Building bench strength –assessment, investment and consistency — is an important human capital strategy for healthcare organizations. It is a strategy that will be an important foundation for an organization’s future success. Or survival.

The assessment piece is easy — evaluating senior leaders, managers, and all those hourly workers who are the heart and soul of whether an organization is great or mediocre, successful, or on the road to crisis and failure. A CEO who is not engaged in this process, who is not familiar with top, middle and low performers is missing an important leverage point for success.

Investment is a little tougher to master. Far too many hospitals and other providers by thought, word and deed treat their human capital as an expense that is tangential to success. In a time of Medicare reductions, those we know about today and those we will learn about as this nation’s debt crisis continues over the next 15 to 20 years, it is counterintuitive to make investments in leadership, management and performance development initiatives, especially if an organization has always skimped in the past.  Most human capital specialists who work in the healthcare arena argue that this is no longer a discretionary investment but essential spending.  

Consistency.  This is truly the hardest hurdle to overcome. CEOs who do not see talent acquisition and development as a critical part of their job struggle with this the most. They begin with great intentions but then slip back to duties and issues about which they are more comfortable, or  about which they believe are more critical to the success of day-to-day operations.  Changing innate patterns takes time, energy and a trusted coach.  Randy Guttenberger, CBA, a JGSA associate and founder of CEROS, an executive coaching and team building consultancy, says that CEOs must rewire how they look at their role as a leader, their priorities as well as the underlying beliefs that drive daily behavior. Building a great team is not something that just happens.  It takes a focused effort and a willingness to adjust core values regarding how CEOS view their jobs along with a willingness to delegate operational matters that other team members can easily handle.  

Developing bench strength is a more cost effective and less risky approach to meeting management or leadership needs.  This is not rocket science but you must be willing to assess, invest and then be the type of consistent leader who says — and who is a true believer — that people are an organization’s most important asset.

© 2010 John Gregory Self