Whizz-Kids is a small UK charity that needed to stabilise following a period of expansion and contraction as a result of Big Lottery funding. A new senior team was appointed, including the Director of People and Engagement, whose brief it was to engage a workforce experiencing high turnover and low morale.
The Big Lottery gave Whizz-Kidz the largest single donation over 3 years in the charity’s history to expand services for young people across England; this resulted in having to increase the number of staff employed to deliver these services. The change in culture from stable to growth, then needed to evolve again to cope with the discipline, standards and structure that were being introduced into the service delivery, because Big Lottery funding would reduce or end, and services would potentially need to be delivered sustainably without it.
The Charity had gone from a stable, discipline driven environment to something more akin to a ‘start-up’ – a lot of trial and error, experimentation, creativity. Some thrived in this environment, others struggled with the lack of standard processes, and the complexity that this caused.
Early investigations revealed that:
- Staff turnover was high, even compared to the sector – the areas of highest turnover were fundraising and services, but in the case of the latter, this with a large cohort on fixed term contracts that were leaving earlier than expected.
- Exit interviews suggested that staff morale had declined with complaints about management, communication, direction.
- Internal communication needed improvement – The new interim Fundraising Director was recruited to restructure and stabilise the fundraising team. The new Operations Director was recruited with the specific brief to make the services sustainable – i.e. to be able to reach more young people with less cost and no reduction in services.
Fundraising was under pressure to replace the Big Lottery funding or face cutting Services, and Services felt pressure to deliver more with less. These areas worked in silos with little collaboration.
The Charity lost many staff through restructuring.
Lumina Learning Solution
The staff engagement survey was linked to Lumina Spark so that all staff in the organisation got some development as an incentive, with Lumina supporting the investigation of a possible link between engagement and personality. The survey formed the baseline and would be repeated again a year later once changes and interventions had taken place.
The survey revealed that staff were committed, understood how they contributed to the success of the organisation and felt both proud to work for the Charity and appreciated. However, a lower proportion felt that teams worked well across the charity, believed that action would be taken on the results of the survey and that they received all the information they needed to do their job.
Early on, senior staff had personal one-to-one sessions to debrief them on their own Lumina Spark portraits. From this, the qualities were identified for the recruitment of a new Fundraising Director (Outcome Focused, Big Picture Thinking) which proved to be very successful. In addition, half day workshops to explore the Lumina Spark portraits were conducted on an open basis (thus breaking down silos) as well as team sessions by function and region. Bespoke sessions were requested for individual groups and teams and demand remains high. A new collaboration platform was implemented (Workplace by Facebook) and a group called ‘Lumina Lessons’ was set up to embed the tool in the organisation, with Lumina Spark splashes shared on individual profiles.
Analysis of the survey and Lumina Spark scores revealed that:
- As expected there was a high people focus – understandable given the nature of the work, and the type of person it attracts.
- That being empathetic, accommodating and collaborative was central to feeling respected, working well within teams, feeling equipped at work, and being engaged; however, being competitive with others affected teamwork negatively.
- Some participants in the workshops found exchanging cards to provide instant feedback as ‘harsh’. This was without the inclusion of the overextended cards.
- Listening to others and being considerate was more important that being sociable and conceptual – the organisation had a strong ‘down to earth’ preference. Some extraverted, outcome focused, big picture individuals found the environment frustrating, as evidenced by some of the exit interviews and the comments for improvement in the survey.
The survey was repeated a year later. Some staff redid their profiles. The analysis includes all staff pre- and post- the initial survey being completed. This may show that the new staff had some impact on the culture. The staff who repeated the Lumina questionnaire may also have contributed to a change in behaviours. Mandalas were prepared to demonstrate the before and after preferred qualities.
The Charity accepted that it needed to improve internal communication, leadership (identifying what ‘good’ looks like) and to create a better sense of belonging for all staff, including those who worked remotely.
As a result of the interventions, staff and managers are having a different kind of conversation. An exploration of the Lumina Spark mandala and how all behaviours are positive, not just the blue and green ones, has led to a better tolerance of diversity, and understanding of the difficult decisions that senior (red) staff have to make. The fundraising team in particular have been early adopters, not just of the Lumina programme, but also of the collaborative platform, Workplace by Facebook – to promote the tool, using it to share insights and experiences. A new group, Lumina Lessons has been set up, to help embed the training, with regular posts on OCEAN Big Five research, etc. and other items of interest. A leadership programme is also being developed for roll out across the organisation.
Initial results show the following substantial increases between the two surveys being taken:
- There is a good team spirit at work – 65.1% to 89.1%, increase of 24%
- Teams working well together – 44.5% to 73.1%, increase of 28.7%
- Feeling that actions will be taken on results of the survey – 40.3% to 65.7%, increase of 25%
- Encouraged to take decisions to grow the business – 58.1% to 78.5%, increase of 20.4%
- Encouraged to try out new ideas – 68.6% to 87%, increase of 18.4%
- Would recommend as a great place to work – 64.5% to 82%, increase of 17.5%
- Commitment to doing very best – increased from 97.5% to 100%
Feedback from the Board of Trustees was extremely positive and they suggested that Whizz-Kids should enter The Times Best Non-Profits to work for.
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