believe will be successful in the position. By working out the specifications in the beginning, they avoid wasting time on ill-equipped candidates.

Act quickly and decisively

Top candidates are not available long, and numerous companies lose their perfect candidate to an organization that simply moved faster. Consulting firms, in particular, are nimble in their hiring process and most seem to move at lightning speed to acquire top talent.

Compare candidates to the job, not to each other

To streamline the hiring process, compare each candidate to the job requirements and focus on each individual's fit with the organization rather than comparing candidates against each other. Comparing candidates typically lengthens the hiring timeline and is less effective in identifying those individuals who will be most successful at an organization.

Keep the end in mind

Despite the need to act quickly, top-performing organizations always hire based on long-term organizational objectives versus short-term needs. While some organizations take too long, others rush the hiring process or place too much emphasis on finding the "cheapest" option, instead of finding a quality candidate who will have a meaningful tenure and be a star performer.

Recognize that candidates want to be courted

The best organizations recognize the importance of courting top talent in today's market, and they understand that open communication throughout the hiring process, as well as timely feedback, are critical. They understand that candidates are judging them on efficiency and how well they communicate throughout the process. Too often, organizations lose top candidates due to lack of communication and positive reinforcement throughout the hiring process.

By incorporating these best practices into the hiring process, organizations can overcome the challenges of today's market and can ensure they're acquiring top healthcare IT talent.

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