As a professional recruiter for Rethink Healthcare and Digital Gurus, Chris Walker has served the Health sector for over 10 years, helping private and public health organisations meet their digital transformation goals and attract and retain brilliant workforces.
How did you become an Associate Director at Rethink Healthcare?
I fell into recruitment like most and progressed through the ranks by hitting targets given to me and using the great people around me to achieve more and more. My philosophy is surround yourself with nothing but good people and you can achieve your goals quicker, with everyone benefiting from the hard work.
What do you love most about the work you do?
I’ve been able to help people shape their careers, realise ambitions, and guide people in their skill and character development, while pushing them to break their own limitations. That’s what I love about doing this job. I now run my own brand of the business and have earnt my spurs to make key business decisions that affect my staff.
Let’s talk about the pandemic. What are some of the unprecedented changes you’ve seen in health tech over the last year and a half?
Working predominantly with the NHS for the past 10 years, a lot of our business has been centered within the public sector and so with every government change that comes in, there are knock-on systemic effects. The problem with this is that the public sector is usually quite behind the wider tech worlds.
In health technology, there’s the NHS side, which is patient and care-centered tech, then there’s the consumer health tech side, which includes devices like Fitbits, smart watches, yoga apps, med tech and so on. These two worlds have been spinning for a while, slowly coming closer and closer together, but Covid radically sped up digital transformation in both. The crossover now is massive. You’re much more likely to download an app to get a doctor’s appointment then to go down to your local GP. For that to happen in such a short period of time is phenomenal. More digital transformation has taken place in the past year due to Covid than we’ve ever seen previously in the health tech market.
The NHS has been under unbelievable amounts of pressure serving as the frontline of the pandemic. Have you noticed an increase/decrease in candidates applying for NHS roles as a result?
A recent study published on a digital transformation blog stated that within the past 12 months there’s been a 150% increase in people proactively applying for healthcare training, degrees and self-study courses. The reason that’s shocking is that we all know that nurses and frontline workers have been in short supply for decades due to underfunding, so you would expect to see Covid putting people off looking into these vocations. The data suggests opposite.
More and more people want to be part of the health world, whether that’s coming from an ethical drive of people wanting to contribute to society, an activation in empathy or a revaluation of careers and vocations. We’ve seen a massive spike in people accessing and signing up to vocational and health-based training, which could have a really positive effect on the lower banding shortages, like nursing staff roles.
In terms of the health tech market, we’ve found that almost all roles (other than niche tech) have had a huge amount of uptake in terms of job ad response. So, on the surface, businesses may think they don’t need our services due to the volume of applicants they’re attracting, when in actual fact, they need these services more than ever in order to pull out genuine candidates from the applicants. We’ve got an even bigger job now to find that gem. It’s a needle in a haystack task as opposed to waiting (hoping) to get a star candidate walk through the door!
Applications have shot through the roof so it’s a different challenge now for Hiring Managers to try and find the best talent, which emphasises the need to partner with good recruitment specialists. For our clients, we’re able to be their quality assessor and an advocate of best practice for handling the recruitment processes and finding them the quality that’s hidden in the quantity.
‘Choose to Challenge’ was the theme for International Women’s Day 2021, do you believe we are now seeing a change when it comes to women in tech and women in leadership roles?
It’s certainly getting better year on year, but there is still a heavy slant towards a male dominance within the senior roles across health technology. We’ve seen more technically skilled women becoming part of the health tech world, and uptake has shot up compared to what it used to be in terms of representation of gender, but at the top of the tree most senior posts are still male dominated.
Change is happening, but it’s changing quicker at the lower levels than it is at the senior. At Rethink Healthcare we try to use our voice as a market leading recruiter in this space, by running a Women in Tech event series every 2-3 months on LinkedIn. We have a panel of female leaders from the industry covering topics from DE&I, discussing the challenges they may have experienced and championing women in senior roles.
We’re yet to see what the overall effect of the pandemic will be on gender balance. After having our first baby in lockdown, who’s 7 months now, my missus will be coming to the end of her maternity leave soon and so we’ll be experiencing this first-hand as we try to juggle the return-to-work phase and find our own work-life balances.
It’s an area that still needs lots of work, but the best businesses we see in the health tech space are always those with better representation of gender, so it’s really important that this is high on the agenda for HR and Hiring Managers.
What does being ‘valued’ mean to you?
For me, being valued is about being paid well to work hard, but it’s also about being considered a ‘decision-influencer’ even if you are not a decision-maker. That’s why I empower my team to be part of our growth plans and visions.
Knowing what you do now, what piece of advice would you give your younger self just starting out?
Trust your gut. Be tenacious in what you set out to achieve. Don’t be afraid of setting big goals and taking small steps towards them. Then go after that with all your heart and mind.
I went from a Junior Recruiter who’d never had an office job in my life and just wanted a job, to working up through the ranks to eventually come out as a Director and a P&L owner within a business. I had a vision, and I stuck my neck on the line several times in terms of being confident with where I think the business can go.
What do you think is the best step a new starter can take to excel at Rethink?
Once you’ve set your goals, try to find a mentor in the industry who can offer you insight, motivation, and act as your sounding board. Recruitment is a tough job, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Having somebody to bounce off, who’s been there and done that, while you’re still figuring it out is worth its weight in gold.
How will you be celebrating your 10-year anniversary?!
Lockdown has certainly put a stopper on us going to our favourite restaurant! But instead, I’m going to be sitting down with my missus, opening a bottle of wine at home, having a bit of food and reflecting on the last 10 years in terms of what this job has given us.
We’ve managed to get the house, the car, the baby, the dog – and we’re happy. Sometimes it’s good to sit back and reflect on your journey and all the things that when growing up you thought you might not have, and now do have – through hard work, graft, and determination.
In a sentence, what is your motivation to get up and start your 11th year?
Improving the lives of everyone I connect with – my team, my clients, my candidates, and my own.