Taking a systems approach to workforce planning for urgent care in rural health with Helen Finneran



Kathryn Hume, Helen Finneran


Helen Finneran  00:00

And so I understood complexity as a concept. But I’d never used the pure systems thinking approach in workforce planning.  And when we did the acumen online course in systems thinking, and they asked you to pick a topic, and we both thought, yep, urgent care in rural areas is pretty complex. It really was, it really was we spent three months mapping out the urgent care system and its workforce.


Kathryn Hume  01:13

Helen Finneran is a Workforce Planner who has over 15 years planning experience mostly spent responding to workforce challenges in healthcare. Her work spans operational and strategic workforce planning in the UK and Australia. I was fortunate to meet Helen at the Strategic Workforce Planning conference held by Nick Kennedy and the Workforce Planning Institute that we attended last December, she asked a question and mentioned that she was from health and my ears pricked up. I went and introduced myself and was so glad that I did. Over the next few days, we talked about challenges and though ideas around Helen’s technical skills were very obvious, but I also felt I’d met a kindred spirit. And I look forward to staying in contact with her because I know I’ll learn a lot more from her. But I also know I’ll have a lot of fun doing it. So Helen, welcome to the Reimagine Workforce podcast. It’s so cool to have you here. Could you start by telling us a little bit about your background and where you’re headed in the future?


Helen Finneran  02:13

Sure. I started life as Physiotherapist and I worked in the UK and Australia in hospitals and primary care setting. And while I was in the UK, I trained to be an Extended Scope practitioner in orthopaedics. And that was my full personal experience of working in a redesigned role. But those roles didn’t exist in Australia when we first immigrated back. And so I moved into health management. And I spent most of my time trying to attract workforce. My first dedicated workforce planning role within Queensland Health back in 2007, and I’ve been a workforce planner ever since. I’ve seen workforce planning change a lot. And I’ve changed as well. How I do workforce planning are quite different. And not changed in a particularly planned way, learning new approaches, and in my attempts to get better at responding to the challenges we have in health, about the future. And I’m not sure where I’m heading. The pandemic was a bit of a workforce planning roller coaster. Pretty busy for the last couple of years. And I’m actually on a year off at the moment. So my goal is literally just to spend my year doing different things and doing things differently. just exploring and learning as I go. And I guess I’ll wait to see what future emerges.


Kathryn Hume  03:32

Yeah, look, I just love that you’ve been doing this for such a long time. But what we learned at the conference was that there were lots of people who were kind of fell into workforce planning, and were relatively new to it. I know Alicia Roach, refers to it as having a teenage growth, but because it’s really coming of age, and I’m really interested to understand what the history of your experience has been. Because I imagine you would have gone through a lots of different approaches and challenges and learned a lot along the way.  So at this point, what did you Reimagine Workforce look like?


Helen Finneran  04:09

I love this question, I’ve got lots of ideas about workforce roles that we might see in, in health in particular, in the future, some things that really don’t exist yet today. As I’ve been thinking for a long time now about how we could do things differently, with people with chronic conditions. It’s been a problem for a very long time, and it’s not changing, not reducing really, I don’t have an exact answer, but more kind of a process that I’ve got in my mind around pasting human centred design, how to design an ecosystem around an individual first understanding and then responding to what they personally actually need to thrive in their life. And kind of wonder what the workers might look like in this new ecosystem that exists beyond that time, they have thought for a little while now that the best person to support someone having to make lifestyle or diet changes might be appear, who’s doing it well themselves than a health practitioner with all the knowledge and that sort of power dynamic. So patients as workers, if you like, that word patient wouldn’t exist as it does today. Yeah. Also, maybe the person with a chronic condition themselves has kind of personal clinician responsibilities, like monitoring, management, maybe even when they diagnosis, their knowledge is pretty ubiquitous. Nowadays, my husband was showing me a chap GPT, which is developed by open AI, and it’s just phenomenal information on pretty much any topic you want. And I, I now spend hours or days to come, I’ve been so self monitor. I mean, we had self monitoring and smart devices. But they just exploded during the pandemic. And they shifted, I think, from being wellness focus to actually being part of healthcare. They like when you when you see these things happening, you can imagine how a patient could be their own clinician one day, and in a conceptual sense, I guess, I think it would be a very value based healthcare systems that we talked about that are really challenging. And I think I think this kind of the patient’s empowered to look after themselves, like a ground up approach, rather than the current system down way we’re going about value based healthcare at the moment, I think it would lead to changes in in many other parts of our lives. So well beyond kind of our current understanding of health literacy, like people might really develop more meaningful knowledge and skills in their own health management. And what else would they ask for in the rest of their lives? So like, you can imagine food labelling would be nothing like it is today? Yeah. It’s not just about processed food, either, like we could, we would ask for information on nutritional density of our fresh food, which is really? How would this impact on agriculture on food retailers, and distributors? What are all new workforce roles that would exist that we haven’t even imagined? Now? I always think it sounds a bit crazy when you set out that, but I do think that we will see very different workforce in health. And as our systems transform, we need to be ready to develop those roles, that you can see the edges of all of these possibilities now. But yeah, it takes like in your words, it takes a bit of courage to take a crazy idea and see if someone will work with you to make it comfortable.


Kathryn Hume  07:58

And I think crazy is actually what we need. Because crazy is that what people haven’t thought of before, and we can keep tinkering at the edges and trying to make slow, continuous change. But we really need some radical thinking, to say, and as you’ve said, You’ve been doing this since 2007. And the challenges are still there. So if we continue on the path that we’re on, we’re really on a bit of a slippery slope if we don’t address all of these workforce challenges that were only exacerbated by COVID. And, you know, it’ll be interesting to see what the next couple of years look like. Because if our older workers decide to leave, who’s going to train the younger workers, and I think that that new thinking, and what you mentioned around human centred design and throwing these crazy ideas around and then connecting with other people who might actually say, oh, yeah, we’ve got this facility to make that happen and trial things and test them and see what works. Like. That’s how we’re going to do it. So crazy ideas. Yeah, we’ll probably have hundreds of them, but some of them might work.


Helen Finneran  09:07

I think human centred design, my friends, is when you do well. It helps you make it work, because you’re designing to the context and the situation you’re in and what you need to do to deliver value, hard to explain but it’s quite a different approach. You’re actually because you’re really embedding yourself in a problem you can’t get it wrong in a way you may not change the health system, and you may not have an enormous impact but because you’re designing towards needed really closely and carefully. You do get it right.


Kathryn Hume  09:43

That’s what Ian Arnold said when in his podcast, his was on human centred design, and I said what are the benefits of it? And quite purely and simply he said, “Well, you’re more likely to get it right.” And isn’t that the whole point? You know, it could take longer, it could take more effort, but if at the end of the day, we get the best solution available, then that’s a win for everybody. Yeah. I think to when you met, you’re talking about empowering the patients and we call them consumers or whatever the the language is, maybe it’s just the the, the individual, maybe you don’t actually have to be sick to be caring for your health.


Helen Finneran  10:24

The opposite, right? If you’re sick, something’s gone wrong. I think that, and it’s tricky, because I think that’s one of the features of our current system is that you have to be sick.


Kathryn Hume  10:36

Maybe not to the degree. And I do think that is changing. I’m really looking forward to see how we emerge and I do think all of the wellness that occurred over the pandemic, I studied kinesiology back in 2013. And the things that we were learning around the parasympathetic nervous system, you know, that was all new to me at the time. And I thought it was quite fascinating. But that’s fairly common knowledge now, and, and how to bring yourself back into calm and manage your own emotions and manage the way you’re feeling. I think it’s becoming more mainstream. So it’s not these paradigm shifts. It’s happening slowly. But I think people are becoming more aware. And I know my own kids, they are so health aware, they track their food intake, and not to an obsessive degree, but they’re aware of what’s protein, what’s carbs, like they know what amounts they should have, and what proportions and how much exercise and what that exercise is doing and why different types of exercise helps you in different ways. And, you know, the knowledge that they’ve got, which they’ve probably picked up over something like Tik Tok or through their friendship groups, but, you know, they they’re learning, we haven’t had to necessarily do it for them, but we’ve made it available for them. So I do think that trend is this happening as I am seeing in my own space,


Helen Finneran  11:52

I completely get it and you see these things emerging. And not just as weak signals, but as proper trend building trends that are not volume and breadth. I do think though there is going to be change to what I will call them the health system, or we fund it, how we make allocation of resource decisions, how we ensure its safety and quality and all that sort of stuff. That system is perhaps a little bit out of step with what might be coming. And we’ll we’ll morph right it always.


Kathryn Hume  12:27

I went to a or just sat in a webinar for virtual care last year, and they were talking about Amazon moving into the healthcare space. And there’s a few things that scare me. And one of one of them is the metaverse, one of them is Amazon moving into healthcare. And that ChatGPT, I really need to get into that too, because I’ve seen more and more of that on my LinkedIn feed. But I just wonder too where we’re headed with that combination. So we’ve seen the rise of virtual over the pandemic, hopefully, we hold on to that where it’s beneficial as much as we can. But I just wonder about these private, massive organisations moving into the healthcare space. And data is going to be such a big part of that. And cybersecurity, like I just think there’s lots of with what you’re talking about as the individual taking responsibility for their health care and being enabled by this technology. You know, we’ve really got some things we need to consider here about what the impacts are going to be externally on us as a healthcare system.


Helen Finneran  13:29

I think the thing in horizons of change, and sometimes you see something coming that we all kind of see and look around and see our current horizon, which is business as usual. And you see something coming at us that looks like it’s transformative. But when you unpick it, maybe it’s not transforming enough? So Amazon, like there’s features that would provide broad, you know, access to knowledge and information with the resources controlled by one entity. And it is complex. But I would always look at within something that’s coming the parts of it. That’s my nature. I’m a pretty detailed person and understand what is truly shifted and what have we just substituted for something else?


Kathryn Hume  14:28

So one of the things I’m trying to do with the podcast this year, he’s bringing some really practical stories and showcase things that people have tried. They don’t necessarily have to have worked, but they’re things that we’ve learned from and so you were talking about an organisation that you supported in the urgent care services space in rural. Do you want to share with us a little bit more about that situation that you faced?


Helen Finneran  14:52

Yeah, yeah. It wasn’t one organisation. It was pretty much every organisation and at this point, I should point out that what I talk about is my about my work, this is just my experience and my views and not to suggest that they’re the views of my employer or anything like that. So yeah, so rural health has been one that appears unsolvable, no silver bullet, for about as long as I’ve been doing planning in Health. And it feels to me that the things that were hardest from a workforce planning sense was when you’re planning for services that needed to be 24/7 in a rural context, emergency care, maternity care, anything that needs an immediate response, and be to be provided in a small country town is really challenging for those organisations, those healthcare providers to sustain the workforce needed. And it’s pretty obvious, like the day to day work that clinicians and practitioners do in small town doesn’t usually need a very large group of people to provide for the needs of the local population in a primary care sense or an aged care sense, and so you end up trying to run a 24/7 emergency care on call roster with a relatively small pool of practitioners, which is a large commitment for individuals. Maintaining that skills is a challenge. It’s not like a big ED where you see trauma cases regularly. You might have one road traffic or farming accident once a year, but you still need to know what to do while you wait for help to arrive. And that’s pretty confronting, I spoke to one very tiny service that had about 400 presentations total a year, and had only recently dealt with someone who’d chopped themselves nearly in half with a chainsaw. Literally, just phenomenal, phenomenal things that practitioners face in rural settings. Not all the time, but they need to be ready when it does happen. But it’s not easy for healthcare providers to attract and sustain the workforce that can do that. And and that ability to attract and sustain in rural locations has been a challenge for as long as I’ve been planning, and before well, before, it’s it’s not one organisation at all, it’s pretty much everyone to a degree,


Kathryn Hume  17:23

One of the things that I think about the rural challenge is, what I hear is that people might have the perception that by moving rural, you don’t develop your skills as rapidly as you might in a Metro facility. But then there’s a counter argument that says, actually, you develop a lot more because you have to deal with so many and varied and you’re it. We’ve got the support virtually, but you don’t necessarily have that backup, as you would in a metro. And there’s benefits to be gained from both and do we try and get people to move out there permanently? Or do we try and build in some sort of rotation? And I don’t think forcing people to do that, as part of their training is the answer. Because I think if you go against your will, it’s not going to be as pleasurable and experience and you’re not going to deliver the same level of patient care. So I think there’s lots of challenges, but we need to, I guess, help people to have a good experience when they get there. And that’s not just about work. And it’s not just about them in a lot of cases, because they’re going to bring their families and kids and they have lives to live as well. And our family picked up and moved to UK for 12 months in 2016 and one of the really critical, one of the critical factors in that decision making about whether or not we would do that was whether or not my kids would have a school to go to when we came back whether we’d have a house with what car would we use. So it was all wasn’t actually about the experience, we went to so much that we were able to come back and reenter the life that we had here. And breaking the ties here would have meant that we wouldn’t have done the adventure in the first place. And it wasn’t about what we were going to so much it was whether or not we were going to have our lives and when we return. So I just think there’s lots of different ways of approaching that. But I just do feel like it is one of those wicked problems that we can improve. We can find good solutions, we can find some solutions that are better than others. But I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re ever going to solve it because the resourcing to incentivise people to maintain that service.


Helen Finneran  19:33

You are right, it is complex, and therefore there is not one answer and there’s not even a mix of answers that will all work across everything? It’s more dynamic than that.


Kathryn Hume  19:45

And I think what happens in one healthcare system isn’t necessarily going to work in another. It’s interesting I sat in on some conversations with Canada, it was interesting to hear that they’ve got very similar problems. So you know, there’s lots to be lots to be gained from having conversations very, very broadly. So you mentioned you were applying traditional paradigms. Can you talk us through what they were and why they didn’t quite deliver the outcomes that you were looking for?


Helen Finneran  20:10

When I say traditional workforce planning, which is, which is what I do, like 90% of the time, I’m basically talking about an approach that where I quantify workforce demand. So basically, it’s something I’d model or calculate. And then I compare demand with a similarly quantified view of supply, which is something I assume I can count. And comparing the two gives me and my, where I need to respond and act. Because there’s a gap. But I guess urgent care, it didn’t cut it. I did a lot of data analysis over the years. I remember doing, like a data analysis. in Queensland, I think it was looking at whole region. So what’s the demand what’s the supply across a whole region, or a rural workforce, but that, and basically, when you when you combined all these things, you didn’t see much of a gap? Or you didn’t see a gap that explained what you were hearing? And the reason is because the biggest gaps were in some locations in some roles. But when you average it out, you couldn’t see it. And I said, Okay, well, it’s not going to work to roll it up. What happens if I narrow down so I’ve done case studies, lots of different case studies. So quite a series of case studies, very detailed and in depth, again, looking at patterns of service demand, and workforce demand and complexity. So there’s a proxy first and skills needed, supply, supply movement patterns. Very detailed, like 50 Page reports on one service at a time, and basically, not being able to say at the end of it, whatI thought we should do because I mean, in that one that the numbers are small, so they bounce around a lot. And so you end up saying a lot? Well, that’s just a small number. And it’s varying a lot. And the other thing is like, it’s a lot of different things. It’s not one thing that you can hang your hat on and say Okay, we should do this. We’re even a couple. It’s just, yeah, it’s like this beast that keeps popping out different things. So I would say, Okay, well, that sort of detailed case study doesn’t work. And so I did a series of case studies. So like, maybe I just need to look at how people are doing it, and what works and what doesn’t. So I remember doing a series of 10 case studies across different services, looking at different workforce model, again, looking at demand supply and pressures. And basically, that just told me that there’s a lot of variability. Not that there’s one way that. That didn’t, that didn’t really lead to anything. Yeah, I have done modelling on what I think we should have, based on what I think would be a sustainable pool and different types of services, and risk analysis on what factors look like they’re going to produce a service that’s heading towards significant issues with sustainability. But we’re all of it was basically felt like I was chasing my tail. Never quite understanding the problem, never coming up with a definitive answer. Just a lot of describing variability and complexity.


Kathryn Hume  23:39

The good news story is though, it’s got a happier ending to the story. So can you tell us about the turning point?


Helen Finneran  23:46

Yeah, I think the turning point came when I properly accepted that it is a complex problem. I’d done Systems Thinking training years and years ago with some brilliant people, Richard Borden, Ray Ison, and Roger Packer who were like, in Australia’s like, Godfather, grandfather’s systems. Gurus. Yeah. And so I listed complexity as a concept. But I’d never used that pure systems thinking approach in workforce planning. And it was just a friend wanted to do some online training, we thought system thinking would be a good thing to do, because she lives in rural health as well. And when we did the Acumen online course in systems thinking, and they asked you to pick a topic, and we both thought, yep, urgent care in rural areas is pretty complex. It really was. It really was we spent three months mapping out the urgent care system and its workforce planning and we’ll start and you start exploring the forces in system and how they interacted. What caused what, how the forces think this was really important to how the forces are linked together, cause loops. They call them virtuous loops where you see something reverberating and improving things, vicious loops, stabilising loops and stagnating loops. So basically these forces kind of interact with each other to effectively sustain the system, which is a mind shift, right. I always thought of urgent care as an unsustainable system, but the system that exists is actually sustained. We may not like all parts of it, and what it how it, you know, the outcomes that arise from it, but it is sustained. The way we’re doing things and how we’re set up. And how these forces interact, is actually holding it as it is. Which is kind of weird. You kind of have to shift your thinking on what sustainability means, I guess. Yeah, yeah. So at one point we had, we literally had like an enormous board table, in one of the offices covered with postit notes. It was like a metre long, very overwhelming, very detailed, but not analytical, and conceptual, which was the other thing that was really quite different for me. And so you synthesise and you make sense of this system, and you look for levers that are going to reinforce a virtuous loop and shortcut up a vicious loop that’s causing problems. And in the end, you look for deeper pattern in the system, and you look at the levers that might shift in the way you want. And that became really clear, like that we have four big levers, that when I say them, people will say, Oh, of course, it’s obvious. But hidden thing is that the impact it has on the whole system, when you act on these levers, and so I think, if I remember now it was a little while ago, but the skill of confidence of nurses was a big lever. The way general practitioners are engaged to work in these services also had multiple knock on effects. Breadth of skill of practitioners was another one, and the network that surrounds the services in the town. So without any numbers behind it, I actually felt very confident that if we acted in any of those, in any of those four, we had a good chance of providing benefit to the system. And we actually, three of the four actually ended up being acted on. And I was put in place, I haven’t been back to evaluate. It was quite fascinating to see. I didn’t I didn’t share the detail of the systems map, because I think I lost the audience. Yeah, I was looking at it the other day, we have a systems map that shows the dynamics. And I still feel like it makes so much sense and why we would choose to act on those levers also is quite justifiable in my mind. Yeah. And I think everything shifted me away from some other levers which perhaps, so like the attract, and incentive payments, and things like that. I mean, they still have a place that I would never take a possible intervention that might be do some good off the table. But I can see that they won’t solve the system problem. And that’s the wrong phrase, they won’t improve. They won’t improve the system at a system level.


Kathryn Hume  28:42

That’s interesting, too, if you to what incentivizes different people. And I think I remember when I was studying, teaching that, overwhelmingly, all the research indicated that teacher self efficacy, so teacher confidence in their ability to teach and educate was one of the most critical determinants of learning outcomes. So I think what you said about nurse’s confidence, I’d imagine that’s the same thing. You know, if nurses are confident in what they’re doing, the work experience is going to be more positive. So therefore, they’re more likely to stay and probably engage and develop more too because they need to learn more and more along the way, you know, there will be a never ending learning cycle, I would imagine.


Helen Finneran  29:23

I think that as well, though, the system component of that is that I mean, I was a practitioner for the first decade of my career, and it was my personal responsibility to build my knowledge, and I had a very supportive workplace, but I was in the middle of London and my ability to access learning opportunities was boundless. When you talk about skills and confidence of nurses in a rural context, a system response is needed to achieve a system improvement in that at that leader, because it’s not something that can be achieved in a local context. It’s where it’s the level at which you act, in order to achieve it. It’s a bit counterintuitive, because at one set on one stage, I’m saying there’s variability everywhere. And everybody has different needs, and everything is different. When you do a system thinking exercise, you’re looking for levers that shift the system. And that that lever, even though it’s applied differently, in different places, should have an effect on the whole system. And it was interesting. I mean, there’s a lot of people that went into the design of this particular programme that focused on nursing capability. But one of the things I really liked about it was that it kind of had a flavour of pick and mix. It was applied at the system’s level accessible to everyone across the system. But the individual could have the ability to focus on their own needs. So there was personal learning goals. It was tied locally, but offered dynamically.


Kathryn Hume  31:09

I think, if we give tools to be able to say, this is the capabilities that you need, here’s some sort of self assessment to say, What have you got? Where are your gaps, and therefore, here’s some suggestions on how you might fill those gaps. You know, we’re really empowering the individual, we’re able to do that customised approach, but we can do it at a system level. So we’re benefiting the whole system, but also the individuals in it.


Helen Finneran  31:34

Yeah, I think customise is really good, right? Because that’s one of the barriers when someone to participate in a programme that starts on this day finishes on that day, you know, has this thing these deadlines and so forth, you’re actually making it, you’re making it hard for someone who, in any area but particularly in a rural area, to be able to access what they need.


Kathryn Hume  32:03

So when we talked, you mentioned this three horizons, which I absolutely love. And I’ve had so many conversations since we spoke about this and raising people’s awareness to it. So I’d love you to share that with us, please.


Helen Finneran  32:17

Yeah, sure. The reason I talked about that is when I approach a problem now, I kind of have a couple of frameworks in mind, when I’m thinking about how to approach the planning challenge, what method I should use. One is Cynefin so the complexities framework. And the other is this three horizons, and I’ll find the reference for you. That explains it. But there’s loads on YouTube, if you want to look, basically the three horizons talks about what horizon planning am I planning for? And there’s three four horizons. Three horizons, the middle one is split in two. Horizon one is, when I’m planning horizon one, I’m planning for the current system. So I’m trying to improve the current system. The same current system. What happens on now. And when I talked about the system, in this sense, I’m talking about who’s in charge, how the resource flows, what the regulations are, who’s powerful. Where the power dynamics are. Everything that sustains how we do things now. And planning in that situation, everything exists now. So it does tend to be more traditional but analytical approach. And the example I give is if I was planning to say how many gastroenterologist do we need and where. Gastroenterologist sit in the system, there’s a training system, there’s a regulation system there’s a health system that decides what they do, how much they’re paid, what type of care they provide, and there’s waiting lists there’s all sorts of stuff that will help me understand in our current system how many gastroenterologists I need and half and what I should do about it. The thing is, though, outside our current system, there’s a new system on the edge of that, and that in this example, would be nurse endoscopists. So it turns that you don’t need a gastroenterologist to do every scope. Nurse endoscopists can be trained to do this work very safely and effectively and it’s an improvement in our resource how we use our resources, scarce resources in health but I call horizon the gastroenterologist horizon one and the nurse industrial horizon to minus. So it is the edge of change. It still lives in exists within the constraints and the rules and regulations of our current system, but it’s different and sometimes that it we call it horizon two minus gets captured by horizon one. So basically, it lives and flourishes at the pleasure of Horizon one and how much horizon one allow withdraw horizon one isn’t disrupted by all the rules and regulations stay in place. It’s just this marginal improvement and innovation that we’ve achieved within the current system, and we’re calling it two minus. Beyond that, though, if I’m planning for the system coming, I’m probably planning for what I’d call horizon two plus, or three. Two pass, you know, you’re planning for a two plus situation, when something has been disrupted. And you’re starting to see the new system emerge. Two plus would be ingestible diagnostics. You don’t need anyone to scope you swallow the camera, it takes pictures, it sends it off, etc, etc. And the workforce that you need to do decimal diagnostics is a technician. And an IT person. Very different, very diferent. And so if I’m doing workforce planning for these types of conditions, and I’m considering a two plus horizon and system, I’m not nowhere near doing the same sort of planning. I’m doing right than one, and I can’t get the thing around about horizon two plus planning to transfer step into transformation disruption is I can’t count it. So I can’t go out and look at how many people are doing this job and how many I need. Because I can’t. I’m imagining creating or designing or something like that. And the other thing is, when we have a system where you swallow the camera, you probably catch some disease very early, you probably don’t have the same service demand, from the population health demand so that’s changed as well. There’s a lot of uncertainty in two plus planning. A lot more design, creativity, imagining things like that, and you literally can’t count it. And beyond horizon, two plus, is this kind of feels SciFi, but it’s horizon three, and horizon three would be nanotechnology. nanobots crawling around on your inside, you take a drink every morning, all your bots go through system and fix micro trauma and disease. And you never have that disease or conditions. And so that, again, you can’t really plan for that. All you can do in that space, is provide an environment that allows those crazy ideas, proper, crazy ideas to grow and develop. And so you’re speculating, call that a small bet in the long game, like my colleague, Rhianna Brown, who works at work futures, she explains it really well. But there’s some things that are some actions that I take that are no brainers, because I think the impact will be high. And I’m fairly certain about how I think this might play out. And then there’s these things that are super crazy ideas that if they came to pass, they would be amazing, and you don’t want to miss out on them. And so that’s a small bet in the long game, and you’re speculating, in a safe way. Safe to fail experiments. Things like that. And I still call that workforce planning. Because I’m still looking at the workforce I need and might have in those far out situations. But I’m just, I’m imagining them and designing them. I’m not counting any analysing anything.


Kathryn Hume  38:46

I think it’s I think it’s fascinating, but I love that. And this is I’m stealing your words, but it gives us the language to be able to talk. So when you’re having those conversations with your stakeholders and your SMEs, that you’re, you’re able to say okay, we’re now in horizon one. But also if we are in horizon three, almost gives you that permission to say, this is a crazy idea. But that’s okay, because that’s what this horizon is all about. And I guess that’s where I see the three C’s, the curiosity, the creativity, and the courage coming in where we, we really need to say but what is possible. That futures cone. I’ll also put a link to that in the show notes, because Alex Hagen introduced us to that. And I just love that because it allows for all possibilities. Yeah, it might be preposterous, but it still might happen. So I think if I can, you could almost overlay your three horizons on that futures cone and say okay, the preposterous might be horizon three, but let’s, let’s allow for it and I do actually like that. What did you say it’s a small a small bet in the long game. I like that because it gives us permission to okay, we can spend a little bit of time thinking about that, but we have really got a job to do. We’ve got a system that we need Ron today, so let’s make sure we’ve got all of our ducks in a row here. But what’s the possibilities, and if we don’t have it on a radar that it might happen, we’re not going to plan for it.


Helen Finneran  40:12

I think as workforce planners, it’s, it’s our responsibility to support people to know how to choose their actions. It is a courage in a way, but I don’t want to expect people to be uber courageous, right? Like, if I’m working for someone, they’re usually someone in charge of maintaining the current system. So they have a real and very important responsibility, to sustain the current one. That’s their job. And they’re not allowed to collect the wheel fall off. Right? And so when I’m working with someone and planning my responsibility. And it takes a bit of courage from me and from them to be very mindful of, I’m going to do planning for Horizon one, because we have this problem. And that’s the urgent care example. I can’t just ignore our current system. but I’m going to try and hold space for…have the language that we will know what we’re talking about. You know, upcoming step into horizon two plus here, because I think there’s an opportunity. And here  are some, let’s take you through some innovation labs to leverage the wonderful knowledge in your staff, and the enthusiasm. Here’s some safe to fail experiments that will help you explore possibilities. So you can anticipate and be ready to manage risk or to realise an opportunity for something that’s kind of, well, that might come? Yeah, the crazy idea does not live unless we help people to know how to act on it. And that you’re not, you haven’t gone insane. You’re being very strategic.  It does sound like you’re going insane with some things we talk about. Some of the innovation labs, pure, like imagination is beautiful, but


Kathryn Hume  42:10

but I think that’s where you throw in examples of, you know, your Netflix and your, all those traditional case studies that we use Uber and who would have thought that getting people to drive their own cars around instead of taxis would have been a thing. And yet, it’s so mainstream today, that would have been a crazy idea at one point, everything today was correct. Right. So I think it’s okay, but yeah, you’re like the call out that we’ve still got to run the system. And we’ve got a responsibility to do that. So it’s just getting that balance, right, because it’s fun to play in a crazy space.


Helen Finneran  42:45

There’s a futurist, Kieran Murihy, who works at Foresight Lane, he taught me that and held my hand, as I had go at my first fairly uncomfortable innovation lab. I think having support is important. You don’t want to fail when you’re doing different things you want a positive experience and having someone support you throughout, it’s important,


Kathryn Hume  43:07

And especially in Health, I just always amazed by the dedication of healthcare professionals and clinicians. The concept of failure. And obviously, in a clinical space, we just would not allow for that so that it’s ingrained in them that we don’t, you can’t fail, it’s really a little bit of a mindset shift around that, how do we create that safe space. We’re not going to put anyone’s lives at risk by doing what we’re doing. We’re really just exploring how we might do things better.


Helen Finneran  43:35

And we used to, it used to be out kind of not an excuse, but it sustained our current system a lot this idea of safety, but when I saw the amazing innovations that people in help hospitals, just what we did during the pandemic has, and the brilliant outcomes that were achieved and how much they learned. I know that ability to create new things, even within the context of a appropriately and regulated system. There’s a huge amount we can do.


Kathryn Hume  44:14

There are some silver linings from COVID and I think that we can look back and say, but look at what we achieved, then, you know, there’s evidence to say, we can try this and we can actually move the system ahead in leaps and bounds if we’ve got the right supports, and if we’ve got the right safety measures. Helen, I’m conscious of time. I think we’ve said we’re going to stick to 30 to 40 minutes, and I think we’ve gone way over but it’s been a fantastic conversation. If people are wanting to connect with you, how might they do that?


Helen Finneran  44:53

Oh just LinkedIn.


Kathryn Hume  44:54

Okay, I’ll add a link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes and all of the things that we’ve talked about too I’ll throw some links into the show notes for that as well. And I also put in the chapter markers, so you’ll be able to find different sections of the podcast. So if it is a long one, I’ll put the chapter markers in for everybody so you can jump around. Thank you so much for your time and all the conversations we’ve had. I really look forward to having many more in the future and I’ve learned so much from you. And I just love the structures that you provide for thinking these things through. So thank you so much. Have a great day and we’ll speak soon. Thanks. Thanks for your podcast. I really that’s awesome to hear. Thanks so much.


Helen Finneran  45:40

Thanks for listening to the Reimagined Workforce podcast. We hope you found some valuable ideas that you can apply to transform your own workforce today and tomorrow. Additional information and links can be found in the show notes for this episode at workforce transformations.com.au/podcast. Please share this podcast with your community and leave us a rating to let us know what we can do better for you

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