Team managers at Woodgreen Pets Charity became responsible for far more people management as a result of organisational change. So a new style leadership and management development programme was launched to support and upskill them. Esther Redman, Talent Partner at Woodgreen, explains how she created the programme, weaving time for reflective practice throughout.
Member fact file:
Woodgreen Pets Charity has been a member of the Charity Learning Consortium since 2019 and uses both the learning management system and eLearning that we provide.
A training needs analysis was carried out, with the 16 team managers that made up the first cohort which started in 2022. This was completed in conjunction with line managers, people partners and directors. The answers were analysed to identify key areas that people felt less confident and knowledgeable about. This meant that Esther could prioritise themes that were most needed, such as performance management, giving feedback and conflict resolution.
“We often talk about people getting promoted into their first line management job because they’re really good at the job, but actually they need to know the people side of it, which is what we wanted to do,” explains Esther.
The blended learning programme
The new Leading with Pride programme she created is a real blend of online resources and face-to-face sessions. Divided into 11 key modules, the first programme was spread over eight months. Each module consists of a face-to-face workshop, with bite-sized complementary resources, including videos from the Clear Lessons library provided by the Charity Learning Consortium.
Lots of activities, conversations, time for reflection and ultimately commitments to change encourage people to put what they have learnt into practice. An emphasis on coaching is woven in as well, with specific resources outlining different models, with sample questions to get people started.
Backed by a wealth of online resources, Esther was keen for core sessions to be face-to-face. This meant that people could share experiences and different viewpoints, as well as learn together and from one another. As a result, she noticed how cohesive the group became, meeting up and helping one another.
Watch Esther’s interview with Learning Now TV
All online resources sit on a dedicated course page on LEXI – the Woodgreen branded Moodle learning management system provided by the Charity Learning Consortium. Attendees can book onto face-to-face sessions, access pre-workshop learning, download their workbooks and find a variety of other useful resources all in one place.
“Having everything in one repository works really well,” says Esther. “It means that everyone has access to everything, wherever they are, which is fantastic.”
The Leading with Pride programme includes:
- A new course booklet, giving an overview of the entire programme
- 11 core modules
- A workbook and a face-to-face workshop for each module
- A range of bite-sized learning and curated resources are provided before and after the workshops, including eLearning, videos, reading, exercises, questions to reflect upon and further details of topics that have been discussed and/or requested
Reflection underpins the entire course, with time for contemplation in the workshops themselves as well as afterwards. A post-course email also provides questions for people to consider.
With a background in education, Esther understands the importance of reflection to learning, so it has become a key part of the programme. During the workshops, at certain points the sessions stop and delegates are asked to quietly reflect on some of the topics that have been covered, setting that into context with their own teams and departments. These reflective exercises are generally done solo, but on occasion in small groups.
In a follow up email, everyone is given some guided questions as ‘food for thought’, to help them put what they have learnt into practice.
Delegates are also asked to commit to making changes, explaining their commitments to their line managers. This means they can discuss their commitments in their one-to-one meetings, get extra support and potentially create objectives as well.
Rather than using ‘happy sheets’ at the end of each module, Esther waits a week to ask for feedback. She’s keen for the initial ‘euphoria’ to have settled, to get a more reflective response. Delegates are also given a choice as to how they submit feedback – either after each module or at the end of the whole programme, so they can reflect more on all of the elements.
They are asked if they enjoyed the course, whether it is doing what it should and meeting their needs. Have they shared anything with their teams, or tried anything out as a result? Crucially, are they getting something out of it of practical use? Feedback has been very positive. For example, delegates have reported that coaching skills have proved useful for team conversations.
Several months after the course has ended she is carrying out a second training needs analysis, to compare the before and after, to see what has changed. The Head of Talent at Woodgreen is also carrying out focus groups to ask for constructive feedback, so they can keep improving the offering.
Feedback is still being analysed, but it has been rewarding for Esther to see how supportive the delegates have become to one another.
“The biggest lightbulb moment for me has been seeing how important the relationships are between all the team managers,” says Esther. “It has been great to see them sharing experiences and ideas with each other, as well as offering advice and support.”
A second cohort is due to start in 2023, made up of a mix of people managers from throughout the organisation. Certain elements have been tweaked, to incorporate resources requested as the first group progressed. In the meantime, Esther has been considering the interconnectedness of leadership and management development at Woodgreen. To meet that, she’d like to see the current course include some additional ‘bolt-on’ modules to cover operational management and Woodgreen will also be introducing an Aspiring Managers programme.
Ultimately, the Leading with Pride programme has been designed in a flexible way, so that people can ‘cherry pick’ what they need. This has provided a great blueprint for Esther and Woodgreen to build upon in the future.
Esther’s top tips for L&D
Give people time to reflect: Reflection is a key part of learning, so make time for people to reflect and prompt them to do so – stop workshops at key moments and give them reflective questions afterwards. Reflection is a skill and the hope is that people will find it beneficial, so that it becomes a part of their daily lives.
Give people flexibility: For a lot of our staff – and it’s common for most organisations – getting people released from their day jobs for training isn’t always easy. So be mindful of the fact that people have jobs, commitments, that there’s a lot of other things going on for them. Consider how you can best support them and be as flexible as you can to help them access all learning.
Give people an initial reason to connect: Learning is social, so find a way to kick start that. The relationships that people form as delegates are integral to them learning beyond your course.