Dominic leads organisation to victory at Personnel Today awards

Dominic Ashley-Timms (Information Technology and Human Factors 1990) is the CEO of Notion, a company that helps their corporate clients to bring about organisational change by improving management performance. He is also the co-creator of the multi-award-winning management transformation programme STAR® Manager, which now has managers pursuing the programme in 25 countries.

In 2021, Notion was recognised as L&D Supplier of the Year at the prestigious Personnel Today awards. The award for Learning & Development Supplier of the Year recognises innovative thinking, exceptional client service and value for money in supplying learning and development programmes.

We recently spoke with Dominic about his business, the award, and his time at Loughborough.

Q. What influenced the creation of your business?

Initially, when I started Notion in 2000, it was to offer coaching support into highly charged change situations, and we began to attract talented coaches who thought the same way. Through those early years, we gained real insight into the important role that using coaching behaviours had to play in engaging people in change.

As the business grew and we began working with more and more organisations, we learned how to introduce coaching in a very different way and to embed that at the heart of management.

Over the last 20 years, Notion has worked in over 30 countries in just about every sector and with increasingly larger groups of leaders and managers. We’ve shown them a different way of managing based on all the experience that we gained during our first decade and latterly, the advances that we’ve made in the last decade as change has really gathered pace.

Q. How has the business grown over time?

About three or four years ago, the UK government noticed some of the work we were doing and invited us to apply for research funding to put our methodology to the test under the academic scrutiny of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

We were awarded funding by Innovate UK to carry out an extended trial of one of our primary learning programmes called STAR® Manager based around a behavioural management model for managers and leaders that Notion developed (the STAR® model).

During the randomised control trial, STAR® Manager was implemented across 62 organisations from 14 sectors simultaneously, along with a control group who did not have the programme. LSE then independently evaluated the results generated by managers having undertaken their programme of learning, examining how they’d changed their behaviour and how that had impacted the organisation.

LSE evaluated 35 different learner measures and 14 different organisational measures. Their analysis proved, to a level of statistical significance, that managers that had learned to use STAR® to change their management style had adopted a specific set of coaching-related behaviours, making them part of their everyday management interactions. Moreover, the research showed that this sustainable change in behaviour positively impacted the organisation.

Since then, it's been an absolute whirlwind. Having established and then proven the effectiveness of a new management methodology has generated interest from many quarters. The scale at which we’re able to implement improvements in management performance has also grown and the audiences that we reach have also expanded. The principles developed by Notion have universal application across all sectors including healthcare, finance, and academic sectors as well as advanced technology businesses - wherever you have people, teams, managers and leaders, there’s a better way to engage the talents of others.

Q. How did you find that your time at Loughborough helped with becoming an entrepreneur?

There were two defining factors for me at Loughborough University. Firstly, it was my choice to study Information Technology and Human Factors. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, IT was just moving from older green screens to personal computers, but the insights I gained about how technology could affect behaviour has been something that's been wound throughout my career. It also helped in the learning design of the work that we do now and thinking about how we create learning experiences.

What I learned during my course about cognitive psychology, instructional design, the use of language and understanding human capability and subsequent decision-making have all been instrumental, and arguably I wouldn't be where I am today had I not pursued that course.

The other defining factor in studying at Loughborough was joining AIESEC (Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences, Économique et Commerciales), which was an international student business association. I was a member of AIESEC for three years and that gave me some helpful insights which really propelled me to want to have my own business one day.

Q. What are your goals for the future with yourself and the business?

Notion has grown steadily over 20 years and has now become a specialist management performance improvement company. The work we do is based around changing the way that all managers interact with the people they work with

We’re also lucky that more and more people are wanting to learn about this different way of doing things. The number of stories that we receive every day, the number of testimonials about people’s experiences having adjusted the way they manage their teams and what that does to them and their careers, is really heart-warming.

Q. How do you feel about winning the award (Personnel Today's - Learning & Development Supplier of the Year)?

We were thrilled to be recognised by Personnel Today as the L&D Supplier of the Year just before Christmas. It’s something that I'm immensely proud of, not just for myself, but because it recognises the huge amount of work and research that the entire team at Notion has put into establishing Operational Coaching™ as a new management practice. It’s through their efforts that we now deliver this hugely positive intervention to very large groups of leaders and managers simultaneously for organisations in all sectors and internationally.