The Four Strengths initiative is designed to unite all corners of NHS finance – from CCGs to provider trusts – in how they refer to the different attributes that finance staff in the service need to have. The Four Strengths are designed to help NHS finance teams develop the skills they need for the challenges ahead.
It has been created to be simple, memorable and time-saving – giving NHS finance departments a consistent, universal language to support not just appraisals, but the whole development process. The ‘Four Strengths’ are stated as challenging personal statements: “I’m a finance expert”, “I’m a team player”, “I drive value” and “I make change happen”. The strengths themselves, and the descriptions which support them, have been developed in consultation with NHS finance professionals.
To help develop the product, FFF surveyed nearly 350 professionals in the NHS Finance sector on their experiences and how they feel about the Four Strengths approach. Over two thirds (71%) of the respondents thought the concept was a good idea, with the new, consistent language a particular advantage.The survey found that, generally, finance professionals consider themselves strong team players (with an average score of 4.4 out of 5). This self-perception could perhaps be tested with non-finance colleagues. Being able to ‘make change happen’ was an area identified for potential improvement, with a lower average score of 3.5 out of 5.
On launching the Four Strengths, Richard Alexander, CFO at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – and SRO of our Skills and Strengths programme – said: “Most of the staff we spoke to conceded that the existing finance competency frameworks for NHS finance professionals are good, but the materials spend most of the time on office shelves – perhaps coming out annually to support appraisals. The ‘Four Strengths’ framework presents development in a way that can be used all year round, formally and informally. It also emphasises that the essential technical expertise in finance, for which there is much development support, is only one of the strengths we actually will need.”
From speaking to NHS finance professionals, it is clear that a consistent approach to staff appraisals and development plans has been missing for some time. It makes sense for those working in CCGs and in trusts to be reviewed in exactly the same way, under exactly the same headings. But at the moment that’s not happening and as we are increasingly encouraged to partner across organisations a consistent language could surely help. The Four Strengths will go a long way to redressing the balance – providing a memorable, and consistent, set of categories that can be used throughout the NHS.
The Four Strengths and our suggested approach to using them, can be found in the attached documents. We are sure that they will prove to be a useful tool for all finance teams across the country.