Healthcare organisations need to utilise top leadership practices that impact bottom line performance and encourage it at every level, writes Karen Lynas

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Working with people, families, communities and front line teams can help commissioners unlock the potential

Working with people, families, communities and front line teams can help commissioners unlock the potential

Why do we not - just like many other industries - take as seriously as we should the development of our leadership talent? What should we be doing to support this next generation in preparing themselves for more senior roles and for the rest of their careers?

Here are my six suggestions of things you and your organisation can do for the next generation of leaders.

1. Look hard for talent and look everywhere

Karen Lynas

Karen Lynas

There really is a global search for talent. Whichever industry you approach, the need to select, appoint and retain great talent will be in their top two or three areas of concern. It is the same in health.

We have talent in abundance if we take time to look for it. We also have an amazing diversity of talent, but often exclude them from visibility or by not giving them a voice.

Any work you do on finding talent should be as inclusive and diverse as possible. This is not just the morally right thing to do; it is business savvy. What are you doing to make sure everyone is visible, vocal and has equal opportunities to succeed?

2. Learn from the best

Given healthcare is all about people, we are not that good at doing the people bit well. Some industries do this really well. Hay Group’s Best Companies for Leadership identifies companies with best leadership practices.

These companies put into practice much of what I describe here. They actively identify, support, nurture and develop their talent. This is because it is such a clear differentiator in performance.

It makes a difference to bottom line performance. And in the NHS this translates to more efficient, effective, safer, caring and compassionate services.

3. Don’t think it will develop by accident, it needs work

The NHS Leadership Academy is a place for developing talent. We know the majority of development happens in the workplace but that does not mean it all does, or can, happen there.

‘Your organisation can’t succeed without great leaders at every level’

For a long time we have treated our leadership community as if they should be able to absorb, by some process of osmosis, all the skills, knowledge, experience and behavioural development they need without any help.

Your organisation cannot succeed without great leaders at every level, and it will not happen by accident. Make development a priority - it is an investment, not a cost, and stop regarding it as a “nice to have” when you can afford it.

4. Think creatively about careers - up, across, outside - and look creatively at CVs

We are still risk averse and rigid in CV scanning. The numbers of jobs I look at that ask for five years’ NHS experience or lots of experience in similar roles is endless. I wonder if that is why we are not as brave as we could be in thinking about careers?

Younger generations look much less to a traditional vertically linear career progression. And good job too, given the need for us to work more collaboratively, with a broader sense of what constitutes the healthcare system, so the more breadth of our experience the better.

‘Younger generations look less to a traditional vertically linear career progression’

Moving in and out of health, across different parts of the system, sideways and even lower in grade to get different experience makes for a much richer leader.

Encourage your leadership community to think broadly about their career and experience. And encourage yourself and your team to think at least as widely in assessing people’s experience for one of your roles.

5. Make it everyone’s responsibility including the board or governing body

What you measure matters - that might not be our aspiration but it is our current reality. Are you measuring your talent? Do you know where they are? What development they need and do you know how many people might be ready for the key roles in your organisation? We are poor on data around talent, particularly when it comes to diversity of talent. One small step to taking seriously your commitment to doing something about it is by measuring it, reporting it and talking about it.

6. Treat leadership talent as an asset, not a cost

The evidence is there and it is overwhelming. Great and successful companies invest their way out of problems by developing their talent and by recognising that the single driver to success is having talented leaders able to dowhat is needed of them.

‘Successful companies invest their way out of problems by developing their talent’

Treating your staff like an inconvenient cost is not as much part of the NHS history as we would like it to be.

Keep them engaged, encourage them to enjoytheir job, to work at the very boundaries of their skills, capabilities and knowledge,and support them in doingeven more.

Care for your staff in theway you want them to carefor their patients, citizensand communities. In short,live the values of the NHSin how you lead.

Karen Lynas is deputy managing director of the NHS Leadership Academy

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