Exec Summary

Finding, developing and keeping your people is one of the most important elements of running a successful organisation. This issue gets further complicated when an organisation is faced with delivering any significant change programme. 4OC and Connex, in recognising that this is a real concern, organised a face-to-face workshop with some leading lights in the Housing sector to share ideas and experiences on transformation and people development. Led by Catherine Cross and Paul Marray, there followed a wide ranging and animated conversation leading to some interesting conclusions, including:

  • the need to prioritise the development of staff capability for delivering change when the implementation of new systems are being planned and budgeted
  • leaders need to ensure actionable data and intelligent toolsets are used when planning for change
  • open conversations need to happen early so that the project processes and outcomes are commonly understood across the organisation and people buy into that change

Key themes for the day

Gaps in People Capacity/Capability

When we began the planning for this workshop, the single most important issue that was highlighted in most organisations was the lack of skills available in the organisation to get the most from new technologies. From the discussion in the room, it was clear that many of the challenges centred on the skills required to maximise the use of newer technologies, both from an implementation and new ways of working perspective. Many organisations were currently implementing new systems and the significant investment in technology was not always in balance with the investment in upskilling or acquiring the new skills required for their people.

The business benefits from delivering projects

Although nurturing internal talent remains a focus for most housing organisations, it was rarely explicitly identified as a business investment. This was particularly the position for technology business cases, in which little rationale was given for how the new learning from working as part of a project team and supporting implementations could deliver business and service benefits, directly and into future projects.

Using a common language

Another theme that was highlighted was the importance of using a commonly understood language. Business cases can often be very ‘crunchy’, relying on numbers and technical language. P1190489This doesn’t always provide space to plan for change management, or really help tell of the benefits and improvements in staff or customer experience.

This chat broadened out to a conversation on how leaders should use engaging stories to support the leadership team. These stories, by contextualising the investment in people against the organisation’s strategic purpose, give the leadership team the confidence to make tough decisions.

Working towards the answers

What the data tells us

In preparation for the day, we had asked the attendees to complete a short survey, which provided us with some useful, useable data on their current operational issues. We reviewed and analysed this data and played it back to the group in the form of themes, but also informed by the experience we have had with our clients.

During the workshop, we got the chance to hear in more detail from a cross-section of Housing leaders, who shared some of their most pressing issues.

The difficulty of leading well

The complexities of leadership and decision-making were a recurring theme. Senior figures expressed the need to navigate through an intricate web of important decisions and highlighted the importance of setting crystal-clear expectations, as well as the repercussions there had been when expectation weren’t clear and what that led to.

This led to a conversation on the ‘art of leadership’, with a focus on why and how organisations, and specifically, the leaders, need to create and communicate a vision that others can trust and follow.

We took this opportunity to share our experience dealing with similar issues. Referencing an example of our work on a system implementation with a client, we showed how using plain language, which is understood by every part of the organisations, successfully ensured buy-in from those impacted by the change. How clearly defining the ‘customer journeys’ through the service helps change the organisational dynamics and everyone understand why and what the goal of the project was.

Building the case for change

We heard stories from different people about resistance to new processes, and concerns about the impact of technology on people’s roles. The consensus was clear: the calibre of change management needs to step up, so that businesses can facilitate smooth transitions that employees can embrace.

We spoke about the importance of creating robust business cases upfront, and getting the right support in order to do that, whether that is hiring in outside help, (hint: 4oc!), or around using people already in the organisation, but in a way that frees them up from their day job, so they can focus on the work at hand.

Actively supporting people’s development

Issues around the implications of promoting people or changing their roles within the organisations were common across the group. Managers often fear that if they lose a person to a project, they will be left short of resources for the delivery of their core services.

While acknowledging this reality, the consensus was that the emphasis needed to shift to supporting and celebrating individuals’ professional development. By growing their understanding of the business and being able to bring the experience they’ve had in other areas to bear, real value will be brought to the organisation.


What now?

So, with that, we began the wrap up.

From system and technology implementations to talent development, we explored it all. Our discussions uncovered hurdles like the need for comprehensive induction processes post-promotion, aligning IT with people, and the easy-to-overlook, but critical need to cost-in and plan for really strong change management, from the start.

If you are interested in how 4OC use their system implementation toolkit to help organisations better understand where the risks are in delivering change, how to mitigate these and then drive the value out from your investment, please get in touch with Catherine (catherine@the4oc.com) or Paul (paul@the4oc.com).