Thames Reach
Friday 17 November 2017
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The role of senior managers

The commitment, support, influence and authority of senior managers are vital in addressing staff resistance to the concept of service user employment.

Senior management support and commitment

It was very important that senior managers at Thames Reach were committed to and supportive of the GROW scheme. In this way, staff knew that support for the scheme extended to the very highest levels of the organisation.

Photo of James Francis
James Francis was an influential 'friendly critic'

This meant that when problems arose, solutions could be found and implemented quickly due to the authority that these managers carried.

Involving influential sceptics as ‘friendly critics’

One of our senior managers was somewhat sceptical of the initiative when it first began.

We knew he was well-intentioned and were keen to utilise his knowledge and concerns. We therefore created a role of ‘friendly critic’ for him on the Steering Group for GROW. 

This enabled us to welcome his concerns, and find a positive expression for them, while at the same time providing a useful check and balance for the enthusiasts.

"My view was that as a charity our responsibility was to direct all of our resources towards getting the best and most professional help to our service users. 

"Originally, I thought that taking risks with people who were long-term unemployed and with a history of homelessness and associated problems was likely to create many difficulties over performance management and maintaining professional boundaries. 

"In fact, I have learnt that former service users, when properly selected and trained, are every bit as professional and capable as the staff we employ who have not been homeless. 

"I have rather had to eat my words."

James Francis, Director of Outreach and Hostel Services

Audio - An initial sceptic explains his conversion
Audio - An initial sceptic explains his conversion - [7.56 MB] James Francis, Director of Street and Hostel Services, explains how his initial fears that resources would be diverted from experienced staff involved in direct help were overcome; how the organisation has changed for the better as a result of GROW; and tips for replication.

Issue directives when needed

One manager made his position very clear: he did not support or believe in the GROW initiative.

While he was not going to block the scheme from moving forward, he would also not encourage his managers to take part. No amount of discussion or evidence would change his mind about the perceived ills of GROW.

In the first year, while this created extra work and some mixed messages in the line-management of his teams, it did not cause any major problems.

However, at the start of the second year of GROW, there was a miscommunication about whether one of his teams would take a trainee.

His ‘hands-off’ approach was no longer viable and he was ultimately directed to confirm with one of his team managers that they would act as a placement team for a trainee.