As healthcare professionals, we are in the business of steering the mission, vision and values of our healthcare organizations. It is a part of our daily activities in that everything we do is geared towards achieving organizational strategic goals. Strategic management is thought of as an essential element for successful healthcare organizational management. Applying strategic thinking towards organizational activities and processes allows healthcare organizational managers to proactively craft how the organization’s business will be conducted (Tapera, 2014, p.123). Given that professionals work diligently towards the application of strategic management for their organization, should healthcare professionals apply strategic management to their careers? For healthcare professionals, the common answer is yes; but, what exactly is strategic management? This article addresses the definition of the term, its application to healthcare organizations and why healthcare professional should apply it to managing their careers.
Throughout the body of literature that is healthcare management, the utilization of strategic management has become as important as patient safety. For healthcare professionals, strategic management entails the development and implementation of organizational resources to achieve sustainable objectives and goals (Schermerhorn, 2007). The healthcare professional generally oversees and directs their personnel towards achieving the organization’s mission, vision, and values, while always considering the organization’s bottom line (Walston, 2018). Understanding the organization’s strategic plan is so important that most organizations who fail to sustain their strategic plan often influence organizational financial sustainment. When effectively implemented, strategic management “integrates various functions” as specified by Swayne et. al (2006, p. 18).
Table 1: Strategic Management Model for Healthcare Institutions (Swayne et al., 2006, p. 18)
-Generate New Ideas
Planning the Implementation
-Service Delivery Strategies
-Re-initiate Strategic Thinking
As with anything in healthcare, there are limits, challenges, and benefits to organizational success when utilizing strategic management. To ensure proper implementation, individuals and organizations should identify potential pitfalls, which appear in the form of external influences. Organizational stakeholders must identify strategic management influences and ensure alignment is applied. If external influences are not aligned, strategic management processes can veer into inconsequential areas, hence impacting organizational revenue, resources, and time (Huseyin, 2018). Placing limits on the scope of strategic management ensures a narrowly tailored focus on strategic goals and initiatives. It also prohibits strategic stakeholders from message creep towards potential pitfalls.
Moreover, with limits comes challenges to remaining focused. Strategic management requires discipline towards organizational strategical goals, hence the challenges. Navigating stakeholder discipline can be tiresome if all stakeholders are not in alignment with the organization. Team stakeholders must be well-versed in all aspects of the overall strategic plan to ensure challenges are minimal. Allowing for stakeholder inclusion requires thinking strategically and assigning responsibilities to organizational stakeholders (Goldman, 2012). When stakeholders are required to think strategically as a part of the overall strategic organizational plan, it reduces external organizational threats through stakeholder understanding and focus on organizational objectives, therefore enhancing benefits.
Strategic management leads to the ultimate organizational objective…increasing the bottom line. Make no mistake, although healthcare organizations are in the service to providing the highest quality of care to their customers, patients; they are also in business to generate profits. In strategic management application, applying the healthcare balanced scorecard allows healthcare organizations to ensure their activities align with their strategic financial plan focused on organizational revenue for the next three to ten years. Additionally, strategic financial plan enhances the business model, market share and strategic positioning of healthcare services (Goldman, 2012; Kaplan & Norton, 1996; Walston, 2018).
For healthcare organizations, being able to ensure their financial viability is paramount, thus the inculcation of strategic management. Gone are the days where healthcare organizations focused on working for only current needs. As society has evolved, so have healthcare organizations the fusing strategic management into the fabric of the organizations allows for sustained financial and organizational growth. Since strategic management was established, it has assisted healthcare organizations in operating in a more efficient and effective manner. Utilizing strategic management paves the way for organizations to exceed traditional boundaries and seek growth marketplaces (Kim & Mauborgne, 2005).
Accompanying organizational growth, by way of strategic management implementation, are the employees that implement all aspects of strategic management. Healthcare organization employees serve as the fabric for each organization in that they ensure strategic management is successfully implemented. Therefore, if healthcare organizations have an employee revolving door, then the financial future of the organization is potentially jeopardized. As organizations grow and their employees desire advancement, ensuring employee security means employees should be highly trained and compensated accordingly. When the latter does not occur, employees tend to seek employment elsewhere. Ensuring they are prepared for such a transition is essential.
When you think about the process that healthcare professionals undertake to gain employment or transition from employment (e.g., another position, retirement), applying strategic management to their employment search process should follow a similar methodology to what is applied to healthcare organizations. This involves conducting a comprehensive analysis of the situation, identifying potential obstacles, establishing a clear objective, and developing a strategy to execute and reach identified goals. For a healthcare Information Technology (IT) professional a well-defined career path is not always available; therefore, the application of strategic management processes may serve as a catalyst for ensuring strategy is applied to their career.
To effectively apply strategic management to career management, it is essential to understand its definition. Walston (2018) provides a comprehensive definition of strategic management, which can be applied to individual career management. The application of Walston’s (2018) strategic management definition can be applied as such:
“Strategic Career Management is: Overseeing and directing professional and career activities in your current organization to ensure professional and personal achievements in support of the organization’s mission and vision; includes designing career advancement structures, plans and measures geared towards professional and personal goals.”
It is important to note it can be modified to fit any situation, more importantly, it can be applied to ensure preparation for career opportunities. Strategic management involves several steps for successful outcomes. These steps may be written differently, depending on which source your consult, however, they usually include:
The application of strategic management to your career may increase the effectiveness of your goal. However, it should not be construed as a silver bullet because it is not infallible. It can, if properly applied, serve as a tremendous asset to your career management.
The process of strategic career management is fluid, impactful and let’s face it, stressful. Job satisfaction is equally stressful, especially when an employee is unhappy. As a healthcare IT professional, ensuring job satisfaction may equate to preparing for employment change. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, every workplace has been changed and employers were forced to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, which included increased employee stress. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, occupational stress accounted for 50-60% and attributed to lost working days (Hoboubi et. Al., 2017, p. 67). Conversely, since the COVID-19 pandemic, stress amongst americans has increased tremendously. According to the American Psychological Association Americans were profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and previous sources of stressed remained problematic (APA, 2020, p. 1). Therefore, to properly prepare for career change, addressing the level and source of individual stress is a factor to be reviewed and applied to the change process.
Preparing for change must involve the creation of a plan. The cultural saying, “People do not plan to fail, they fail to plan” surely applies to change preparation. The development of a plan is essential to obtaining a desired position, however, healthcare IT professionals must remember to incorporate all factors to that plan. The creation of a plan to guide career change, synchronizes with strategic career management in that, preparation, inclusive of a plan and other tools, increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.
For strategic career management, COVID-19 created a seismic shift in how employees view employers. Traditionally, employers held all the cards. However, this is no longer the situation, and The Great Resignation has changed that perspective. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, work variation (onsite, remote, hybrid) became top priority for employees. The pandemic forced employees to re-think their employment status. Thus, employees were re-thinking their current employment and “more than 40% of all employees were thinking about leaving their jobs” (Sull, Sull & Zweig, 2022, p. 1). “Between April and September 2021, more than 24 million American employees left their jobs” (BLS, 2021).
Although COVID-19 served as a catalyst for employees to re-think their employment, it was not the underlying issue. The Great Resignation exposed toxic workplaces and with the world virtually in “lock-down” and receiving subsidies from the federal government, it provided opportunities for employees to assess their situation. Moreover, those who were not laid-off, were forced to work remotely, which provided another avenue for employment not previously considered.
With employee attrition at an all-time high within America, traditional measures to recruit talented personnel need to be reevaluated. In contrast to historical influences that contribute to attrition (e.g., compensation, workload, etc.), additional influences have been highlighted. Such predictors as toxic culture, job insecurity, increased innovation, lack of recognition, are joined by lackluster or inept response to dealing with COVID-19 in the workplace ((Sull et. al, 2022, p. 3).
Gone are the days of traditional employee/employer relations. Today’s work environment has changed in response to the presence of COVID-19, its potential for resurgence and additional work modalities. Employees are now to apply strategic management to every aspect of their careers. This enables employees to locate and obtain positions of their choice. There are a tremendous amount of career options available to those who are prepared for any type of opportunity that comes their way.
American Psychology Association (2020). Stress in America 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis.
Goldman, E. F. (2012). Leadership practices that encourage strategic thinking. Journal of Strategy and Management, 5(1), 25-40.
Huseyin, E. (2018). Outsourcing in hospitals. In E. Alexandrova, NL. Shapenkova, A. Bilal & F. Ozcanaslan (Eds.), Health sciences research in the globalizing world (pp. 1020-1032). St. Kliment Ohridski University Press, Sofia.
Kim, W. C. & Mauborgne, R.(2005). Blue Ocean Strategy: From Theory to Practice. California Management Review, 47(3), pp. 105-121.
Kaplan, R.S. & Norton, D.P. (1996). Using the balanced scorecard as a strategic management system. Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb, 1-13.
Schermerhorn, J. R. Jr. (2007). Management 9e, John Wiley&Sons, Inc., Hoboken New Jersey.
Sull, D., Sull, C. & Zweig, B. (2022). Toxic culture is driving the great resignation. ACMP NORCAL. Retrieved April 1 from ACMP Nor Cal (acmpnorcalchapter.org).
Swayne, E.L., Duncan, W.J., Ginter, M.P. (2006). Strategic Management of Healthcare Organizations. 5th. Cornwall: Blackwell Publishing.
Tapera, J. (2014). The importance of strategic management to business organizations. Research Journal of Social Sciences & Management, 3(11), 122-131.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey,” Retrieved April 1 from www.bls.gov. The data represents seasonally adjusted quits for total nonfarm employers in the U.S. from April through September 2021.
Walston, S. L. (2018). Strategic Healthcare Management: Planning and Execution. Chicago: Health Administration Press.