Dimensions is a not-for-profit organisation which supports adults with learning disabilities, autism and complex needs to live ordinary lives in their local communities. Staff retention in the social care sector is not only critical for day-to-day operations, but also facilitates lasting, trusting relationships with the people they support.

"Aspire has helped Dimensions improve retention and career development, and the lives of those they support"

A staff survey in 2014, however, revealed that almost two-thirds of respondents thought that career progression opportunities across Dimensions could be improved. Research identified areas for specific improvement, and also drew in examples of good practice in career and talent development from other organisations and sectors.

The result was Aspire - a career development programme that supports the organisation in its approach to talent management and succession planning. It also follows the organisation’s person-centred ethos, by being designed to be flexible and responsive to individual needs.

Colleagues can be nominated for a place on Aspire, or apply directly themselves. Feedback is given to support any unsuccessful applicants to secure a place in future intakes. Once on the programme, Aspire participants have access to a professional career coach, who works in partnership with them and their line manager to create a career development plan. They typically work on this plan over a 9-18 month period.

In line with Dimensions’ value of partnership, the coaching team act as genuine partners in developing, as well as delivering, the programme. A robust evaluation approach was introduced from the outset, including anonymous questionnaires, focus groups and tracking of key metrics. Out of 170 participants to date, 60% report career growth, 94% are more motivated and 92% feel they can progress their career at Dimensions. One employee began the programme as a Support Worker, and went on to become Project Manager for an organisation-wide change programme. Others have seen roles created for them, have achieved promotions, or report profound personal impact beyond the workplace. By focusing on the growth and development of their colleagues, Aspire has driven greater loyalty and purpose, and ultimately better support.