Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. They provide information, training and support, run a range of high-quality services including the pioneering TreeHouse School and campaign to make the ordinary possible for children and young people with autism.
In 2010 Ambitious about Autism went through considerable change following a restructure to align structure to the new strategy.
The organisation was looking to develop its culture to one where “managers must be able to manage” and wanted to give managers the tools and the confidence needed to achieve this.
Ambitious about Autism introduced a new Performance Management system, and this seemed the ideal starting point to provide training and development for the managers to ensure its success.
Due to the demands and nature of the TreeHouse School work there was very little flexibility in terms of releasing managers for traditional training workshops, so Focal Point Training recommended a programme of 2 hour ‘bite size’ sessions that would fit around the needs of the school day timetable.
The sessions were developed incrementally to take managers on a ‘journey’ through the performance management process, from setting out expectations and objectives, tracking performance and giving feedback through running effective one-to one meetings, and assessing performance as part of the annual performance development review.
Focal Point also supported Ambitious about Autism’s HR function and line managers, by producing written ‘good practice’ guidelines to compliment the training and also helped to review current practices in objective setting and written feedback. This helped the HR team establish specific areas for development and enabled them to target their ongoing support to managers.
Workshops initially focused on school staff, but have been extended to the whole organisation, as new managers joined the rapidly growing organisation.
Feedback from the programme has been very positive and the flexibility of the bite-size approach has been particularly valued by attendees, allowing them to develop their management skills alongside their specialist professional skills.
Zoe Weaver Director of People comments “The biggest challenge for us was being able to provide tailored, meaningful development for our managers in a timetable that is already tightly structured. Focal Point’s “bite sized” approach gave us the flexibility we required to ensure all managers got the input they needed to build their confidence. The approach also gave them time to practice the skills in between sessions and then attend subsequent workshops to cement their understanding and build further skills. We have also really appreciated the time Focal Point have taken to get to know the organisation and what we are trying to achieve and this has meant that delivery of the workshops has been highly relevant and is helping us to see real changes in the way our managers manage.