When there is a job opening, it is important to determine the skills, the challenges and understand the motivation to fill the position. The board needs to have a clear communication plan and goal for their hospital/health system.
As the chief human resource officer (CHRO), you may play a role in the search for the new CEO. These are five essential things to know in the very first 48 hours of a planned or unexpected CEO departure.
Who will be in charge?
The first thing the hospital board must do is decide who will be the search committee chair – essentially who will drive the process. Followed by which individuals will be on the search committee. As the CHRO, it is your responsibility to learn what role you will play. Reach out to the chairman of the board to learn more about your specific role.
Expectation & Deliverables.
Next, the search committee needs to establish the expected time frame of the entire process. Most retirements are announced a few months in advance. However, if an executive decides to resign, they are only required to leave a typical notice, which usually ranges from 60-90 days max.
Whatever the circumstance is, there needs to be a succession plan in place. If there was little to no notice, the organization might need to hire an interim leader. Either way, the succession plan is critical when your CEO resigns.
Whether it is 90 days or a year notice, the board must understand that filling an executive position requires a sense of urgency.
With your position, during this step it is important to ensure that the expectations and deliverables fit with the organization’s policies.
How do we cover the gaps?
If this was an unexpected departure, the organization needs to know who will be taking on the CEO responsibilities during the transition time. There is always an option to bring in an interim leader who can steer the organization and continue crucial projects during the placement process.
One option is for the search committee to promote someone internally for a short period. If the internal candidate is a good executive placeholder then the board might consider them for the permanent position. Alternatively, the board will need to communicate that they might only need them to act as the chief executive officer for a short period. Placing an interim leader from within might be easier, but the board runs the risk of sending mixed signals to internal candidates. The board must also think about what happens to the responsibilities of the current executive that will be taking over. Usually, the internal candidate ends up wearing two hats. They feel overwhelmed, and some responsibilities are placed on hold until the arrival of the new CEO.
The board needs to establish priorities. Even the best interims can’t do everything. They need to have a conversation around what areas they need to address, and which projects can be put on hold. During this process chief human resource officers help the board establish their priorities by ensuring the strategies to cover the gap align with the organization’s mission and business objectives.
The board needs to answer and think about urgent questions like “what are the critical situations they are facing as an organization with this departure?” or “What does this exit mean for the organization and community?”
If it is an unexpected vacancy or a planned one, there will be a shift within the organization. Team members might be concerned about the new leader or even worried about the direction of leadership and the hospital. It is up to the board to ensure that the organization has a consistent message around what they are doing, what the process is and assure each member of the hospital that this will be a positive transition.
However, every communication strategy comes with crucial areas where challenges can arise. It’s essential to create a clear and consistent message to calm everyone down. As the CHRO, help the board formulate a message that will ensure that every employee knows that the organization will be okay during this process. Leaders must be present, thoughtful and deliberate with their actions. It comes down to leading with their hearts.
Address the search strategy.
Finally, boards should address the search strategy. One option is to partner with Tyler & Company or an outside search firm. Another option is to conduct the search process internally. Next, they must evaluate their succession plan. During this step, your role is to help the board understand that developing a search strategy should not be the first thing they should attempt but instead make sure step one is addressed, and everyone knows who is in charge.
Knowing what to do in the first 48 hours of a planned or an unexpected departure is crucial. It’s up to the leaders to stop the rumors that sometimes occur when a CEO decides to leave. The unnecessary gossip diminishes productivity. The more uncertainty is directly correlated with high-level to low-level positions. Deciding who will be the search committee chair, expectation and deliverables, how to cover the gaps, communication strategy and addressing the search strategy are vital in the first 48 hours of a planned or unplanned departure.