Committed to Diversity? 4 Things Hospital Leaders Should Stop Doing Now

The benefits of diversity in hospital executive leadership are well-established. A hospital with diverse leaders tend to enjoy higher profit margins, better employee retention and improved patient safety and outcomes. And yet, despite the fact that racial and ethnic minorities now make up nearly 40% of the U.S. population (not to mention the full half of the population who are women), their representation at the hospital leadership level is lagging. According to the American College of Healthcare Executives, only about 16% of C-suite executives are racial minorities and only 13% are women.

Kevin Hardy, director of executive and interim recruiting for HealthTechS3, has been a recruiter for the past 16 years, and he can attest to the challenges of increasing diversity in hospital leadership positions. “In order to actually increase diversity in healthcare leadership, the existing leadership needs to be committed to increasing diversity,” he says.

Then, it’s not always what you need to start doing; it’s just as important to stop doing things in order to be successful. To promote diversity in leadership, here are four things Hardy says hospitals should stop doing now.

Stop looking for candidates in the same places.

A recent survey on diversity in healthcare leadership found that white leaders say one of the biggest barriers to diversity is a lack of qualified candidates. Interestingly, when the same question was posed to non-white leaders, this wasn’t a top concern at all. Why? Hardy says it has a lot to do with where hospitals are looking for candidates. While LinkedIn, Indeed and ZipRecruiter might be fine places to find candidates, they shouldn’t be used exclusively in the executive search. Different people network in different ways, and those don’t always include having a strong LinkedIn presence. Source exclusively from any popular platform, and you’re missing out on candidates who place greater value on other, just as effective networking tools. Many minority groups have their own healthcare executive organization, such as the National Association of Health Services Executives, which promotes Black executives in leadership positions. The American College of Healthcare Executives has an executive diversity program, and there are Women’s Healthcare Executive Networks located all over the country. If you’re committed to diversity in executive hiring, Hardy says, these platforms should also be included in your search history.

Stop posting ineffective job descriptions.

It’s understandable that you have high expectations for your hospital leadership position, but too often Hardy sees job postings that have unrealistic qualifications and language that is not inclusive—and those will certainly fail to attract qualified diverse candidates. An inclusive job description is one that allows for a wide range of people to easily see themselves in that role. “Really limit your required skills to what is truly needed,” he says. “Job descriptions should solicit the skills that are reasonably available.” He cautions against rigid requirements like years of experience. “That’s why you see the same leadership being recycled over and over again,” he says. “A lot of those leaders, all they have in common is that they’ve been leaders and executives before. Just because someone hasn’t worked in the exact same setting or held that title before doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a good fit.”

Stop hiring based on gut instinct and intuition.

Studies show that decisions based on gut—or a subconscious feeling of comfort—include a certain amount of bias. The first kind is confirmation bias, or the tendency to favor information in a way that confirms one’s prior beliefs or values. Then there’s affinity bias, which is the unconscious tendency to get along with others who are like us. Unfortunately, Hardy says, “it’s hard to not to be biased.” To counter this unconscious urge, the hiring process needs consistency and structure. Hardy recommends utilizing a scorecard that allow for an objective comparison of each candidate.

Stop ignoring resistance to diversity in your organization.

Even if you manage to attract diverse candidates to your open leadership positions, you won’t get much farther than that if your organization is resistant. No one likes uncomfortable conversations, but, Hardy says, that’s what needs to happen in order to root out barriers to diversity. “It’s the elephant in the room,” he says. “It’s uncomfortable and no one wants to hurt feelings or look bad, so they just ignore it. But the fastest way to increase diversity is to get to the bottom of the resistance.”

Want help attracting diverse leaders to your hospital? From organizational consulting to executive recruiting, HealthTechS3 can set you up for success. Contact Kevin Hardy today at kevin.hardy@healthtechs3.com to learn more.