Here is a story from one of our clients that you may find interesting;
Things were in good shape in our revenue cycle management process. Metrics and the Dashboard indicated that we were current in billing, follow-up, and cash application. Denials were under control. Days were low. Patient complaints were handled promptly. You get the picture.
I attributed a lot of this sustained success to one of our team members (let’s call her “Julie”) who had been with us a long time and had worked effectively in patient access, billing and denial management. Julie was very knowledgeable about our system, got along well with coworkers and had good social skills. A model employee!
Passing the Patient Accounts Torch
When our Patient Accounts Manager retired, we were tasked to fill the vacancy. The Patient Accounts Manager had done a great job so this was not a “turnaround.” He was a natural leader, knew the technical side of the business and understood the multidisciplinary processes and relationships that are so important in RCM.
We thought Julie deserved a shot at this position and that she could apply her technical knowledge in a management capacity. Our management team was unanimous that we should offer her the opportunity, so we did not initiate a search nor did we engage an interim manager. It was understood that the management team would all mentor her in the transition. We offered Julie the position and she was flattered and delighted to accept so we introduced the change.
After a short few months, performance began to slip. Morale declined. Julie was stressed and unhappy. Team members and colleagues came to grips that they had made a mistake promoting Julie to a management position.
The result was that they
- lost Julie, one of their best technicians
- burdened the organization with poor management
- are now in the costly process of recovering.
5 Lessons for Filling Vacancies
Here are six learnings that can be applied when vacancies occur:
- Consider the entire universe of talent that is available to fill the vacancy instead of limiting your search to internal candidates. It is not about who is deserving or qualified – it’s about who is best.
- Give yourself time to make informed decisions that will serve you well in the long term. It is often advisable to bring in interim management services to get you through the vacancy transition until permanent leadership can be identified and hired or promoted.
- Recognize that being a great technician is an entirely different skillset than being a great manager but no less important. Other countries have embraced this and redefined culture so that technicians can advance their “status” and compensation on a scale equal to managers.
- Succession planning is not just for the C-Suite. Every position in the organization is important or you probably would not have it there in the first place. Design a plan that addresses what you would do in the event of vacancy for each position. It is not necessary to name a successor, but it is important to have a plan. For example, would you promote from within, reorganize, engage interim help, rely on internal recruiting or go outside for talent acquisition? The answer may vary from one position to the next.
- If you have your eye on a candidate for internal promotion, assess training and development needs well ahead of offering the promotion. Let the person know what development goals they would have to accomplish in order to advance and invest in them.
- If you are in a rural community or a location where the talent pool is limited, you have a “make or buy” decision when filling a vacancy. If you decide to “make”, it is imperative that training resources are prepared and that you have the time to allow an inexperienced person to get up to speed. You must also be prepared to quickly assess the capability of the new hire to absorb the training and be effective in your organization. Hiring inexperienced staff is expensive and can be a distraction to the rest of the team. However if you decide to “buy”, you should expect highly trained candidates with strong experience. The training curve is minimized and you have the opportunity to vet a range of talent. Often, you can introduce interim management resources that strengthen your human capital “gene pool” and elevate overall performance that is sustainable.
Perhaps these ideas will help you avoid losing your best technician while making an ill-advised promotion.