In Conversation With Foresight – The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, and the benefits of effective workforce planning

The latest in our In Conversation With series sees us discussing the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan and benefits of effective workforce planning with Danny Hodgson of Foresight…

2 August 2023

In year 1 of their workforce planning implementation with an NHS organisation, Foresight have generated a cost opportunity saving in excess of £2million, and here, Foresight’s Danny Hodgson talks through how this has been achieved with Liaison Workforce’s Jack Mazzina.

Key Findings:

• Workforce planning is a programme of work that will deliver huge opportunity and tangible returns in a short timeframe.
• Lack of capacity ends most workforce planning attempts, automation is essential.
• Starting simply is far better than not starting at all.
• The longer you put off workforce planning, the more money and time is wasted on unnecessary recruitment and expensive ways to fill gaps left by poor succession and knowledge loss across your organisation.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the interview in three parts. In the first, below, Jack Mazzina (Business Development Director, Liaison Workforce) and Danny Hodgson (Co-Founder & Principal Consultant, Foresight) discuss the beginning of the workforce planning journey.

Part 1: How can workforce planning benefit NHS organisations?

Jack Mazzina (JM): Welcome to a new In Conversation With, with Danny Hodgson, Co-Founder & Principal Consultant of Foresight.

Foresight has created a proprietary Workforce Planning technology, which revolutionises how a business can obtain vital people information to build workforce plans, and then operationalises this data to drive actual, measurable improvements to the operation of a business.

In this conversation, Danny and I will be discussing how Foresight can progress workforce planning in alignment with the recent Long Term Workforce Plan. Welcome, Danny.

Danny Hodgson (DH): Thank you, Jack. And welcome to everyone listening to this conversation or reading the transcript. If you’re here, I hope it is because you have either an interest in, or a need to be better at workforce planning within your Trust or ICS.

Workforce planning means many different things to many people. It can easily be overcomplicated, especially when trying to get started.

Ultimately, at Foresight, we agree with the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, in that workforce planning is about having the right number of people, with the right skills and support in place to be able to deliver the kind of care people need. This leads to being able to deliver better patient outcomes, and better utilise budget and resources.

And whilst there is a clear national focus on workforce planning across the NHS now, there is and will continue to be local responsibility at Trust level to move from theory to practice. Workforce planning can often be a daunting prospect and, due to capacity issues, will often fail when left to HR to implement alone. Using Foresight’s framework, we can empower your entire workforce to take control and own their own workforce plans, enabling you to guide your Trust towards fulfilling workforce needs over the next 1 to 10 years.

JM: In this session, we’ll focus on direct experience, honing in on a case study example of Foresight’s where the framework was implemented quickly, with minimal work required on their part, and detail the results they benefitted from within a matter of weeks.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan sets out the need to Train, Retain and Reform in order to achieve the NHS workforce of the future. At a practical level, this is what the Foresight framework facilitates.

So, Danny, a good starting point would be to detail where this trust found themselves – as many do – when starting out on this workforce planning journey. Could you elaborate on that?

DH: Absolutely. This is a Trust with around 500 managers and a workforce in excess of 5,000. Their historical workforce planning efforts were sporadic and very manual. What little was being done, wasn’t being documented, actioned, or tracked, which made it impossible to show the benefits or measure any results.

They recognised that they needed to change.

Their vision was to empower every single manager to see and understand the benefit of planning, and not to have planning be just another HR initiative. They wanted each manager to receive an individual plan for their team and then have guidance on how to deliver against it.

To achieve this, the framework they use breaks the big strategic workforce planning problem down into 5 main components:

1. Demand planning,

2. Flight Risk profiling,

3. Succession planning,

4. Knowledge transfer risks, and

5. Learning needs analysis.

We speak to hundreds of organisations every year, in the NHS, local authority and private sector, and there are two reoccurring things that stop them from doing workforce planning: firstly, they think that in order to reap results, they must try and conquer the entire strategic workforce planning challenge in one attempt, when in fact you should start very simple and build maturity over time.

JM: That’s always a good reminder. And what is the second thing?

DH: The other big reason is they think the word ‘strategic’ in strategic workforce planning is intrinsically linked to the outlook timeframe, i.e. that strategic workforce planning is creating 5, 10 or 15 year plans. It isn’t. The strategic element comes from what you do with the workforce planning data that you harvest from your manager base. For example, one of our customers wanted us to understand female flight risks within their clinical teams. Once we did, they created a number of programmes focused on retaining these individuals. Given how hard it can be to recruit in the first place, the heightened emphasis on retention made a significant impact on some very stretching gender hiring targets. The timeframe of this data set was about 18 months. So, I’d argue even though the timeframe doesn’t hit the typical 5 to 15 year outlook, what they did with the data in this instance was very strategic. So, don’t be put off by thinking you need a 10 year plan to be effective.

We worked closely with this organisation to design and implement a new workforce planning approach.

Click here to view part 2 where Liaison Workforce’s Jack Mazzina looks at the implementation of an organisation’s workforce planning approach…

To find out more, please get in touch.

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