Bricks, bytes and behaviours: the three Bs of employee experience
Best-selling future-of-work author Jacob Morgan identifies the physical space, technology and culture as the three ingredients of every employee experience at every organisation across the world. Housing provider RHP (Richmond Housing Partnership) agrees but, in the spirit of its own culture, terms them bricks, bytes and behaviours.
RHP operates in a challenging sector, more so since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 that put political and media focus on health and safety in social housing. It owns or manages 10,103 properties, with 89% of its income derived from social housing lettings. In 2016 the UK Government set a clear challenge to housing associations that they should do more to contribute to the provision of additional housing supply while at the same time becoming more efficient.
Speaking at a Business Culture Awards Breakfast, RHP head of communications and engagement Chloe Marsh and head of HR Pauline Geldered revealed what the three Bs mean in practice.
Nothing at RHP’s Teddington office in London is left to chance. From the minute you enter the front door you see big and bold graphics designed to inspire employees and generate excitement and confidence. Motivational messages can be found on pillars, in stairwells, near light switches or windows. It’s all about creating an environment designed to energise the workforce and encourage collaborative working.
But if you think you need a big budget to achieve this, think again. RHP head of corporate services went to a local DIY store one Sunday and purchased all the equipment, and a few members of the team put up the furniture and dressed the rooms. When employees returned after the weekend, there was a huge buzz as they walked into the new environment.
Digital technology is at the core of both RHP’s customer and employee service. In April 2016, to enable the efficiencies called for by government, the organisation introduced a predominantly self-service, digital housing service called RHPi for new customers. It provides a more convenient and faster service to RHP’s customers at a lower cost to the organisation. In April 2017, following a consultation process, RHP rolled this out to all its tenants.
When it comes to its employees, RHPi becomes IamRHPi, pulling on its internal IamRHP branding. Digital technology has enabled the organisation to increase flexibility in the way its employees work and the work they do. This has enabled a managed reduction in the number of employees. A third of RHP’s workforce is remote. It is important these employees receive a similar experience to those in the physical office. Therefore, much effort is focused on delivering an engaging experience through digital technology.
From giving employees smart phones, so they can access the tools anytime and anywhere, to implementing social network Yammer, RHP is using collaborative tools for communication, learning and benefits.
Examples include RHP Perks, delivered in simple language and in a format employees can access at home so that their family can help make important benefits decisions. Or an online Consequences game, to help employees learn how to make difficult decisions.
It also ensures its digital platforms all reflect its employer branding, for example in recruitment.
RHP focuses in doing the basics brilliantly and with continuous improvement. It has a bit of a thing for Bs, with events on birthdays, bonus days, bingo days, giving out Boost bars. It sees a clear link between client satisfaction and culture.
It has tackled the dreaded performance review, moving from annual appraisals to quarterly sprints.
It has introduced an innovative approach to learning. Take risks. The organisation has identified 10 key risks, ranging from the external political and policy environment to health and safety, employee engagement and data protection. How do you help employees to understand risk? Why, by introducing Deal or No Deal, based on the popular UK television show where players have to decide whether to 'deal' to take money offered by the banker, or play to the end, settling on the amount in a box they have been given.
What about problem solving? Implement a Murder Mystery game for employees.
The organisation has also ‘normalised’ innovation. For example, it runs 4 in 4 sessions, whereby an employee has four minutes to pitch an idea. The winning idea is chosen by employees through a vote on Yammer. The important message is one of encouraging employees to be innovative; it does not matter if the initiative does not work out. Having ideas is the easy bit, what is much harder is delivering them so there is always someone to ‘hold the hand’ of those putting innovations in place. Among successful innovators have been the caretaker who has helped the organisation save thousands of pounds through more efficient handling of bulk rubbish, to the retirement scheme manager who has helped employees access pension plans through digitalisation.
DOES IT WORK?
Both customer and employee metrics bear out the RHP approach. Latest findings include:
- Tenant satisfaction 85%
- Homeowner satisfaction 74%
- Repairs completed on time 98%
- Repairs satisfaction 92%
- Caretaking satisfaction 87%
- Average time to resolve a complaint 1.9 days
- Trust score in 2017/18 Great Place to Work: 92%
- Employees who rate RHP Group as a great place to work: 93%
- Credibility score: 92%
- Respect score: 92%
- Camaraderie score: 93%
RHP has set itself a stretching five-year strategy, which includes:
- • Having the highest levels of employee engagement in the UK
- • The majority of customers being very satisfied
- • Helping 500 local people into work and training
- • Providing 500 new homes
- • Investing £81m in existing properties
Its strong culture and employee experience has enabled it to maintain employee engagement during difficult times and will help it to deliver this strategy.