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Case Study

The Ottawa Hospital Boosts Its Executive Leadership Health with Talent Development


The Ottawa Hospital

Recognized for outstanding patient care, education, and research, The Ottawa Hospital is one of the largest teaching hospitals in Canada and one of the Ottawa area's main employers. A community of 1.5 million relies on its services, which include specialty practices in rehabilitation, cancer, heart, kidney, and vision care.


Developing a talent management initiative

When the health of 1.5 million people relies on your organization performing at its best, you can't leave anything to chance. That's why The Ottawa Hospital chose Global Knowledge to design a talent management initiative that would assess the executive team for development opportunities, target competency gaps, provide development solutions, and potentially uncover a CEO successor in their midst. The result is a high impact program that builds individual leadership capacity in alignment with organizational vision, increases engagement, and reduces the risks associated with succession.

With several senior executives at The Ottawa Hospital nearing retirement age, the board of governors mandated that some form of succession planning be set in place. Typical succession planning entails identifying a few promising candidates to be groomed for senior positions, and in certain situations this approach works well. But the hospital's CEO and HR department saw a need to both fill the organization's senior pipeline and boost overall leadership capacity. A broader executive talent development program that incorporated succession planning made the most sense.

In 2008, the hospital's HR department had already begun to identify the competencies for various leadership roles throughout the organization. Now it needed help designing a comprehensive development program that targeted those competencies. As luck would have it, someone from HR had recently attended a Global Knowledge presentation outlining success factors for succession management and was impressed by the firm's expertise and methodology. Over a few in-depth discussions, Global Knowledge sketched out a plan that would assess for strengths among the executive team, target competency gaps for development, and potentially identify a future CEO. The Ottawa Hospital was confident that they'd found their development partner.


Talent management blueprints, success profiles, and coaching opportunities

Global Knowledge worked closely with the HR department to design a high impact talent management program that builds individual leadership capacity in alignment with the hospital's long-term vision. The first step was to create a Talent Management Blueprint, a mutually understood planning document that described the program goals and outlined its implementation. Because Global Knowledge knew the program's success depended on a high level of engagement at the top, many activities involved senior executive participation or feedback, giving these key stakeholders an authentic sense of ownership over the process.

The higher an employee moves through any organization, the greater the impact of their personal characteristics, strengths and development needs. The Ottawa Hospital and Global Knowledge teams worked together to create detailed Success Profiles for each executive position. Covering four key factors in an individual's success-Competencies, Knowledge, Experience and Personality Traits-these profiles clarified what executives need to be high performers at different levels. Next came an intensive diagnostic phase that identified individual strengths and development requirements, and uncovered people with the potential to move up in the organization. The team used an arsenal of 360˚ surveys, knowledge and experience surveys, and personal characteristics inventories. These assessments were culled into individual profiles, which were then compared to the relevant Success Profile.

Delivering the results of the assessment phase was turned into a coaching opportunity. A Global Knowledge coach debriefed each executive individually, offering guidance for improving in his or her role. The CEO and, when appropriate, the COO sat in on a portion of each executive's session. Their active participation ensured they understood the full impact of the assessment results for their direct reports, and reinforced the CEO's and COO's own coaching roles within each executive's development journey.

Devising individual development plans that would maximize each executive's performance was the final step. Rather than simply prescribe a plan, the team challenged each executive to create his or her own plan based on feedback received. That plan was reviewed by the Global Knowledge coach, the CEO and COO, presented to the Board, and then put into action.


HR team sets clear direction for future development efforts

One of the most tangible results of the Talent Management initiative is the thorough analysis and documentation of talent assets at the executive level. The hospital now has a pipeline of leadership talent within the organization, with a number of candidates being groomed for top roles. The board also has a clear understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities at the hospital's senior level, which has reduced the risk associated with succession. Furthermore, by establishing the requirements for effective leadership, the HR team has a clear direction for future development efforts, as well as hiring practices.

The Success Profiles in particular serve as a concrete reminder to all involved that leadership skills must evolve as an employee moves up through the org chart. What works in one role may not in another. Within this context, executive performance critiques could be heard-and even welcomed-without the personal sting that can sometimes accompany individual assessments. Participants understood that the program's diagnostics were a way to map their paths to success. And because the Success Profile are so thorough, participants trust that the development actions being taken are designed to maximize their chance of success.

The process sent a message to executives that the organization is invested in their professional development and wants to see them thrive in their careers. The hospital has a relatively young and very ambitious senior team whose members praise the Talent Management initiative as an opportunity to learn and grow in their roles. What's more, they know that their individual development plans serve as documentation of their value to the organization, now and in the future. Most importantly, they have internalized what they've learned and are making a concerted effort to improve their personal leadership performance. Overall, the Global Knowledge solution has reenergized the hospital's executive team, and everyone, including the board, is excited to continue the work.