What gets measured gets managed

I recently read the anonymous ‘confessions of a charity professional’ entitled ‘I wish someone had kicked me up the arse for wasting charity time and money’ on the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. What struck me is that this is not so much a comment on the charity sector, but on poor performance management in general. I don’t think this is necessarily exclusive to the charity sector – there are plenty of stories of poor management in the private sector as well.

The challenge in the charity sector with performance management is determining what ‘value’ you are creating. In the private sector this is easy – you are looking to maximise profits – but this is not so clear in the charity sector. It’s not enough to simply look to increase turnover – what if the programmes you are running are not actually making a difference to the very people or issue you are looking to address?

The start of this process is to be clear on your charity’s overall objectives – what social issue are you looking to address. From this you can then establish how your charity intends to address this – what activities will you undertake. A really powerful way to cover all of this is a Theory of Change, which maps long term objectives and the intermediate steps to achieve this. Next comes identifying the milestones you will use to assess whether or not you have succeeded.

What does this look like in practice?

ThinkForward works to support young people at risk of becoming unemployed when they leave school, to make a successful transition into work or higher education. Through a Theory of Change – facilitated by our founders, Impetus-PEF – we established that our long term objective is to ensure young people are in sustainable jobs or training by the end of the programme. ThinkForward works with young people over five years from age 13 and we could not simply wait five years to see if we were successful. We therefore identified – through reference to existing research – what young people would need in order to be more likely to make a successful transition – this includes:

  • having a Level 2 (equivalent to 5 x GCSEs at grades A*-C) or Level 3 qualification (equivalent to 2 A levels)
  • improved behaviour and attendance at school
  • having opportunities such as work experience placements
  • undertaking CV and interview practice

We collect data in all these areas (and more) to track young people’s progression.

We have also designed the activities undertaken by our staff with young people to contribute to improvements in specific areas, and staff record each time they undertake a specific activity with a young person.

Based on all the above, we are able to set individual staff objectives which are linked to the broader organisational objective and programme design. We are able to set SMART targets based on young people’s achievement of the above intermediate outcomes and/or the staff’s delivery of scheduled activities. As part of our appraisal process, we are then able to assess staff performance against these SMART targets.

The hard part of effective performance management of staff in the charity sector, then, is not the actual objectives and objectives – there are plenty of management books written on this. If charities are not using some of this, then this is simply poor management. What IS undoubtedly difficult is defining what social issue you are looking to address, how your charity is going to address this and what data you will use to track progress.

The hard part of effective performance management of staff in the charity sector, then, is not setting their individual objectives. What IS difficult and what needs to come first is defining the social issue you aim to address, what your charity’s mission is or how you are going to address it and what data you will use to track progress.

– Luke McCarthy lukemccarthy.com


New law to end ‘outdated snobbery’ towards apprenticeships

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said schools must give equal airtime to the non-academic routes pupils can take post-16, under government plans to end the ‘second class’ perception of technical and professional education.

A new law would see apprenticeship providers visit schools as part of careers advice from early secondary school, to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them. It will also mean schools will be required by law to collaborate with training providers to ensure that young people are aware of all the routes to higher skills and the workplace, including higher and degree apprenticeships. The move follows concerns from ministers about careers advice, with some schools currently unwilling to recommend apprenticeships or other technical and professional routes to any but the lowest-achieving pupils – effectively creating a two-tiered system of careers advice.

At ThinkForward we work with the most disengaged young people across east London to ensure they transition from school to further education or employment. However, we’ve found that although such new laws are much needed, they must be met by demand. Young people need to first be willing to take these opportunities and make the most of careers advice. Which is why our early intervention one-on-one Coaching model engages disadvantaged young people over five years from the age of 13. We ensure young people are offered business mentoring, work placements, work insight days and skills workshops, including CV writing and interview practice to make the most of opportunities offered post-16.

To put this in perspective, 44% of people who began apprenticeships last year were aged 25 or over where as figures now show a fall in the number of 16 to 18-year-olds signing up – a 1.4% drop to 129,90. Which is why in 2015 we came up with eight Ready for Work capabilities, based on recommendations from research into the behaviours, mind-sets and skills employers across all sectors looks for in their workforce, particularly for entry level positions.

ThinkForward Managing Director, Kevin Munday said: “We welcome the changes outlined as we’ve identified through our Progression Coaching model how critical good careers advice and ongoing support can be in supporting a young person into a sustained career path. However we would like to see more guidance for schools to supported disengaged students with such opportunities.”