1. Recruiting talent

As an organisation, do you know what you are recruiting for? At all levels of an organisation, not just in relation to senior leaders, it is essential to recruit not just to meet today’s needs but with your future vision and strategy in mind.

The Boots example

Boots UK, the high-street pharmacy-based health and beauty retailer, recently decided to position its pharmacists more front-of-shop in health care consultancy roles. To achieve this, the company appraised the skills and attributes needed in these roles and have changed how it recruits its pharmacists; whereas previously it focused on people who had highly technical knowledge it now focuses on people who have communication, consultation and relationship development skills.

When recruiting, organisations traditionally focus on competencies, knowledge, skills and qualifications as these are generally easier to articulate, identify and measure. However, values, traits, behaviours and motivational drivers are equally – and in some cases more – important. While the competencies and knowledge provide valuable information and insight about an individual’s readiness for a particular role, traits and drivers help to reveal a person’s potential for leadership.

As complexity in health care increases, we will require leaders (at every level) who can shift and adapt quickly, are resourceful, who thrive on change and can make sense out of uncertainty for those they lead. Agile leaders lead with purpose and meaning. They are guided by their values and supported by strong relationships with the people around them, empowering those whom they lead to make a difference.

In The management agenda 2015, human resources (HR) managers identified managing the different needs and expectations of a multi-generational and diverse workforce as likely to be the biggest challenge in five years’ time. Despite this prediction, their views are split on the need and the success of attempts to manage such a workforce today. The report also notes that talent management and succession planning have moved from sixth to third place in the list of current challenges for the public sector.

Research shows that each generation within the workforce will have a different psychological contract with its employer. Each of these relationships is subtly different and has implications for identifying, recruiting, developing and retaining talent. It is important for senior leaders to be aware of this, as they often recruit talent on the assumption that the current generation will be attracted by the same benefits that attracted them, which may not be the case. In addition to the content of the job advertisement, you need to consider the method of communication, with younger generations more responsive to multimedia and social media approaches than traditional recruitment practices.

For many of the ‘baby boomer’ generation, who currently occupy the top level of leadership, title, status, salary and keeping up with peers in material terms are key attractions. The generation after them – known widely as ‘generation X’ – values the overall package on offer, with work–life balance seen as a ‘right’ along with opportunities for personal growth. In contrast ‘generation Y’ – currently aged 15 to 35 – values challenging work and strong development that fit their own highly individualised career plans and keen sense of self-worth.

This generation values leaders who are especially engaging and visionary and who communicate openly and authentically. They value a career that gives them personal meaning as well as long-term learning and growth. Instead of a traditional interview with a few senior leaders, smart companies (such as Google) are allowing propsective employees to experience the workplace for a day, sitting in on a range of meetings to help them see how they could make an impact on the business from day one.

Diversity is another important issue in recruitment. The NHS currently has a poor record of recruiting leaders whose diversity is representative of its broader staff and the communities it serves. In a 2014 report, The snowy white peaks of the NHS, Kline offers evidence that current NHS recruitment processes disproportionately favour white applicants. He highlights concerns about the absence of members of black and minority ethnic groups and women in senior and board leadership roles. Another often neglected type of diversity is diversity of thinking – recruiting ‘mavericks’ who think and possibly behave differently from others and who will change the system. Some commentators such as Page have suggested that this ‘cognitive’ diversity is more useful than ‘identity’ diversity.

Medical leaders are often reluctant to move from clinical to managerial roles. This can be a missed opportunity for organisations, and more work is needed to encourage clinicians to consider leadership roles.

Questions to consider

  • Do you have clear recruitment policies related to your business vision and strategy needs?
  • Have you undertaken a generational audit? Do you know the demographic spread of your workforce talent?
  • Are you supporting ‘generation Y’s’ first steps as leaders?
  • Are all aspects of your talent recruitment processes inclusive?

Next: developing and retaining talent