Focus: People Management - Support and training project kicks off

Graham Willgoss,

Broadway links up with housing foundation to improve HR in small agencies.

The homelessness charity Broadway has teamed up with the London Housing Foundation, a training and grant-making charity, for a two-year pilot project to improve the quality of HR management in small agencies.

Beyond a Helpline, which went live on 1 April, offers support in areas such as the development of HR policies and procedures relevant to individual charities, a skills audit of their HR situation and needs, and regular HR training.

The project came about after representatives from small homelessness organisations attending a London Housing Foundation discussion forum identified achieving high standards of HR management as a major difficulty.

"We were aware that these needs are shared by most small agencies in the voluntary sector, but there was no system of support for them that went 'beyond a helpline'," says Kevin Ireland, executive director of the foundation. "We considered using professional HR consultants for the project, but felt expertise exists within larger voluntary organisations."

Broadway has a consultancy arm through which it provides HR support and training services to other organisations. Helen Giles, director of HR at Broadway, says: "It's still the case for a lot of chief executives and senior management teams that HR is regarded as a necessary evil.

"Investing in HR might look expensive on the bottom line, but the saving it generates in terms of higher motivation, better retention and reduced sick rates means it pays for itself time and again in the long term."

Giles will work with ten organisations that are taking part in the pilot, each paying a discounted rate of 50 per cent for the services they get.

The London Housing Foundation will subsidise the scheme by £100,000 over two years. Management consultancy Triangle Consulting will also offer advice and support.

"Our philosophy is that we don't want organisations to be over-dependent on us," says Giles. "And where it's possible, we will try to build their capacity by training managers based on their own policies.

"If you're a small charity and have finite resources, I would always put as much as you can into the recruitment and selection methods so that you've got good raw material to work with. Ensuring that you invest in your managers so that they are trained to manage in a consistent style is also very important.

"These are two things that many organisations - not just charities - fail to grasp and don't understand. That's what leads to problems."

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