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Transforming the workforce: What if…?

Kirstie Stott, director of the Inspiring Leaders Network, looks ahead to the impending transformation of the NHS’s workforce, and looks at how we can futureproof it.  

It seems a while now since NHS organisations were required to submit their Gender Pay Gap Reports. Time has passed and if I’m honest I still see little radical action as a result. It’s such a shame that this opportunity for organisations to be transformational in their approach to gender equality feels more like a compliance exercise with very little tangible results.

Evidence still demonstrates that diverse senior leadership of boards performs better and has better outcomes than a more homogenous one. I’m pleased to say that I do think representation on boards in terms of gender is improving: latest statistics taken from the NHS Improvement survey ‘membership and diversity’ shows that board gender composition is 43% female at present.

Whilst the EU definition of gender parity (between 40%-60%) is being met, it’s great to see that the NHS has set itself the ambition to reach 50:50 by 2020 (45% - 55%). This is absolutely a cause for celebration and something we should all be immensely proud of.

Yet there still seems to be little being actively done to enable more diversity at the middle and develop that pipeline of diverse leaders to meet the complex challenges ahead and ensure that the workforce we currently have is future proof. I doubt it is currently.

We are seeing a huge shift in workforce and with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (digital) fast approaching, we need to harness the talents and skills of leaders who are technologically savvy, digitally competent and have the values needed to lead within public sector. Who are these revolutionaries? I think they’re generation Y and soon to be Generation Z. Generation Y now form the largest generation ever seen in history and will account for up to 75% of the labour workforce by 2025 – only some six years away.

It’s fundamental that we can start to really, and meaningfully, support the strategic issues for organisations and systems such as sourcing and attracting this generational group, retention of them once in post, and identify what the development space looks like for them.

Research tells us that this generation of workers will be different to those gone before and in particular to those currently leading. Work life balance is essential to this group, they value flexibility in their work and portfolio careers and would choose this over financial reward (PwC NextGen survey). The survey found that pay and promotion would be exchanged for greater flexibility in role. I wonder how this fits with a system that runs predominantly on the goodwill and discretionary effort of staff who currently work above and beyond contracted hours?

The healthcare system has a real opportunity to transform the workforce, moving away from traditional working patterns such as the very outdated nine-to-five (which dates back to 1914) and be at the forefront of designing roles which are not only flexible in hours and ways of working, but in what I like to refer to as Diverse Multiform Working (DMW): seeing people more broadly and supporting the flexibility of role.

People are multifaceted, complex and mostly have multiple skills and interest, so why are we not harnessing this? Looking beyond linear roles to starting with the person at the centre and designing roles that meet both the individual and the organisations need. All too often we design a role and attempt to find a singular person to fit it, but what if it was two people and we co-designed roles with multiple people and really embraced job design where it would attract and enable people to really to bring their whole self to work?

What if?

Look out for Kirstie’s next article in the upcoming issue of NHE, hitting desks later this month! 



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