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Non-Performers or Just a Bad Fit?

July 20, 2010
by Tim Tolan
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It's Time to Assess Your Employees to Make Sure you are Making the Best Use of Their Talents
Tim Tolan
Tim Tolan

As the overall job market begins to show some signs of making a recovery, we in the healthcare IT marketplace are bracing ourselves for what will likely be some very explosive growth. While it's always exciting to think about all of the great things that come with a hyper-growth industry, it's important to make sure you don't take your eye off the ball when it comes to how your team is performing against expectations.

Even with the projected spike in hiring and the dire predictions of a workforce shortage in healthcare IT, each member of your team should be performing at or above their goals and objectives. If not, you as CIO simply can't afford to have non-performers on your team-and right now is a great time to assess the talent you currently have in place to make sure your organization can “scale” as the great HCIT Tsunami of 2010 makes its way to your organization. It's never fun to deal with non-performers, and there has never been a time in our industry where you simply can't afford to have them on-board. But the real question is, “are they really non-performers” or simply in the wrong position on your team?

This market should force us all to make sure we have the right people on the bus-and to make sure they are in the right seat

I always like to suggest some discovery in dealing with non-performers. Here's a list to get you started:

Identify the main cause for the non-performance (role, skill set, personal issues, or poor communication with management).

Identify key action points to correct the problem, and document your findings.

Establish specific written goals and objectives with the employee, with clear milestones and enough time to correct the problem; have him or her sign off to document the plan.

Provide genuine support to the person to allow him to turn the situation around and find a way to get back on track or, if skill set is the issue, find another role that he might be better suited for given his skills.

Meet with the employee weekly to discuss his progress or lack thereof.

If the employee is unable to turn things around, develop a plan and have him exit the organization with dignity.

But wait! Let's make sure it's truly a performance issue. This market should force us all to make sure we have the right people on the bus-and to make sure they are in the right seat. Many times employees who are not doing well in one role will jump at the chance to learn a new skill or take on an entirely different position in the organization, and flourish if given the chance. If the reasons they were underperforming were based on external factors, attitude or poor communication with their manager-that probably should warrant further discovery on your part.

In this market, it will be challenging to grow and retain a stable of high-performing healthcare IT talent. We have already seen a big spike in demand, and it's only going to get worse. My advice to you is make sure you have exhausted all options before you make the decision to terminate an employee who could be a “star” in another role in your organization. I'm afraid the supply and demand for healthcare IT talent has tipped the scales, and we will all be forced to deal with talent issues in new ways to remain competitive in this (soon to be) explosive market.

Tim Tolan is senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice.

He can be reached at or at (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at /contributors/tim-tolan.

Healthcare Informatics 2010 August;27(8):46