Help for not for profit and charity trustees

Something quietly forgotten

Trustees sometimes need to be alert to changes being quietly slipped through by their staff

When I was a manager of group of people, we would have the formal annual review and toward the end of that process, the question of staff development and training would be raised. It was something I was quite keen on because I liked to see people, especially the more able ones, get on in the organisation.

It was at one of these interviews when the staff member said ‘I’ve never been sent on any training’. This was said with a tone of resentment. I had been her manager for many months but she had not raised the issue with me previously. The key word though was ‘sent’, that is you waited until your name came up on some magical list somewhere and off you went on some training course or other. I realised the central importance of staff maintaining some kind of control over their training and development. In the appraisal process or at other times, a staff member should feel able to discuss with his or her line manager the need for training or a refresher course on whatever was relevant to their work. Likewise, those in management positions should keep the matter under review.

When I started to become trustees of various charities and not for profits, from time to time, a training and development policy would appear at the board for approval. With my experience in mind I suggested an amendment at the head of the policy to the effect that it was a staff member’s responsibility, in discussion with their line manager, to keep this matter under review. In other words to maintain the initiative. This was readily agreed.

A couple of years later the policy came forward for updating and, much to my surprise, that opening statement had disappeared. I asked why and never got a sensible answer. My guess was that some managers did not like staff taking this control. They liked the power I suppose and staff wanting to take control was seen as some kind of a threat. But I don’t know.

My point though is that there is a danger of managers quietly dropping things from policies or procedures for reasons of inconvenience or to suit the way they like to work. I can only suggest that the old policy is tabled with those aspects which are to be amended or dropped highlighted in some way. Many of the changes are for good reasons – times change and experience can show that the existing policy to be wanting. But trustees do need to be on their guard for changes being made to suit the management and not the health of the organisation.

Peter Curbishley

Author of ‘How to be a Successful Trustee‘. ISBN 9781 913012 618

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