Digital transformation starts here: A conversation with NHS Professionals

engage london 2022

Over the course of the last few years, the pace of digital transformation has been relentless. Industry-wide adoption of a digital transformation strategy jumped by 95% from 2021 to 2022, according to research from last year’s Global Recruitment Insights & Data (GRID) Trends Report – and it shows no signs of slowing down. 

How can you keep pace with the rest of the industry? Is there a way to implement new tech while still maintaining your day-to-day operations? How can you best leverage technology to meet your long-term goals?

At Engage London 2022, Bullhorn’s Shaun Weise, RVP of Enterprise Global Sales, spoke with Nicola McQueen, CEO of NHS Professionals, on her own approach to digital transformation – and the lessons she and her team learned along the way.

Check out a recap of our conversation below.

Growing amidst rapid change

NHS Professionals is the largest provider of flexible workers to the NHS. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, they attracted over 50,000 healthcare professionals into the service across various roles and programmes. McQueen joined the organisation immediately prior to the start of the pandemic; though she was brought on to help the business grow, the immediate priority became getting workers on the frontline.

This pivot saw intense changes for NHS Professionals with their normal candidate onboarding process of several weeks cut to just days. As part of the pandemic workforce, the business recruited approximately 10,000 workers for the NHS Test & Trace programme and a further 20,000 vaccinators for the National Vaccination Programme. “We just had to do it,” said McQueen.

Even amidst this upheaval, implementing new tech was still top of mind.  “We knew so many companies had undergone digital transformation during the pandemic,” said McQueen. “We felt we’d been head-down into the NHS.” It took some time to refocus attention to implementation – and by that time, their digital transformation programme looked very different. Still, the team at NHS Professionals felt this undertaking was crucial, allowing them to “keep pivoting our service lines and growing in the future.”

Go slow to go fast

Other companies had undergone rapid implementations during the pandemic, so they wanted to learn from that and do it right. “We went really slow to go really fast,” said McQueen, noting that the process to select Bullhorn for Salesforce was a lengthy one.

NHS Professionals began by building the capability before building the services, setting up their business strategy first to decide where technology would be needed later. Going into the journey, they had 25 people on their change team, but by the programme’s peak, they added more manpower, eventually bringing 100 people on board.

While NHS Professionals took time to evaluate their processes and choose which tech was right for them, they also embraced a sense of agility. To McQueen, this meant to “just keep going and modify as we go.” Staying committed to their growth plan and modifying as they went was crucial to the continued success of their digital transformation process.

Strength in numbers

When it came to selecting Bullhorn for Salesforce, NHS Professionals couldn’t just rely on their internal expertise alone; they needed to bring in external views along the way. “It’s been absolutely critical [to involve vendors],” said McQueen. “We knew we couldn’t transform from within. We needed to speak to real subject matter experts….That allowed us to have a really diverse team of thinkers when we thought about reimagining the future.”

Relying on the expertise of these partners also allowed NHS Professionals to be more ambitious than they would have been on their own. Said Weise, “This is the first time we had the opportunity to influence so much of the transformation.” Bullhorn was part of exercises NHS Professionals conducted, asking their team what they were most concerned about and excited about. This helped increase speed-to-value and get the process change in front of people as soon as possible. 

At the same time, potential partners needed to have a deep understanding of the healthcare market. NHS Professionals is looking to transform how the NHS deploys and mobilises their staff, while continuing to prioritise care. “We were 100% aligned,” added Weise. This alignment of values and expertise transformed a one-time implementation into a long-term, generative relationship.

Smarter, simpler, faster

Throughout their digital transformation process, McQueen and her team looked to three core criteria for choosing new tech. “Smarter, simpler, faster is something everybody in the business knows – and that’s what we think along the way. Whatever we change, does it make it smarter? Can we onboard people faster? Can we make the process simpler? Can we make it really easy to engage with all our people? Unless we make it smarter, simpler, and faster, we are not doing it.” 

The team now applies this thinking not just to digital transformation but to all business processes to ensure everyone is deploying their most finite resources most effectively. This mindset, said McQueen, had to be wholly owned across the organisation, and they’re looking to keep the momentum going: “We all have a role to play, and we all own it and live up to it.”

Want more highlights from Engage London 2022? Check out our Engage Content Hub.


Subscribe to the Recruitment Blog

Subscribe for trends, tips, and insights delivered straight to your inbox.