Kate Wilson explores five key themes to developing the senior leaders of the future

Future leadership

The world as we know it is changing rapidly. According to a report published by the World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs, Employment and Workforce Strategy for the 4th Industrial Age, 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will be doing jobs that do not even exist yet.

In association with Korn Ferry

Some organisations are responding with disruptive talent management practices that better reflect this reality. Combining messages from these talent management “disruptors” and our conversations with the NHS top chief executives, we discovered five key themes that addressed the question – how can the NHS ensure it has the senior leaders it needs for the future?

1. Put less emphasis on roles (who knows what they’ll look like in five years?) and more focus on defining critical capabilities for organisational success. Then focus energy here.

NHS CEOs told us that senior leadership roles are changing, therefore new capabilities like system working are increasingly important. A clear definition of what “good” looks like at senior leadership level could help the system focus talent management time and energy where it really counts.

”It’s not just a question of not having sufficient people: we need to be clearer about what capabilities we need from senior leaders and then make better use of the talent we already have.” Martin Hancock, NHS national head of talent management

2. Treat critical talent pools as a system asset and carefully and boldly manage their careers with them to build these key capabilities.

Our “disruptors” suggest the NHS will have to look beyond the organisation to manage critical talent at a system level. NHS CEOs stress the need for local control combined with incentives to share responsibility for talent development. What’s the right balance between local and national ownership for the NHS?

According to World’s Most Admired Companies, published by Fortune and Korn Ferry Hay Group 61 per cent of the world’s most admired companies actively plan the careers of their high potentials compared to 35 per cent of their peers

3. Recognise that harnessing your best talent’s potential means knowing them as people and linking to their sense of purpose. Don’t focus on process; focus on meaningful career conversations.

Today’s successful CEOs identified mentoring and their sense of purpose as critical in their success. Is it time to shift the focus more strongly from process to people in the NHS? Ensuring all have access to excellent career advice could drive real change.

4. Put people in charge of their own careers and ensure you access the best talent by supporting self-nomination processes, creating internal market places and fitting roles to the person rather than vice versa.

Processes such as self-nomination (rather than manager nomination) can feel challenging to leaders but need not mean “losing control”. If the NHS truly wants to encourage more diverse and different types of talent (and CEOs are saying it is needed!) then this “disruptive” approach or more hybrid models can accelerate change.

5. Accept that traditional career paths no longer work and help individuals manage their career – in and beyond the organisation – to develop the capability they need.

The NHS is changing but roles are largely defined and recruited for traditionally. It is time to challenge traditional career paths and question perceptions of what’s needed to be successful. This will challenge existing leaders, in organisations and the system, to take some risks.

The current focus on talent management of senior leadership roles means there’s a real opportunity to make a difference. Maybe it’s time to take some risks and “disrupt” for real change at both organisational and system level. Traditional approaches won’t work to position the NHS for success in a very different future.

Read more about Korn Ferry’s research on Reimagining Talent Management.