How does the social housing sector respond to tech pressures and new stock targets?
Getting the ‘house’ in order: social housing’s people agenda
What is driving the growth of interim management in the social housing sector? Chief Executives regularly ask me this question and my response is quite simple: new stock and customer service.
The sector is navigating its way through political pressure to deliver housing stock, but also significant operational influences that are shaping the way the sector delivers its services.
We are lucky to be at the heart of helping organisations through this period of transition. Change enables teams to look at things differently and in their own way, upset the status quo.
The last few years have seen a shift towards finding individuals with specific skills sets that will significantly move the focus and operational skill of a team to match the changing needs of the customer and the environment we now live in.
So, what will be the key areas that teams will look to strengthen and where will they find support for this in the coming months and years?
Quite frankly, it looks as though the pressures to deliver more stock and the mechanism to deliver better levels of customer service are changing the requirements for leaders at the top table. For example, it was unusual – if not unheard of – to be asked for an interim digital expert five years ago.
But now, this is one of the most popular requests as management teams look to bring in strategic guidance or bolster technical support on a programme that is already underway.
These are complex and sometimes long journeys that organisations pursue and should not be taken rashly. We often see that those that are late to the game require more senior support to allow them to catch up faster. While that is possible, there needs to be real ownership of the issue and the creation of a considered people strategy.
Interims that come from a digital customer centric background, like retail or online media, can have a significant impact on the thinking process and delivery of the customer journey. This is not about telling a business what to do, because someone else knows better. This is more about understanding the customers’ needs and working together to find the new solution to reach the outcome. Therefore, gaining the best of both the current housing world and adding the new ideas we need to deliver stronger results.
Customers are also facing a dire need of new housing stock, and require differing types of product that will suit a blend of young, old, new families and those that require more hands on support.
To that end, all teams across the sector are facing significant pressure to deliver a greater number of units to the market. Accessing expertise to achieve those goals is of paramount importance.
The development and new business side of the interim space now makes up the majority of the work we are asked to support teams with.
Chief Executives and Boards are conscious that they need additional headcount to deliver the growth targets, but are worried that this may not be achieved with simply sourcing the local markets for talent. Interims plug this gap in knowledge and time nicely.
It allows them to find support from perhaps a larger provider or in most cases from the commercial residential sector. These individuals can act as fantastic impact players, coming in to deliver the business as usual and drive new forms of revenue and commercial outputs that were not seen before. Leaving behind a legacy and roadmap that the client can populate with permanent staff at perhaps the salaries that will fit into their pay structures long term.
It is an issue and I know many teams struggle to attract the best talent from the private sector worlds, because the sector is unlikely to be able to pay the same level of bonuses or salaries seen in the private sector.
Those that can, are doing so. Those that cannot are using interims to help solve this problem by allowing the groundwork to be delivered by a skillset they can afford for a shorter period. They can then hire staff to fill in at a lower level, once a direction has been set – all without breaking the bank.
Whatever route an organisation chooses, the sector needs the talent behind it to build, fast, as the nation works its way out of a severe housing shortage.