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Even with the Liberal-Conservative Coalition planning to increase NHS funding in real terms each year, efficiency savings, demographic and inflationary pressures mean the NHS is facing lean times. But rather than looking to mass redundancies to make savings, NHS Employers, which represents trusts on workforce issues, is encouraging organisations to look for smarter ways to reduce costs. Ensuring that they recruit and retain the right staff is a central part of that.
And it’s more complicated than you might think. The NHS and the rest of the public sector will be making efficiency savings at a time when the private sector is emerging from the recession. Demand for highly skilled workers will be intensifying and public sector pay restraint will mean that the NHS will need to work hard to make itself attractive to new recruits.
Consider this alongside an ageing workforce and changing patterns of work – to include more part-time and flexible working – and it’s clear that recruitment and retention in the NHS will become a considerable challenge. Many NHS professions are likely to lose some of their most experienced practitioners through retirement over the next few years and fewer school leavers will be coming through to replace them. The ageing population also means increasing demands will be placed on our healthcare system and its staff.
An attractive workplace
This makes it important to attract people with the right skills to meet the changing needs of the population and the flexibility to find new ways of delivering more care with the same resources. Organisations will need to develop their talent “pipelines”, identifying skills gaps and promoting experienced staff from within, while looking to recruit the rising stars of the future. This means knowing:
Attracting staff, and retaining them in a competitive environment, will depend on NHS organisations being able to clearly communicate the benefits of working in the NHS. The opportunity for training and development should be seen as a key benefit, alongside pay and conditions, pensions, and the chance to make a difference. Employers will need to understand and explain the full reward package and emphasise the development opportunities within the NHS to attract high quality candidates.
Many NHS organisations have already developed, or are currently developing, talent management strategies to help them attract and develop the talent they need for the future. The best of these plans cover staff at all levels and at all stages of their careers, identify the characteristics or competencies their future leaders will need, and take into account the need for a diverse workforce where the different strengths of individuals are appreciated and nourished.
Successful talent management strategies in the NHS have the following core elements:
They have a focus on clinical leadership and involve a wide range of stakeholders. They also put an emphasis on the individual to contribute to their own development and make the most of opportunities.
Exciting futures in Bradford
One organisation that is already making inroads with its talent strategy is Bradford District Care Trust, which has taken an integrated approach to talent management, organisational change and service improvement. They set out to develop and deliver their own in-house leadership programme, Exciting Futures, designed to connect with service users and to draw out the talents of staff from across the organisation, including clinical staff.
The programme sees 40 staff participating in nine months of development activity including development sessions, project work and online learning. The driver for development is a stretch assignment based on five community projects working with service users.
Professor Beverly Alimo-Matcalfe, who has conducted studies into the productivity of NHS organisations, has praised the programme. She said: “Service users and staff working together on different community projects within a structured training programme is an outstanding idea.
“Motivation is fuelled by emotions. Through creating an emotional connection with the participant’s work, a stronger commitment and sense of belonging is created. Emotions fuel aspiration and people’s efforts increase: this is at the core of successful leadership.”
Some of the successes of the development programme have seen:
The hands-on-projects aims to provide future managers with a unique and powerful learning experience that will not only benefit the individuals, but also service users and the community.
The trust sees this as a programme of cultural change that will involve step change and insists it isn’t a magic bullet. Over three years, it is expected that as the numbers of participants grow, they will be better able to take what they’ve learned back to their workplace and change working practices. The work of the programme will also become more closely linked to service improvement.
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