I am now in the 8th (!) month of my current placement, which is my third placement of three on the grad scheme. Having just handed in my big final coursework for the CIPD – a dissertation-style report which finished at a casual 72 pages – I have paused to look back on my progress so far at this placement.
If I’m honest, it’s been a different kind of placement to the one I presumed I would have. In HR, one placement is operational-based and one is more strategic, to give a more rounded experience and set you up for future HR practitioner roles. Having completed my operational placement as an HR advisor, I must admit that I was a little apprehensive when I learned the details of my second placement. I would be away from the HR team, instead working in transitions – a team I was unfamiliar with, and one that didn’t actually exist at my first placement trust. The job description of my role, Transition Delivery Manager, was somewhat different to what I had in mind for a strategic HR role, and to the roles that my HR trainee counterparts would be doing. I discussed it with my programme manager, who wasn’t very concerned at all, and instead thought that with my previous experience, this role gave me an unusual portfolio that set me apart in a good way. I wasn’t sure, but gave it a go anyway.
Despite my initial hesitance, the placement has turned out to be beneficial. In a nutshell, the transitions team manage (surprise, surprise) transitions: specifically, of services moving into the trust following a successful tender bid, and out if the trust is unsuccessful in a bid or serves notice on one of its contracts. My primary role was to project manage the transition of some newly acquired children’s services into the trust from the previous provider, whilst ensuring the services maintain continuity of care for patients. I have been able to develop many useful skills: most obviously project management, but also relationship building, influencing, inter-trust relationships, and change management. I also gained a greater understanding of NHS-ey things that I may not have in a more HR-focused role, like commissioning, bidding/tendering and risk management. By working closely with colleagues in other departments to deliver the transition, such as IT, finance, contracts and comms, I also gained an appreciation of how these teams interact, and how they relate back to HR. The transition also included a TUPE of over 300 staff, so there were HR aspects of the project to get involved in too.
The services joined us successfully on Easter Sunday, and there has been positive feedback from incoming staff and existing managers about the smooth transition, which I am really pleased about. Hopefully it means I didn’t do too badly! Now that the project has launched, I have been able to get involved in some of the other exciting work happening at my placement trust, such as collecting data for a service redesign business case, and a piece on involving service users on recruitment panels. As I have miscellaneous competencies left to tick off, and specific experience I’d like to gain, the scope for flexibility provided by my placement is helpful, and is one of the benefits of the grad scheme.
The moral of the story? Be open-minded about what you might get involved in. You may have expectations about the scheme or the placements you will be doing, but you might instead gain experience in ways you didn’t anticipate. And I’m not the only one; I’ve heard several stories from fellow trainees who found themselves in a placement that wasn’t perhaps what they had set their heart on, but ended up being a really valuable experience, or set them up well for something else that came next.
I have 3 months left at this placement to continue gaining that experience, and while I don’t know what that ‘something else that comes next’ might be for me yet, I do feel that it has been useful experience – not what I was expecting, maybe, but instead has helped make me a more rounded practitioner. After all, HR don’t work in isolation, and understanding the wider context can only be a good thing. Having attending Confed 2018 (annual NHS conference) this week, it is clear that the future demands in health and social care – such as integration, digitalisation, and efficiencies – will require a lot of change and transition. Therefore, a placement spent focusing on organisational change and transition project management might just come in handy.
You can follow me on Twitter or ask any questions about the scheme, at @faye_nhs