Growing your own managers and future leaders

Growing your own managers and future leaders

With increased pressure on recruitment and training budgets, many housing associations are looking at how to reduce costs by investing in existing talent, growing their own next cadre of leaders rather than externally sourced recruitment and development solutions.

Instead of sending managers on expensive “sheep-dip” leadership and management development courses, some associations have developed tailored-made programmes which tackle specific organisational challenges, as well as developing general management and leadership skills. These programmes have the added benefit of creating a shared learning experience for people across the organisation; helping individuals broaden their perspectives and develop relationships, as well as supporting each other and sharing best practice.

Altair has been providing leadership development training and a coaching programme to some housing associations and we thought it would be helpful to share our learning with other organisations who are considering developing their own management development programmes (or are reviewing their existing programmes).

Apart from economic reasons, there are real benefits to having an internal management development programme. Participants’ learning can be tailored to suit their individual needs, the culture of the organisation and the needs of individuals on the programme, and managers can have greater involvement in supporting participants with their learning.

The first step in a programme is agreeing who should benefit from the investment. We have worked with organisations who nominate people, and also those which have a selection process. In our experience, the highest level of participant commitment is achieved when interested participants apply to be involved or have a good conversation with their Line manager as part of a selection process. By self-selecting,or co-selecting, rather than by being solely selected by their organisation, most participants are more likely to be clearer about what they want to get from the programme. When selecting participants, it is important that they understand why they are being asked to participate, and are willing to commit time and development to their development.

The benefits of learning as a group and establishing new networks and understanding should not be underestimated. For example, on a recent cross-sector mentoring programme, we included a group project as part of the programme. Although there was some trepidation initially, the group’s presentation of their project to the senior management team created a sensational buzz in the room, with participants taking it in turns to shine. In time, the project itself, and the team skills learnt by the participants, will make a lasting difference to the way that the organisation does business.

Whilst there are many positives in support of running an in-house management development programme, it is easy to underestimate the time that it takes to organise everything and also to over-estimate the ease with which enthusiasm translates into action. It is essential to secure the buy-in and active engagement of senior management in the programme. This is more than just getting dates in diaries early on; it is about making sure that managers discuss the learning in regular one-to-ones, are there to support individuals trying out new patterns of behaviour and ways of working, and communicate the importance of the programme to the rest of the team.

We have found that involving senior managers in programme delivery is extremely valuable. It provides an opportunity for the senior manager to explain their vision for the organisation and programme, as well as talk about their experiences and expectations. These sessions always create a healthy debate and enable participants to see the organisation (and their role in it) through the eyes of leaders in the organisation.

Last but not least, it is important to continually evaluate the programme and to be flexible following participant and manager feedback; associated with this, it is imperative that the benefits of the programme are measured.

If you would like to have a confidential discussion about how to maximise investment in your management development programme, then please call Sarah Palmer, Head of HR, Recruitment and Interim Management at Altair on 07806 602933 or 020 7934 0175 or email: