Overcoming Challenges in a Resource-Constrained Environment

6 mins
Eliot Jeffries

By Eliot Jeffries

The social housing sector is currently facing a monumental challenge: achieving more with less. The demands for housing associations to become more customer-centric and provide better services are higher than ever with scrutiny seeming to come from every angle. 

Organisations and their leaders have to think outside the box to make necessary improvements despite the inherent lack of resources. 

From recent conversations with sector leaders, I have uncovered some key areas organisations are focusing on in order to meet this challenge and instill the right attitudes among their teams.

Building Resilience & Providing Purpose

Many leaders are prioritising the development of resilience within their teams as a primary focus. This involves not only providing additional training and support to operational teams but also extends to more comprehensive initiatives. A central discussion revolves around the concept of purpose. 

Purpose must be at the core of everything an organisation does. Having a clearly defined purpose gives employees a “north star” to aim for, helping to increase resilience and provide a reason “why”.

As part of Neemar Search's Elevate Programme, we welcomed Tim Munden, Former Chief Learning Officer at Unilever, to explore the power of purpose. Tim spoke of the importance of purpose, how to create a purpose-led organisation, and the positive outcomes having a clearly defined purpose can achieve. 

Purpose Drives People: 

  • Higher intrinsic motivation (+49%).
  • More likely to say (+25%) they will go the extra mile. 
  • Higher satisfaction with work (33%) and life (27%).

Tim’s research clearly demonstrates a defined purpose provides the clarity, transparency, direction, and energy employees need to tackle the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. If you are interested in finding out more following Tim’s talk on purpose please sign up to the newsletter where more in depth information is available. 

Increasing Diversity 

Greater diversity among organisations has been a hot topic of discussion within the sector over recent years but it is still something that needs a continued focus.

Identifying and delivering change becomes considerably more challenging when there is uniformity in appearance, thought processes, and life experiences among employees. To enhance the effectiveness of change, it is crucial to incorporate diverse voices and experiences in shaping the organisation's thoughts and purpose. The sector must focus on attracting a more diverse workforce at the entry-level, establishing a foundation for future inclusivity.

Promoting diversity is an important factor in the successful delivery of any strategy. To ensure that organisations meet their own mission and vision they need a culture of respect, inclusion, and understanding of difference. Having a diverse workforce is the first step in achieving this. 

Recruitment plays an integral role in improving diversity. It is important to embed diversity as a fundamental aspect across every step of the recruitment process to ensure it is at the forefront. For organisations to draw a diverse pool of applicants, they need to actively showcase and promote their Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) strategies. Collaborating with a recruiter who aligns with these values and actively champions diversity is vital. This collaboration guarantees a broad and diverse shortlist of candidates, playing a pivotal role in nurturing an inclusive workforce.

Going Back to Basics

From recent conversations, the second area that seems to have provided success is the idea of going back to basics. Focusing on the core business and what customers truly need. The sector is sometimes guilty of trying to be everything to everyone, rather than excelling in what matters most. Focusing on listening and engaging with customers and learning from previous mistakes is essential in order to move forward and improve levels of services. 

In a recent episode of The Housing Collective, Charlotte Norman, CEO of MSV Housing discussed this idea - "Try new things but know when to push back and don't be all things to all people." Innovation is essential, but discernment is equally crucial. Find the balance between exploration and holding your ground.

Having simple and clear strategic goals on key areas such as complaints, customer service, and repairs and maintenance will not only give customers the comfort that the big issues are being addressed but will also give teams more clarity as to where to focus their efforts and more focus on what really matters. 

Leveraging AI

Leveraging new technologies, and more specifically AI is often an area that can be dismissed due to the associated time and cost of implementation. However, the recent advent of free AI tools is something that cannot be overlooked. 

AI is undoubtedly going to change the way in which we work moving forward. According to peoplemanagement.co.uk 1 in 12 people in the UK already use AI in some form to help them with their working day. Embracing this and working with employees to find the best way of leveraging this technology and ensuring it is used responsibly is imperative. Having conversations about AI is exciting because it is still a complete unknown to us in terms of what it can do and where it will go, but these conversations need to happen sooner rather than later if organisations are going to reap the benefits and not be left behind. 

The sector in particular has challenges around admin-heavy tasks and it can be argued the use of AI could reduce workloads and provide a more efficient service to the customer. However, some organisations have gone further than this and are using AI to help mitigate issues before they happen. 

Flagship Housing is two years into its programme to deploy 20,000 Switchee devices to homes across the east of England by 2030. These devices monitor the home environment, harvesting data and looking for patterns. The AI software then adjusts the heating system, saving the household money and protecting the building and residents against the risk of dampness and mould.

Admittedly, using AI is not the best approach in many instances that require a personal touch, but for some tasks it has been shown to speed up processes, reduce response times, and even preempt and mitigate problems before they even happen, ultimately benefiting the customer.  Do you use AI in your working day?

Final Thoughts

Even with the substantial challenges the sector faces, it's clear that leaders are staying forward-focused, and are implementing strategies to allow their organisations to confront these issues. Focusing on innovation, inclusivity, being customer-centric, and technological adaptation is crucial if the sector is going to improve sustainably moving forward. 

However, the question still arises: in such a resource-constrained environment is it feasible to address every aspect comprehensively?

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