2019 was a winning year for Inspira with £12 million of business won throughout Cumbria and Lancashire.
With growth in geographical footprint as well as the number of contracts managed, Inspira now employs over 125 full time equivalents and will be recruiting another 300 temporary staff this summer.
“2019 was a very good year, providing us with a stable footing for the charity to allow us to implement our plans over the next three years, and to also plan forwards for the next five,” states Mark Bowman, Chief Executive of Inspira.
To accommodate the growth, Inspira has restructured and created a new way of working – mobile first – which means staff are mobile, agile and responsive.
“Technology and innovation are all around us,” says Mark. “When talking about these seismic shifts, we often forget about a simple fact, we need people to drive the change, and we need to meet their expectations.”
“People want flexibility and to get things done efficiently and effectively. By consciously choosing a mobile first way of working, we are not only helping our teams, but we are also giving our commissioners an edge in how we manage and deliver their contracts.”
In the modern world, flexibility is key, the freedom to work from anywhere, anytime combined with speed and easy access to relevant information and equipment has already proven to increase productivity. In the global study “Mobility, Performance and Engagement” conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, it established that mobile-first environments experience an increase in employee performance, collaboration and engagement. The report goes on to say that if employers also take an employee experience viewpoint similar to the customer experience model, this will further boost productivity.
To put things into perspective, in 2010, UK firms had more than 10m landline numbers, but by the end of last year that had fallen by 35% to 6.4m, according to the communications regulator Ofcom.
"Apart from a handful of handsets for the admin team, Inspira is now mobile first. We have installed Wildix which uses voice over IP, and all our platforms are now cloud based, which reduces the risk of not having a structured network,” says Mark.
“Essentially our staff can work anywhere, accessing shared files and communications on their mobile, tablet or laptop.”
“Creating a culture of mobile first is certainly a mindset," remarks Mark. “But the next generation are a generation of mobile first users, so as an organisation we have to adapt to the here and now, and also set the foundations for the future.”
“It’s interesting," reflects Mark, “we are now having conversations rather than just sending emails, which is helping us to develop our culture and embed our brand values that cut across everything we do internally and externally.”
Location wise, the company still retains their centres around Cumbria and now have space in Preston to accommodate the new National Citizen Service team covering Lancashire. Open plan and hot desking is the way the company works across the two counties. The Preston space also gives the wider management and entire Lancashire team a base to meet.
The charity delivers contracts across Cumbria and Lancashire as well as the A69 corridor to Hexham and onto Newcastle. Most of the work is delivered by Inspira staff, but the company does work in partnership with specialist skills experts too.
Two Directors, Sarah Harrington and Pete Alger, manage the operations of Cumbria and Lancashire respectively.
“It made sense to restructure geographically,” says Mark. “With a largely mobile team in Lancashire it is important we focus our efforts to ensure operations run smoothly and in a logical manner.”
Though the work is similar, there are fundamental differences in the type of work funded and delivered in the two counties. The Cumbria team are primarily focused on helping unemployed people get back into work, delivering the National Citizen Service and working with the Cumbria County Council to re-engage at risk of NEETs and NEETS (not in education, employment or training), as well as ensure every young person following their GCSE results have a guaranteed training or education place.
While in Lancashire the National Careers Service, National Citizen Service and the Enterprise Adviser Network and Careers Hub dominate. The team recently won the award for best Careers Hub through the work they do with the Careers and Enterprise Company and the Lancashire Skills Hub.
“Despite our growth, we are not going to rest on our laurels,” continues Mark. “Our aim is to bring as much money into Cumbria as we can - meeting the needs of the employers now and for future development. We have to make sure we have the right people in the right place with the right skills to fill the skills gap, and there is still a lot of work to do to get to that place.”
George Beveridge who is Chair of Inspira, feels that over the past 12 months Inspira has been able to help more people into employment than ever before. “We have changed our operating model and are now a sustainable charity. It’s great that we are now able to help more people in Cumbria but operating in these new areas in the North West and the North East is also very exciting for the charity.”
Reflecting on what is next, Mark is concise in his answer, “digital service delivery – it’s the next frontier for charities, and service delivery.”
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