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Dr. Kevin Groves Spotlight

Graziadio Spotlight Stories

What are some of your career or personal milestones that people should know?

"I started my professional career as a consultant with the Strategy & Organization group at Towers Perrin (now Towers Watson), a full-service strategy and human resources consulting firm. These early professional experiences helping companies achieve strategic transformations illustrated the importance of alignment amongst business strategy, structure and supporting systems, and the broader business environment for industry leaders.

Before coming to Pepperdine, I began my academic career at California State University, Los Angeles. While at CSULA, I served as director of the PepsiCo Leadership Center and managed a $1.45 million grant for the purposes of developing the leadership competencies of students, community members and local business leaders.

In addition to my role at Graziadio as an associate professor in management, I’m president and founder of a management consultancy (Groves Consulting Group, LLC) that helps organizations develop leadership talent through executive assessment, development, and succession planning capabilities. My cross-affiliation helps me to stay on top of talent management and succession planning issues, and incorporate them into my coursework at Graziadio. For example, there are new best practices of identifying high potential employees, and helping them reach their potential. An important element of these best practices is the use of analytics in succession management and organization development. Successful businesses don’t rely on gut instinct and intuition. They set criteria for success."

Is there a program at Graziadio with which you’re closely involved?

"What I truly enjoy about the Pepperdine Graziadio School are the people who are a part of this community. The faculty members are some of my closest friends. The same can be said of our alumni with whom I keep in constant contact. The students are inspirational and strive to transform their businesses and communities. I see how much they challenge themselves, and admire their dedication and hard work."

How do you think your class enriches the academic experience here at Pepperdine Graziadio?

"I’m passionate about the right way to manage and develop leadership talent – how companies can assess their current talent ecosystems, how they can retain top performers and how they can drive diversity in the workplace. I’m very fortunate that the Graziadio Business School shares that enthusiasm and commitment. One of the applied research programs that I’ve developed is the annual Healthcare Talent Management Survey, a semi-annual survey administered to a national sample of senior executives at hospitals and health systems.

The survey assesses the impact of talent management and succession planning best practices, including utilization of Talent Management Capabilities (TMCs) and associated policies and practices, on numerous financial, workforce, and clinical performance metrics. Organizations that understand these factors can implement best practices, including talent assessment, selection and on-boarding, performance management, and role-based leadership development, across industry sectors."

What is your favorite course to teach?

"My course on Organization Design in the full-time and fully-employed MBA programs teaches students about issues involved in the planning and management of organizational change. This course also covers recent advances in organization development and change, including a customized leadership assessment and development plan for each student.

It’s invigorating to teach how to assess and diagnose strategic issues in order to achieve exemplary outcomes – how the right organization structure and supporting systems and practices can become a recipe for improvement. When you have a very engaged cohort, class sessions can vary a little depending on what’s going on in business news and how it’s relevant. For example, we might discuss the impact of technological change and globalization on organization design and on how people work, or the role of leadership in managing innovation, creativity, and sustainability."

What do you hope students achieve as a result?

“I hope that students have a better understanding and a set of practical tools for assessing their respective organizations for improvement opportunities, specifically the identification of structures, systems, and practices that will enhance strategic fit and performance outcomes. I use a number of the companies that I work with via research projects and consulting engagements as real-life examples – healthcare organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Cleveland Clinic, and Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).

These organizations companies are fearless about examining and modifying their talent management and succession planning practices to achieve the best possible outcomes. The benefits of this type of strategic thinking was reflected in the last year’s findings from the Healthcare Talent Management Survey.

Hospital organizations that adopted talent management and succession planning best practices (Talent Management Capabilities) scored higher on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Value-Based Purchasing metrics, a critical element of the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as ‘Obama Care’) that is tied to reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid programs. That means that talent management and succession planning best practices are directly correlated with higher CMS reimbursement rates. In short, organization design and talent management best practices are critical for companies to achieve optimal success.”

What makes Pepperdine Graziadio School unique?

“Some schools are focused on the tangible end game: an MBA degree. But a business education isn’t just about the degree. At Graziadio, it’s also about cultivating an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and developing your leadership potential, and fueling that enthusiasm with practical knowledge about how to operate a business successfully and manage your career. We want our graduates to innovate, be proactive, and adopt a values-centered approach to their professional and business decisions.”

What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current graduate students?

“Think broadly – not just in terms of your career goals, but in terms of how you can strategically enhance your life. While you’re at Graziadio, exploit your own opportunities in terms of your area of interest or discipline, your courses of study, and particularly your extracurricular activities (club activities, study abroad programs, research associate positions supporting faculty, etc.). In the business world for high-potential leadership, that’s called an “enterprise-wide view.” I urge every student to apply that concept to their own experience here at Pepperdine.”


About Dr. Groves

Dr. Kevin S. Groves is a professor of management and currently holds the Denney Chair Professorship, an endowed fellowship that supports his research on succession planning and talent management practices in healthcare organizations, at Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School. Groves is also president of Groves Consulting Group, a consultancy that helps organizations develop talent through leadership assessment, development and succession planning systems. Groves received a PhD in Organizational Behavior from Claremont Graduate University.