January 6, 2017 – The evolving healthcare sector has impacted executive search, resulting in emergence of top-flight recruiters such as Diversified Search managing director Martha Hauser. In her role as national practice leader for healthcare, Ms. Hauser has worked with hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, higher education and non-profit organizations in a career spanning 25 years.
In the following interview she details her background in educational psychology as it translates to executive search, how having two siblings in the medical profession helped her develop the creative thinking required in her role, and she discusses her firm’s acquisition of healthcare recruiter, BioQuest and its resultant work in the venture capital space.
Ms. Hauser holds graduate degrees in both Business Administration and Education from the University of Georgia, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree from Appalachian State University. Her executive search career accomplishments include opening the Atlanta office for Witt Kieffer in 1997. She was regional industry specialist for healthcare during her tenure at Spencer Stuart, and she had operational responsibility for the executive search practice while at Tyler & Company.
Martha, you’ve been a healthcare recruiter for over 30 years. But prior to entering the field, you had no experience in healthcare. How did that come to pass?
Perhaps it was destiny. I had a brief career as an educational psychologist before deciding to return to graduate school for an MBA. Afterward, I was offered a position with a small healthcare search firm based in Atlanta. Given that I have two sisters in healthcare – one a physician, the other a nurse – the idea of joining a healthcare recruiter just felt right. And I think my experience as an educational psychologist helped me adapt quickly and learn the process of executive search, because I knew a great deal about assessment and how to manage multiple cases, skills which have proven to be invaluable. You also have to remember that the healthcare system was far less complex than it is today; there wasn’t this constant onslaught of information that all of us deal with now, so I was able to learn and absorb the industry. I am fortunate to call myself a ‘lifelong learner’ – I never grow tired of learning about the changes in healthcare, and there are many, happening all the time. It’s dynamic and energizing to incorporate those changes and demands into the process of identifying the right leaders for the right healthcare organizations at the right time. I also believe that people are always better when doing something they love. I soon learned that I loved the highly intelligent people in healthcare, who are there because they have a sense of mission and purpose in their work. It’s a gift to find a career where you feel that you are in the place that you belong, that you are making a difference.
Much of your recruiting work has been with hospitals and healthcare systems. With the demand for talent so high for these two sub-sectors, has this forced you to look at a much broader talent pool outside of the sector? And what types of qualities and skills sets transfer best (and laterally) from other sectors to healthcare?
There’s no doubt that as healthcare has become more consumer-oriented, and there has been a growing need for clinical integration along with transparency related to quality and outcomes, the qualities the industry is looking for in its leaders has changed, too. There is a much higher need for innovation, for being nimble reacting to change, whether that’s in new technologies, regulation, or other market dynamics. You’re seeing healthcare systems now looking outside of the industry for executives with proven experience in these areas. This, in turn, has led to a lot more collaboration within our firm: we have functional experts in areas such as supply chain, technology, marketing, and human resources who now spend a great deal of their time in healthcare. We’re able to leverage talent from other industries, given that some of the skill sets now needed by healthcare systems do not currently exist within the traditional ranks of the industry. I can think of numerous instances where health systems have opted to recruit talent from other industries in order to drive the degree of innovation and change. And as the market continues to consolidate, I think you’re going to see even stronger recognition by boards that it’s vital that healthcare leaders have experience in mergers and acquisitions and a consumer focus, for example. As national and super-regional systems develop, this is where we’re really seeing the need for talent from other industries.
Martha, Diversified Search acquired long-time healthcare recruiter, BioQuest, this past year. What can you tell us about that?
BioQuest is an amazing, dynamic search firm, and our acquisition was a strategic move to address the emerging needs of our firm’s largest client base, which consists of large national and regional health systems, academic medical centers, and health sciences centers. As larger health systems step up their investments in ‘precision medicine,’ we are being asked by these clients to assist them in identifying talent in these very specific spheres.
“BioQuest has dramatically added to our extensive networks with venture capital and private equity firms. In short, we viewed the acquisition as an avenue to the future of healthcare.”
The BioQuest acquisition is an acknowledgment of the growing intersection between health services and life sciences, and allows us to offer a full complement of experience and resources through both our healthcare and life science verticals, broadening our experience, content knowledge, and access to talent in areas such as healthcare innovation and medical devices. No less important, BioQuest has dramatically added to our extensive networks with venture capital and private equity firms. In short, we viewed the acquisition as an avenue to the future of healthcare.
To what extent does Diversified Search work with the venture capital community and what types of healthcare projects are you involved in from a talent acquisition standpoint?
This is certainly an area demonstrating considerable economic vigor. At Diversified we are seeing strong demand for top-drawer talent in the behavioral health, urgent care, anesthesia, and dermatology sectors, among others. Again, this is where our BioQuest acquisition is already paying dividends. BioQuest is a strong presence in the venture capital ecosystem; for example, it’s done CEO searches for six companies within the Ascension Ventures portfolio alone. Some 70 percent of BioQuest’s clients over the past decade have been private, venture capital-backed emerging technology companies. These cutting-edge firms live or die by the talent at the top of their org charts, so their backers are keenly involved in who those people are and how they are selected. BioQuest has only been a Diversified Search company since June, but already from a business development standpoint we’re really encouraged by what we are seeing as its team dovetails with our healthcare, life sciences, and private equity verticals.
What are the foremost challenges that you see in the next decade for healthcare that will impact how you look at recruiting C-Level talent?
I think an argument—and a strong one—could be made that there is not sufficient talent poised and ready to take on the C-suite level roles in the major national and super-regional health systems, particularly when you consider how large some of these organizations are getting through continued strong M&A activity. As these systems grow, they become increasingly complex. So at the highest levels, the biggest issues for the healthcare industry surround managing disruption and a lack of clarity, especially given the changes coming due to the change of power in Washington. The talent requirements for leaders designing and leading a more responsive, consumer-based integrated and increasing complex health system are much different than in the past. Add in a larger-than-normal exit of more traditional leaders in the healthcare sector and you have a very volatile marketplace. From a firm perspective, it means we’ll likely be looking for leadership from nontraditional sources to bring into the industry. The movement from volume to value, as defined differently by regulators and payors, along with the desires of consumers, is completely changing the playing field. Healthcare will continue to demand leaders with the skills it has always required—critical thinking, data analytics, customer service, the balance between technological innovation and cost effectiveness—but it will also need leaders with qualities that we have not always associated with healthcare: flexibility and the ability to pivot, digital connectivity and service, the ability to leverage social media, and yes, even optimism. I don’t think there’s another sector in the country where the fight for top talent will be more fierce.
Contributed by John Harris, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media