The talent shortage within the healthcare sector is real. Meeting the demands of your patients is already consuming, so when you are dealing with a talent shortage as a health organisation it becomes all the more important to look outside of the sector to bridge that gap. Aemilia Lovatt, a Principal Consultant in Berwick Partners’ Healthcare Practice, explains further.
Healthcare, both public and private, has long been a sector which has been under resourced, not only financially, but from a people perspective. The NHS has fared somewhat better in that it attracts those who choose a vocational career, and whose personal DNA lies at the heart of supporting and caring for others. The independent sector however, which has largely been borne out of supporting the NHS, has not been a ‘go to’ option for graduates or more senior professionals as it has a reputation for poor pay and attracts bad press.
With an ageing population and rising demand for healthcare services, the need for healthcare professionals for the independent sector continues to grow significantly, with sub-sectors such as social care growing at an exponential rate and becoming ever more sophisticated. Now valued at £50billion, with an expectation for constant year on year growth and demand outstripping workforce supply, the independent healthcare sector is experiencing a marked increase in demand for individuals, and a need to look beyond the traditional pools of talent to those outside the sector.
More often than not, those who do choose a healthcare career do so as a result of first-hand experience of poor care, typically with an older relation, or by reaching a point in their career where social responsibility plays a bigger part than financial remuneration. Martin Jones, CEO of leading home care company, Home Instead Senior Care, was driven by these very factors as he recollects: "The passing of my father made me think of what I wanted to do and the value of my work – this led me into social care, where I knew my skills and experience were transferrable. I really wanted to do something which wasn’t about profit but made a difference to the lives of others.”
Barriers to entry
But there are also barriers to entry which, to an employer and prospective employee, can seem insurmountable. The heavy regulation and personal responsibility for services which stems from that is not to be taken lightly, and this requires organisational support and development. In addition, the healthcare system is complex, as are individuals’ conditions. The sector is also subject to an increasingly demanding client group as patients demand choice and a higher degree of personalised care. Martin’s approach to ease his transition was achieved by focusing his attention on his team: “It’s so important to spend time to get to know the people and culture within the new environment. But people are people and teams are teams. If you look after your people, train them well, you and your business will be successful – this is the same in any sector.”
Our cross-sector reach at Berwick Partners provides a strong platform with which to address this demand for talent, and many clients have experienced success in appointing beyond health and social care. Not only does this initiative bring in new talent and different perspectives, it also enables diversity to flourish and Martin agrees: “For me, the advantage was all down to perspective and experience. I brought a new perspective to the problems and challenges the business was facing and utilised my experience to overcome them. I don’t remember there being a main challenge, just opportunities to shape the business and the sector. I think people like to over complicate what we do. As long as you are putting your team and your clients at the heart of the business, you will succeed.”
Beyond the challenge for individuals and organisations to consider outside ‘out of sector roles’, there is also an onus on your recruitment partner to realise and effect these key transitions by thinking laterally. A theme we hear regularly from our clients is that they see the same candidates ‘churned’ again and again for their appointments. We have a distinct advantage in addressing this criticism given our breadth of sector coverage and our employment of experienced consultants whose sector awareness breaches this blinkered view. We see each new search as unique, an opportunity to challenge and present a truly diverse group of candidates. This point is also echoed by Martin: ‘‘If you’re looking to move to a new sector, don’t give up. Keep focussed on your abilities and experience and shape them for the sector. Don’t let recruiters put you in a ’box’ – it’s easy to label people as a retailer/banker etc but focus on what skills and experiences are transferrable into the sector you are applying for.”
Given this, what should employers bear in mind when considering a candidate with no prior healthcare sector experience?
When selecting out of sector candidates for health and social care organisations, the key to success is finding a strong values fit. Cultural identity with the sector is the most critical aspect to achieve – there needs to be a real desire on the part of the individual to want to bring improved patient care and to make a real difference; a bit trite perhaps but non-negotiable. Martin’s view is to “Keep an open mind. Look at the person and the values they would bring to the organisation. You can train someone with the skills they need, but you can’t train the passion they can bring to the sector. You can’t train life skills which are crucial to success in the health and social care sector.”
And finally, Martin’s advice to those looking to make a similar move – “Keep going, stay focussed and never accept no. The emotional rewards are immense and the level of satisfaction unparalleled – find a way to make the move!”