The senior care and living industry is in a constant state of flux: staffing shortages, regulatory changes, mergers and acquisitions, vaccine mandates, and changes in leadership. We are an industry that has had to learn to be nimble, operate lean, and be able to pivot and adapt during major crises. Every leadership transition creates uncertainty as organizations try to stay on track to be profitable with their leaders’ vision and create sustainability. When a new leader comes on board there are always questions:

  • Are they going to keep the current team in place or assemble a new one?
  • Will the new leader be successful?
  • If the new leader stays, how are we going to get through this?

Successful or not, leadership transitions are extremely costly. Not only do they involve advertising, recruiting expenses, sign-on bonuses, and overhead of HR professionals in the search for the right executive, but there are also significant business costs that stack up when replacing key leadership positions. In some instances, the cost of replacing a key leadership position is estimated to be 213 percent of the annual salary. If you don’t have an exit strategy when you do have leadership transition, you run the risk of losing critical operational time while conducting an executive search for the right person. It’s imperative that you have a strategy for this vacancy as well as gap coverage in place to keep things running while finding a more permanent solution.

Below are a few tips to consider during a leadership transition:

Communicate Often

When you have top-level leaders changing, it’s important for you to communicate the plan to your team directly. We’ve seen this done in one-on-one format or in small group settings, depending on the size of the organization. The team in place shouldn’t have to wait to see a company email announcing the resignation of a key leader. An important thing to consider during a leadership vacancy is who will absorb which duties to keep the business afloat. Make sure to keep communication open and transparent and advocate for them to be a part of the solution while also addressing any concerns in a positive manner. Transparent communication with the current team is an important trust/bonding function when temporarily coverage is necessary.

Gain buy-in from your current leadership staff to help cover the vacancy in a time of need. This can be done short term, but any longer than a couple weeks, and you will need to have a more effective coverage plan in place to keep all the wheels moving the right direction. Internal coverage plans tend to rob from other departments that need to keep their full attention on other matters.

Focus on Top Priorities

Only the exiting leader knows the true day-to-day duties they have been following up with and executing. It may seem like a lot to take on—and it is—but it’s important to sit down with stakeholders, develop a communication plan, and have the exiting leader document what they have been focusing on and what needs to be done in the next 30, 60, and 90 days so the team doesn’t lose traction. Building out a transition plan for someone else to take on is critical as it creates a roadmap for the oncoming leader to help drive forward the initiatives and company goals that were being worked on.

Onboarding the Successor

In a perfect world, you want the exiting leader to have some time with the new one to help them understand the culture and current initiatives you have been focusing on. However, sometimes the timing doesn’t work out or you don’t want that person onboarding the new leader due to a needed culture change. Whatever the current situation is in the organization, you must put a plan in place. This plan should focus on who is providing the training and onboarding as well as introduce them to the team and policies and procedures. But more importantly, the plan should inform them of what the organization’s focus is, what the culture is like, and what the vision is for the future. Change is hard, both for the organization and the new leader coming in, so what resources can you employ to make sure your newly transitioned employee has a successful onboarding?

Allow Time for Transition:

Our industry is complex and takes time for people to learn all the intricacies of operations, teams, and changing regulations. It isn’t the first 100 days anymore. In our industry, a true transition—in which the leader fully embraces and understands the organizational direction—is more likely to take a year. New leaders need time to get to know vendors, boards, families, residents, employees, and their communities, so be patient and allow for time to see success.

Every organization is different, but we all want to be successful and drive positive results with a solid reputation. Without a plan and strategy in place for leadership transition, it’s nearly impossible to do these things. Be sure to have a SMART strategy from the get-go by setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive goals.

As a national leader in senior care and living management and consulting services, Health Dimensions Group is uniquely positioned to assist organizations currently facing obstacles with leadership changes through our interim and permanent leadership recruiting efforts. If you are struggling to secure the leaders you need, we can help. For more information, please contact us at or 763.537.5700.