Identifying and developing the talents of staff is one of the biggest organisational challenges facing the NHS, but Adam Turner says there are tools to help you get the most from your team

Talent shoe judge

Identifying and developing the talents of staff is one of the biggest organisational challenges facing the NHS

Identifying and developing the talents of staff is one of the biggest organisational challenges facing the NHS

Talent management is something healthcare leaders are increasingly talking about − a recent NHS Employers survey identified it as one of the highest organisational development challenges facing the NHS.

So, following on from Deborah Chafer’s recent article about the NHS’s talent challenges, how can we best harness employees’ talents?

‘What other organisation in the world can say that it centrally spends approximately £5bn on talent development?’

From the work I’ve been leading regionally and in my national role supporting the development of the NHS Leadership Academy talent management programme, people always ask me what actually is talent management? What does it mean to my organisation? And how do we do it?

What does talent management mean to you?

The first advice I give to any healthcare organisation is to identify what talent management means to them and their organisation. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development provides a useful definition of talent management, describing it as an inclusive, systematic and cyclical process; it encompasses the attraction, identification, development, deployment, performance and retention of individuals and groups who are of specific value to your organisation in helping it meet short and long-term business goals.

However, supported by findings from the National Institute for Health Research, I’ve come to realise that for the NHS, talent management isn’t exclusively related to a “specific value”. Rather, it’s about embracing an inclusive approach to how we identify and develop our talent. It’s about everyone.

‘My work with organisations demonstrated how one size never fits all across process and cultural aspects of talent management’

What really strikes me about the NHS is that it actually does manage talent really well. What other organisation in the world can say that it manages the recruitment, education, training, development and deployment of over 1.3m individuals, centrally spending approximately £5bn on talent development? That’s in addition to having national bodies, Health Education England and the leadership academy set up to manage this.

What I do know is that we cannot apply talent management consistently across every healthcare organisation. My work has demonstrated how one size never fits all across process and cultural aspects of talent management.

We must start with organisational belief and a talent development culture that works for all staff, to consistently, transparently and progressively develop them, while rewarding their contribution. From there, we can align the potential of our staff to our organisation’s business of caring for people.

Cultural shift

How do we maximise the potential of all our 1.3 million staff? We need to enable a cultural shift to help our leaders, managers and staff focus on the talent development conversations they are having.

To help you with this, I thought it timely to share a talent management tool I often use with NHS organisations.

Organisational Talent Tube Map Tool

An idea for a “talent tube map” tool came to me while travelling on the London Underground. It struck me how people moving between tube stations shared similarities with how our staff flowed through their development path within and between our healthcare organisations.

Using the talent tube map tool:

  • Keep asking yourself: “What impacts on the people in our organisation?”
  • Begin plotting these things on your talent tube map as “people stations”.
  • Start to ask how these people stations are connected, if there are any gaps or missing connections and what you can do about this.

Using post-it notes, we identified core “people stations” of recruitment, development, appraisal performance management, business plan and the output of delivering care.

We then identified wider people stations including staff awards and recognition, values and how we could connect these to our core stations through, for example, enhancing appraisal with 360 linked to values, linking people from staff awards to a talent pool and stretch assignments, developing an organisational projects group to enable stretch assignments, or providing meaningful conversations training to help make conversations on talent the norm.

All of this happened while keeping focused on continually enhancing both the staff and patient experience.

Battle for talent

The NHS is the fourth largest organisation in the world invested in caring for people. We must lead the way in talent management, particularly as the battle for talent is becoming increasingly evident.

In the past, we have never quite managed to tackle this issue successfully, but now is the time for us to acknowledge that it is our staff that make the difference to the NHS.

Move away from the process aspects of talent management and think of how you develop the culture, beliefs and environment where people thrive on having open, honest and enabling talent discussions. It’s really simple: if we care for our staff, they will care for our patients.

Adam James Turner is talent management project lead at the NHS Leadership Academy and leadership and talent manager at Health Education England,