For all the challenges the pandemic has presented, it proved two important points. First, hospitals and health systems demonstrated that they could rapidly scale digital technologies to increase access and improve safety. Second, the value of having C-suite leaders who could lead and execute digital strategies in a crisis was paramount.
Nevertheless, digital transformation remains a work in progress and health care is still relatively early in this evolution. To truly succeed in digital transformation, organizations will need to carefully evaluate and elevate the technological and digital literacy of many top leaders, notes a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) report.
Long-established processes for selecting top executives in all fields are slow to change, the authors note, and technological and digital acumen now need to be considered part of the baseline expectations for leaders in all fields who set strategy and allocate resources. This is particularly true in health care, where the rapid pace of technological change encompasses nearly every aspect of clinical and business operations.
Closing the Digital Gap in Leader Recruitment
The search for tech and digital skills in job roles when recruiting was rising before the pandemic, but research shows that some top-level positions have been neglected in the process. In an analysis of more than 100 search specifications for C-suite positions in Fortune 1000 companies across a broad range of industries, the authors found that technological and/or digital skills were mentioned unevenly.
The specs analyzed for ideal candidates for positions like chief information officer, chief technology officer and chief marketing officer mentioned technological and digital expertise 100% of the time. When searching for roles such as CEO, chief financial officer or board directors, the mention of these skills fell between 40% and 60%. And while these findings aren’t specific to health care, they should be considered when filling the leadership pipeline.
Health care’s acceleration of digital transformation is disrupting and changing the roles of many health care C-suite leaders. The roles of chief information and chief operating officers, for example, are becoming increasingly intertwined and can educate senior leaders on how to extract the value of information technology (IT) to achieve its goals, noted Joel Vengco, senior vice president and chief information and digital officer at Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass., in a recent Becker’s Health IT report.
Ongoing shifts in job responsibilities also are creating a skills gap in many organizations’ leadership pipelines that necessitate major changes to talent strategy, the authors suggest. Some may need to rethink traditional promotion pathways. Searching for a digital-savvy CEO could mean appointing a candidate from further down the organizational chart. Job rotations that include a stint through tech functions also can be helpful.
Likewise, finding board members with a strong background in technology or digital transformation can be invaluable. As a Black Book poll conducted in 2019 found, 91% of hospital boards rely entirely on IT strategy and advisement rather than the technical expertise of trustees. The report notes that these sources are historically inclined to offer broad advice on vendor selection and the competitive landscape.
3 Ways CEOs Can Sharpen Their Digital Focus
Focus on Leading Organizational Change
Align the team around you with a clear strategy, and ensure that the strategy is clear across functional areas and work groups. You don’t need to be on the leading edge or at the forefront of technical proficiency but you do need to build the knowledge to lead organizational change.
Create the Right Culture
Culture can’t be neglected. CEOs must foster an innovative and creative culture that can reinforce technology-driven strategic shifts.
Surround Yourself with the Right Team
Create a seat at the table for those with vital expertise. Identify the voices that need to be heard and change organizational structure if needed to execute your digital transformation.