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As CEO Turnover Rate Drops, So Does Job Satisfaction

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, March 18, 2011

Numbers have a strong power to influence. In persuasive arguments, either Benjamin Disraeli or Mark Twain once said that there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics -- statistics, by Twain's reputation, presumably being the most potentially fraudulent of the three. Statistics, however, can be useful and enlightening nevertheless. The lie is not usually in the statistics themselves, but in how they are used to support or detract from an argument.

In that vein of thinking, I have information from two surveys to share with you this week about hospital CEO turnover rates and job satisfaction, and I'll try not to lie in my interpretation of what they might mean.

First, in a report released by the American College of Healthcare Executives this week, hospital CEO turnover was found to have decreased slightly in 2010, at about 16% nationwide, down from a historically high rate of 18% in 2009.

Before that, according to the report, turnover fluctuated between 14% and 16% between 2001 and 2008. Thomas Dolan, the president and CEO of the organization, calls the 16% number "still too high."

Well, that's a matter of opinion and perspective. Certainly, turnover among the highest ranks of such complex organizations can be disruptive, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, such disruption, especially if the CEO is not effectively leading the organization to growth and higher quality care, can be an exceptionally positive thing.

However you feel about CEO turnover, one metric in our HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey 2011, might better explain part of the story. In short, CEO job satisfaction has shrunk significantly the past three years we've been tracking it. Indeed, since 2009, when our survey was first conducted, the percentage of CEOs who rate themselves as "very satisfied" with their overall job satisfaction has shrunk from 49% in 2009, to 45% in 2010, to 37% in 2011. That's certainly not a good trend line.

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