The recently published white paper has thrown leaders and staff in our strategic health authorities and primary care trusts into uncertainty about their futures.

Energy that should be channeled into leading the NHS system reform is drained into handling personal uncertainly. Career transition can be a way out of this.

What is career transition?

It is the strategic and structured approach an organisation must invest in to manage the transition between current talent and capacity and what is required for the future.  It is a core element of good corporate talent management.

Organisations in the health economy should collaborate to establish the skills they require, jobs roles they have to offer and the exit options available. Employees are supported through coaching and workshops to assess their talent and aspirations and thus make informed decisions for their future. This support must be confidential and safe for people to openly explore all possibilities.

It helps the organisation as well as employees

Career transition is not just about the individual but very much about the organisation.    Delivering Equity and Excellence will require determined and creative leadership. If NHS leaders and staff are struggling to handle their own personal present reality they are unlikely to be a creative force for the future shape of the NHS. 

Career transition programmes give people permission to have honest discussions about their future and provide the space and support to consider their ambitions, values and talent. Through such programmes the current NHS situation can become an integral part of an organisation’s talent management strategy. People can make career and life planning  decisions with a better understanding of the talent required for the NHS over the next few years.  

Redundacy has a negative impact on those who remain in employment; they feel for those who have lost their jobs, while at the same time they may struggle to cope with new roles and the extra tasks that need to be covered. Ex-employees continue to have an impact on the mood of the organization for a long time after they have left. 

In today’s world of social networking and virtual communication ex-employees remain part of a company in social terms for many months after they have left. They are likely, for instance to spend more time on Facebook and will be in discussion with their ex-colleagues. The quicker they learn to speak positively about their experience and the company they left behind the better it will be for company morale. Career transition demonstrates that the organization cares and treats with respect those who are leaving.  

Career transition is part of talent management

Career transition programmes should ensure that the right talent finds it way to the right niche. David Nicholson has made it clear that there are three groups of NHS employees.   Those who declare the changes to be awful. Those who say, “I don’t like what I see but I want to become part of it,” and those who say, “I understand and like what I see, I’m up for leading it”. Employees need career transition to give them the space, challenge and thinking processes to really determine where they wish to be.  

Career transition gives people permission to have honest discussions. It will ensure that those who lead the NHS into the future are doing so with integrity and not because they couldn’t find anything else. It enables those who leave to move on with dignity. 

Good employers provide career transition

Previous NHS re-structurings such as the merger of SHAs and PCTs in 2006 were very much about moving talent about the NHS. Equity and Excellence is about re-focusing the talent that remains in the NHS but also it is about and the real loss of jobs from the NHS.  Facing real job loss brings strong emotions. If career transition is an integral part of your organisation’s talent management programme it can turn the negative “this is being done to me” inertia into an opportunity to reflect, take stock and make genuine career choices.   

By working with people to understand their ambitions, values and talents career transition can quickly move people from inertia to a state of considered awareness of the possibilities and options before them. Career transition then works with people to take steps to make their next life and career choices.  

Most organisations wait until they announce redundancies before offering career transition. Yet career transition is the very process that can prevent redundancy and thus the loss of motivation and morale during periods of system change. Chief executives and their HR directors should look at how to bring career transition into talent management.