‘I think my job is fantastic. It's very rewarding because you can see the journey that the adoptive parents have been on to get to where they are today.’
Job: Project Manager for Adoption Focus.
Typical hours worked: 37.
Profile: Nigel is in his 50s and lives in the West Midlands.
I always knew I wanted to work in an administrative role or some sort of office environment. I worked in local government for 20 years – first in the revenues department for Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, then for Birmingham City Council in housing benefits as a Team Manager.
I moved to Spain for a couple of years and when I came back in 2014, I started working in the adoption sector for an agency called After Adoption. I worked my way up through the organisation over the next five years taking on greater responsibility above my job role.
When the agency went into administration in March 2019, I moved to Adoption Focus, on a TUPE transfer, as a Senior Administrator. I was promoted to the role of Administration Manager and I am now a Project Manager. I would say I’ve flourished here; they have really taken on board the skills I have to offer and fully utilised them.
My working day
Adoption Focus works to ensure children are placed in their forever homes as quickly as possible by assessing suitable prospective adopters. We look at the whole of a child’s history: their first experience of care, the choices made about them, and what’s going to happen to them in future to ensure they are placed in families who will meet their needs.
I work with qualified social workers who review the data and make recommendations within their assessments. Day to day, I concentrate on my project management role while also providing additional support to other functions within the agency. I’m on a home-based contract, so I don’t go into the office that often.
I start at 8:30amand have an hour for lunch, so I get a good break in the middle of the day. My work-life balance has improved with working from home. I can just open my laptop in the morning and my day starts; it’s really convenient for me. My workload is definitely manageable within the time available. I shut my laptop at 5pm and I don’t have to go back to it or look at it over the weekend.
Unlike social workers, being on the project management side of things, I don’t have to do out-of-hours work. The organisation is looking at reducing our hours to 35 per week. It’s the sort of things that people are looking out for when they're applying for new roles, so it might make us more attractive to new employees.
Since joining, I’ve been encouraged to develop further. Adoption Focus have invested in my future by funding various training courses and provided study time during work hours. This has included a Level 5 Diploma in HR management. I can now use those skills within this organisation which has involved issuing employment contracts, recruitment and onboarding of new staff, as well as dealing with the HR database and training. I was promoted to Administration Manager, then the Project Manager role came up. I’ve since successfully completed two examinations in Prince2 to develop these skills further.
My current role involves the management of a major project to ensure staff are aware of the timelines, that reports are written on time, and that everyone attends meetings when required and I provide support where needed. I coordinate the project, compile reports and bring everybody together. I make sure that we’re all heading in the same direction and are delivering what we have promised.
I’m self-managing in terms of my own workload on a day-to-day basis, but I have monthly supervision with my line manager, attend face to face meetings throughout the year with the whole staff group and have monthly online team meetings.
Pay and benefits
When I joined on a TUPE transfer, my salary, benefits and job role had to be protected. I feel quite comfortable in my personal situation and family finances. I’ve just been awarded a pay increase. While it’s not at inflation levels, I appreciate I work for a charity which has limited income. The employer has obviously thought about what they can offer staff and it has to be affordable.
When I look at my current salary compared to project management roles in other organisations, I feel I am being paid at a competitive rate. The organisation also contributes 6% to a work-based pension and I’m paying in 10%.
Health and wellbeing
Going through COVID has changed my perception of mental health. If I thought, when I joined Adoption Focus, I would be working from home all this time, I would have probably turned the role down. I’ve been in previous roles where working from home was an option and I chose not to do it. I liked having interactions with other staff. But now, because the organisation has adapted so well, putting lots of changes in place, I don’t think it actually affects me to work from home.
The management team stay in contact with you and have an open-door policy. We have access to an occupational health provider and counselling service. You can pay towards private medical cover for things like opticians and dentistry. I feel as though the tools are there in place to assist me if I should need some help.
Relationships at work
My line manager is a member of the Senior Management Team. We have monthly meetings for two or three hours. I am always asked whether I have any stresses or challenges and enquiries are made relating to my wellbeing and health and safety. We discuss my workload and go into detail and set targets of what I’d like to achieve over the next month. I get to discuss how I’m feeling and whether I have any concerns. My annual leave is monitored to make sure I’m taking it, and I am asked if I’ve got all the equipment at home to do my job.
When I first joined the organisation, I had to start from scratch because I didn’t know anyone. Over a few months, people became aware of my skills and I became aware of theirs. It was an open environment and even within a couple of months people were coming up to me and asking for my opinion, even though I’d only been there a short time. This helped me to settle into the role quickly and provide me with a sense of belonging. Most people now choose to work from home, even though they can work in the office should they wish to. We work together very well as a team. The organisation has worked hard to try and develop those personal relationships by bringing us together on a regular basis.
Voice and representation
My manager has an open-door policy. Even though she’s very busy, she always has time for the staff. That’s one of the things that makes it a pleasant environment to work in. You’re not scared of talking to people. We’re honest and open about our understanding of things – there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Staff are very clear in terms of what is required of them to ensure they remain within the policies, procedures and regulations. If staff have any particular issues, they are fully aware of how these can be raised and how to escalate them should this be needed.
The organisation is very adaptable. They will listen to any recommendations put forward and will carefully consider them. If they say no to some of them, at least you feel you are being listened to. Any considerations for something new are put before the senior management team and if the suggestion is viable, they will adopt it.
I think my job is fantastic. It's very rewarding because you can see the journey that the adoptive parents have been on to get to where they are today. Some of them have decided to adopt new sibling groups, which may involve two, three or four children at a time. They've gone from having no children at all, to suddenly having an inbuilt family of maybe three children of different ages. We are there to provide them with lifelong support. We have been inspected by Ofsted and been judged to be an ‘Outstanding’ organisation. It makes you proud to work for an organisation which has been externally verified. You feel as though you're making a valuable contribution to people's lives and adding to the whole ethos of the organisation.
Some people get to the stage where they're dreading Monday morning due to not receiving any recognition for their efforts. I don't get that feeling – I like logging back on at 8:30am on a Monday and seeing what the week brings. It's a challenging role but I know what the aims are – looking after children and making sure they’re in safe and secure environments.
Thinking points for people managers
- The organisation is taking positive steps to engage and motivate employees. Keep moving in the right direction by carrying out regular employee engagements surveys and build on this through focus groups.
- The positive views of employees could be used as case studies for recruitment purposes to encourage people with the right skills and experience and aligned values to join the organisation.
- Consider an impact assessment to establish whether there should be a harmonisation of terms and conditions for those TUPE’d into the organisation and whether the time is right to do this.
- Positive relationships have been developed in an environment where there is a mixture of home and office working. Consider how this flexibility of choice can be further developed to achieve high levels performance and job satisfaction.
- Ask whether the best communication processes are in place to meet the needs of all employees and give them a voice. This is an area for further development to ensure remote workers particularly feel fully engaged.
Read the CIPD’s November 2023 submission to His Majesty’s Treasury