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Published: 20 Jan 2015

Wales & West Housing Association, Finalist 2013, The Best for Engagement Award

Sector: Charitable
Location: Wales
Employees: 346

Wales & West Housing, WWH, have a mission to deliver ‘strong sustainable growth to make a difference to people’s lives, homes and communities’. Their organisational culture, they say, puts the customer at the heart of what they do and is based on solid and clear values and operating principles.

Their staff are their key strength. From the recruitment process, and continuing via their Performance Development process throughout their careers, employees develop a strong sense of integrity and a commitment to doing the ‘right thing’.

The organisational values that WWH espouses (Fair, Open, Responsible, Supportive and Efficient) are directly being linked to behaviours, and are integral to the business. They are not just communicated to staff during the year but explained and explored in an interactive way to increase understanding, acceptance and integration. The values form a major part of their model of engagement and their approach to the way they work. One example of the way that this is achieved is that they openly commit to enabling staff to ‘do the right thing to deliver what matters to our customers’. This helps WWH deliver a better service and increases growth, making a difference where it matters.

WWH has evidence that their approach is reaping rewards in terms of employee engagement.

They have utilised the Best Companies to Work For survey (Not for Profit) to anonymously collate staff opinion. They have succeeded in increasing their position from eighth place to seventh, retained their highest 3 Star Award (qualifying them as ‘Extraordinary’), improved their overall scoring for the third year and have seen participation rates increase.  Although they enjoy the awards they receive (being useful for external recognition) this is not the primary reason for entering; it is for the feedback that it provides. The data tells them that staff really appreciate the flexible working culture and that it makes a real difference to them. What they see is that there is a feeling of fairness amongst employees who see that it isn’t just for those who make the choice to build a family: all staff can benefit. In addition the raw data collected during the survey shows engagement is high and there is a close correlation between the raw data and comments and the fact that the culture at WWH is working.

The recent staff wellbeing survey again saw a high response to the question of ‘How important do you feel your general wellbeing is to the Association?’ demonstrating that people feel they matter. They also know that staff are championing the values at all levels, openly quoting them when challenging decisions or approaches, helping staff at all levels to remain accountable.

WWH understands that if their values were not genuinely demonstrated within the business, especially given the level of integration they promote, the organisation and leaders would be seen as hypocritical and there would be little trust or belief in the culture. The data does not support this view, in fact Anne Hinchey, their Chief Executive, won the Most People Focused CEO of the Year (Not For Profit) Award at the HR Excellence Awards.

Engagement also has an effect on performance. Resident satisfaction has increased each year over the last five years. Resident complaints have dramatically reduced and feedback gives numerous examples of staff going the extra mile and getting involved in local communities over and above what is required in their role.

WWH is growing and staff are staying longer and developing throughout their changing life stages. Recruitment is at highest ever levels with internal progression a big factor and staff turnover remains very low. Some of the best recruitment methods for producing quality applicants are word of mouth and staff referrals; this really shows staff are promoting the business first hand as a positive employer. Training investment continues to be comparatively high in the sector despite economic conditions.

WWH remains financially strong with an ambitious development plan (£36m over the next five years) and growing surpluses (circa £20m). They are also increasing the number of systems thinking ‘interventions’ into the way they undertake work, with employees improving their service by focusing on customer demand,  and how they work to satisfy it. Staff interest in these continues to rise.

All this has been achieved without targets, objectives or strategies, which WWH believes sap resources and multiply inefficiencies. They measure what matters, and see a link between actively developing and promoting their culture and values and rising engagement levels. They are able to see their service, and therefore the business as a whole, continue to improve.