With you for your journey…
Paul Dolan, Chief Executive
Blog 6 brings us to July and over halfway through what has become a very busy – but exciting – year. In my latest blog – and corporate strategy update - these are a few of the things I’d like to highlight:
First however, I’d like to say that I can understand how unsettled some of you may be with the restructuring that’s happening in certain business areas at present. There is a lot going on, particularly in the customer experience directorate, and I’d like to reassure anyone who is personally affected that you will be properly consulted about any changes, and have the opportunity to make your views known. We have to change in order to deliver the objectives of our new corporate strategy and improve the services we deliver for customers. That doesn’t mean we won’t consult and support you throughout this time. Please speak to your manager if you have any concerns.
Our development plans are underway with 100 homes across Yorkshire and Barrow, and a further 200 in the East. A great start to our commitment to help tackle the housing crisis. I’m also delighted to announce that Sarah Ireland will be our new Executive Director of Development & Growth. Sarah has an impressive career and she’s firmly focussed on customer service.
Our repairs and maintenance contracts remain a huge priority for us and everyone has a part to play to help improve service.
The Accent Values are coming to a briefing near you and we’ve had some recent award success. Great for raising our profile – and making our colleagues feel valued.
Great news too about our new Employee Representative Forum – I’ll be looking forward to hearing the initial outcomes from the first meeting later this month.
As part of our governance review, we are making good progress in our recruitment of non-executive directors, and I’m delighted to hear about the high calibre of residents coming forward to get involved. It’s fantastic to see so many customers wanting to help us improve services.
I’m also looking forward to seeing MyAccount, our new customer portal, launch at the end of the month (I have asked for a preview as I haven’t seen it yet). Exciting times for our customers and their own online journeys.
Finally, one last, but very important highlight, putting the safety of our customers first is our new compliance project to improve our health and safety processes – a real priority we all need to get behind. (More about that in the next board briefing. My first one is in the south on 12 July).
So, lots of great things and very important work going on. As always, thanks for your likes and feedback in response to the blogs and our 90-second updates. If you like them, ‘like’ them and, if you have any comments, Gail or myself would be delighted to hear them.
- Service Offer: our customer focus groups have created some fascinating results (see more in our comms update).
- Asset Management: Nick Warden is due to tour the regions with the Proactive Asset Management Strategy (PAMS), looking at how we can all work together to manage our assets really well. Look out for news sometime soon on how we intend to improve the quality of our asset portfolio over the next five years with your help.
- Repairs and Maintenance Contracts: all contracts (including estates services) are now firmly operational. To date, performance is mixed, but we do have some really good results in the North West. The contracts are enablers for us all to develop our service offer for residents, and it is really important we all work in partnership with all our customers and our contractors to improve where we can. If you feel something isn’t working with a contractor, please talk to the relevant contract manager or Neil Cox. Feedback is always a gift and yours might be a hidden gem!
- Repairs service review process: the project plan is currently being developed to ensure all key steps, timing and resources are known upfront. The review team will get back together to discuss the project plan, progress and next steps. Neil Cox will be touring in August to present the findings – please try to attend the sessions.
Our New Homes
- Development: we are going ahead with 34 new homes at Green Hammerton in North Yorkshire, 12 in Branshaw Park, Oakworth and 63 at Whalley Road, Barrow. We also have more than 200 new homes awaiting approval in the East. We are continuing to work with our asset management colleagues to identify schemes in the North, and we have approval for two remodelling schemes in the South, which will create 29 new homes. The development consortium is also generating lots of new schemes across our partner organisations.
- Our new Executive Director of Development & Growth: Sarah Ireland, an experienced development executive, with an impressive career and a passion for the customer and resident experience. Sarah will join us on 3 September.
- Accent Values: launching soon at a briefing near you!
- Employee Engagement: HUGE thanks to ALL the nominees who put themselves forward with their fabulous profiles to be considered – and to everyone who voted. The overall turnout was very high (>80%) and the newly elected reps have been named. They will meet to form the Employee Representative Forum by the end of July. One of their first jobs, after some initial training, will be to help shape the draft Accent People Strategy on your behalf.
- HANA Awards 2018 – ICT AND FINANCE: David Royston and his team were up for ‘Finance Team of the Year’ and, thanks to 3C Consultants, Steve Dungworth and his team were up for ‘Best use of Technology’ at the National Housing Federation’s HANA Awards. FANTASTIC NEWS we brought home the ICT Award - well done to the team. Although we lost out to Bernicia for the best finance team, it’s a fantastic achievement to be shortlisted in these high profile events.
- STOP PRESS: Claire Stone was awarded ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ in the Bradford Means Business Awards which were also held on 5 July. Well done Claire from all your colleagues – fantastic achievement.
And, congratulations to Legal Apprentice Alisha Qureshi who was shortlisted for Apprentice of the Year. This is the most highly contested of the Bradford Means Business Awards and she beat a large number of other candidates for the shortlist. Alisha didn’t win but we are all very proud of her. Well done Alisha.
We will keep you updated on our award submissions and successes.
- Governance review: our non-executive director recruitment is going very well with a number of good quality applications received. The closing date is 6 July and interviews will go ahead later this month. Induction training will be in the summer, so our new members are ready for the autumn round of boards and committees.
- Resident engagement: the recruitment of residents to the new Customer Experience Committee and National Scrutiny Panel is now underway. Five regional events, attended by over 70 residents, promoted the ways in which residents could get involved with shaping and reviewing services. A number of residents would like to be members of these formal groups. The next steps will be for them to meet existing board members for an initial assessment – it is important we get the right skills and abilities – and passion to get involved.
- Financial Plan: Our financial plan has been shared with the regulator and funders, and conversations are underway with funders about raising new money for our development,asset management and growth aspirations. The 2017-18 year-end accounts were approved and signed by the Board on 4 July – look out for them on KIM shortly and the fantastic new branding and design produced by our in-house team! Please talk to Jackie Garnett or David Royston if you have any questions.
And IN SUPPORT OF THESE WORK STREAMS….
- MyAccount Launch: Unless there are any last minute hitches we will go-live with MyAccount on 23 July.
We have done rigorous testing involving residents and staff. We’ve had some great feedback, which has led to a number of improvements which have all helped to shape and design our new self-service offering.
- For the first time, we can share the customer experience and become digital leaders, supporting their online journey.
- Our platform is scalable, with the potential to be brilliant and offer more choice to customers.
- We can meet customers where they want to meet, delivering a better service on the move, with customers who want to interact with us on mobile devices.
- We have designed enhancements to improve the customer experience when reporting a repair or anti-social behaviour
Project team members and business leads are carrying out launch briefings, and our customers will start receiving communications from 9 July onwards. The countdown to launch then begins.
- Housing@Tech: our own Steve Dungworth had two slots at the recent CIH conference in Manchester, promoting Accent and our digital capability. One featured Steve as part of a panel discussing customer experience and channel shift, for the other he was joined by Heather Eagland, to tell the story of Accent Connect. There was lots of interest and positive feeback. Moat Housing recently visited us as part of their own plans to implement ActiveH.
- Compliance Project: putting the safety of our customers first.’ Having successfully gone live with fire risk and health and safety assessments on ActiveH, the compliance project is now preparing a process which will improve, streamline and simplify the gas safety process. Managing the Legionella risk is also being reviewed, to introduce integration between ActiveH and the water hygiene contractor.
- Reminder - GDPR E-Learning: only 135 of you have completed your eLearning. This is mandatory training so, if you haven’t done yours yet – visit: https://accent.vc-tms.co.uk/ (your username is your work email address). You need 80% to pass.
- Be Present - Principles for excellent customer experience: using Skype for Business efficiently will help ensure our external and internal customer experience is the best that it can be. We ALL have to make the most of our technology for this to happen. The overriding principle is to do the right thing by the customer at all times with the most appropriate method of communication. Five key principles to this are:
- On each working day log in to the Skype for Business client on at least one device – computer, tablet or phone.
- Ensure your calendar is up to date and showing appointments correctly.
- Use status of ‘free’ when possible – ‘busy’ really means busy and unlikely to be able to be reached.
- Update your “What’s happening today’ area each day so your colleagues know what you are doing.
- Be available to respond to customers and colleagues whenever possible.
Communications; Brand; Marketing; PR
- Customer Service Offer: we have now completed our regional customer focus groups. Over 50 residents attended from across our regions, which is absolutely fantastic. We are collating the feedback with the results of the corresponding survey (507 responses). Claire Stone and her team will now pull together all the results to develop the new Accent Service Offer, and brief staff before the final consultation with customers.
- Insight & Engagement: the team has been busy delivering resident engagement ‘taster’ sessions to recruit residents to our new engagement opportunities. Supported by regional colleagues, we have met with over 70 residents, many of whom have never engaged with us before. We are confident we will be able to recruit some talented residents to our National Scrutiny Group and the Customer Experience Committee. More importantly perhaps, we are also reassured that there is still an appetite for ‘grass roots’ engagement. If you’d like to know more, or have any ideas for engaging residents in your local area, please contact Rachael Walsh.
- Shaping the Journey: Our fantastic Accent exhibition van started its tour of our regions on Monday 2nd July in the South. It will visit all five regions before ending in Middlesbrough on Thursday 26th July. If you’d like to get involved and see our residents and homes, please click here to find our schedule.
- CIH Conference: for three days on 26 – 28 June, we exhibited at the Chartered Institute of Housing Conference in Manchester. This gave us a further opportunity to promote our SoFar films and our new corporate strategy. Thanks to everyone who visited and helped us cover the stand, your support was really appreciated.
- Annual Report: working closely with David Royston’s team, we have designed a corporate annual report, which includes our annual accounts, for the first time in 10 years. Everyone is really pleased with how this it looks – and it’s a further opportunity to showcase our new branding with the outside world.
- Performance Report to customers: we had a small – but effective – focus group with residents to discuss the content and format of their annual report. There was some challenge to some of the information we regularly report and some great suggestions for new content which we are currently working up.
- Branding: we are working through all our documents to update the look and feel and making sure they fit with our brand. If there is anything you want us to include, please let us know. Now is the time to bin those old leaflets and let us know if there is anything you want designing.
- MyAccount launch and marketing: we are working closely with the MyAccount project team in the countdown to launch on the communication and marketing of MyAccount. Our customers will start receiving communications from 9 July and then the countdown begins to all important launch date of 23 July.