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Case study: Investing in management talent and potential at the South London YMCA

South London YMCA (SLYMCA) provide a range of supported housing services for 545 homeless people Croydon, Bromley, Lambeth and Kensington & Chelsea.

Over the last five years, they’ve transformed most of their properties through a £25m redevelopment programme, so that those living in them have a better chance to turn their lives around and live independently.


A number of mergers in recent years – resulting in changes to teams and management – were followed in 2012 by a major restructure. In essence new managers (many of them new to management) were brought in to manage new staff to implement new working practices to better support homeless people in South London. This restructure was also accompanied by a culture change. The new SLYMCA wanted consistency in how managers interacted with their staff, teams to work collaboratively and a culture of supportive management. Unfortunately at this point there was no clear learning and development strategy in place for either managers or aspiring managers to achieve any of this.

SLYMCA urgently needed a development programme that could both support new managers to develop the skills they needed as they made the transition to becoming managers, and to pave the way for excellent leadership in the organisation.

=mc brief

Lee Buss, Director of Housing and Support, asked =mc to design a management development programme that would help to create a proactive and inspiring management team – developing their skills, motivation and confidence – focusing on four key areas:

  • Helping managers to have a common understanding of what being a manager at SLYMCA means, and feel empowered to lead their teams with confidence
  • Ensuring managers were equipped to manage poor performance effectively while driving a high performance culture
  • Developing managers to innovate, plan ahead and implement improvements to enable delivery of strategic goals
  • Encouraging managers to work more collaboratively, supporting increased cross-team working and sharing of ideas

What we did

Working with a core group of SLYMCA staff and managers we began by taking a closer look at the four aims of the programme through a series of design meetings and by reviewing the existing internal processes. From these we identified the key elements needed to underpin the programme, which in turn formed the basis of six modules:

  • Module 1: Leading with Direction and Focus
  • Module 2: Developing Individuals
  • Module 3: Communication and Influence
  • Module 4: Managing for Performance
  • Module 5: Developing the Teams
  • Module 6: Creativity and Innovation

As a result of managers coming together at the training, a Manager’s Forum was developed and this promoted collaborative working between managers and teams.

Managers were able to support each other as they started to use their new skills and techniques.

The pilot programme ran in 2013 for a first management cohort of 20 people. It was so successful that SLYMCA commissioned another series to run from the end of 2013. This second cohort extended the programme to senior support workers and team leaders – a more junior group who were just starting their management careers.


The impact from the programme to date has been much more collaboration between teams, higher performance levels, and a real change in the culture of management at SLYMCA. Staff and managers alike are more confident, able to deal with challenges in a positive way, and are empowered to think creatively about how they can improve working practices and better support young homeless people.

As well as learning from the workshops and written materials, participants have formed strong relationships going through the programme and have been sharing ideas and practices. Management forums are now in place where former participants meet on a regular basis to discuss current challenges and offer support to each other.

Perhaps the most positive benefit has been the recognition of the talent and potential in the staff at SLYMCA. A number of people who have been through the programme have already been promoted.

Finally a third series is scheduled for 2015 for a further 15-20 staff. This time the cohort will include more senior support workers getting ready to step into management to prepare them for when promotion opportunities become available.

And a new module has been added to the programme called Managing Change, to support this cohort with the tools they need to lead and manage their teams through further organisational changes coming in 2015. SLYMCA are taking their investment in their staff and their future seriously.

“To be able to invest in our managers and future managers in this systematic way is fantastic – and the programme has been brilliant. People are now more on board with the vision and values, and our cultural change is well on the way to being fully embedded. People are more positive, more willing to be play their part, to do good and to achieve deliver the outstanding service our users need.”

Hannah Calvert, Head of Accommodation Based Services, SLYMCA

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