Guestblog: Glynis Osborne – What starts when training stops?

“What if we train them and they leave?”

“What if we don’t and they stay?”

I love this quote as it says a lot about the way we approach training and development in our teams.

I often hear of businesses reducing the amount of training they provide when the pressure is on. Whether it is due to a staff shortage or spending cuts, training is one of the first and easiest things to cut. Reducing training often provides short-term gains such as saving on spending and possibly travel and accommodation, along with ‘no colleagues missing’ on training courses allowing all hands to be on deck. It is also seen to have few immediate negative effects and if performance is good at that moment, everyone will carry on as normal. There is however another side worth considering when training stops. These are some of the things we don’t directly see.

  • Colleague engagement

Training is often a good experience and colleagues say they feel more engaged with the business and more valued when they are encouraged to attend training. As training is focused on making colleagues more productive in their roles or developing new skills, the benefits can make them feel good whether they want to progress, take on more responsibilities or become more efficient at what they already do.  Stopping or reducing training has been seen to reduce morale and this often means a reduced work rate as well as colleagues feeling undervalued or not worthy of the time and money. These effects can be felt immediately or can take a while to surface and it is hard to tell if colleagues are feeling this way.

  • People sometimes muddle through

It can be great when colleagues learn from other colleagues as they find out the best way of doing things from those who are experienced and knowledgeable in that area. There is always the danger however that they are learning the wrong way of doing things or at least not exactly the best way. I am currently working with a business where there are several colleagues who have been highlighted as potential leaders because they have a good work ethic and are competent within their current role, often doing more than what is expected. They have also expressed a desire to move through the ranks and further their career. As part of the work I am doing, one of the actions set was giving each potential leader one or two colleagues to manage so they could learn the skills to be an effective manager. When observing them before the training started, I noted several occasions where colleagues managed their teams as they have been managed and using techniques that did not always yield the best results. This is because that is all they had known and things can continue in this way if no formal training is given.

  • Checking back

Another issue I see often is a lack of ‘check back’. When we have conversations with our teams and they seem to know what is expected and how to go about a project, we have confidence that they will go away and do a good job, particularly when they are enthusiastic when we set the task. I often see that due to time constraints, work load or regularity of conversations we do not ‘check back’. If we did, we could see how they are getting on and understand if they are doing the job to the standard we require. This is also a great opportunity for feedback and praise. A lack of ‘check back’ can cause errors or missed targets and this sometimes does not come to light until it is too late.

  • Working smarter not harder

I often ask leaders ‘If I had a magic wand, what is the one behavioural change you would love to see appear in your team?’ Nine times out of ten they say they wish teams would act more ‘empowered’, make their own decisions, create solutions to problems and not turn a blind eye to potential issues. Often when speaking with colleagues they say a lack of confidence is the main reason they don’t do these things.  They don’t feel like they have the skills to make decisions effectively or don’t see problem-solving as their role but only to bring to light problems for managers to fix.

Often some targeted training can help with these skills, not only for colleagues but also for managers.  Training gives colleagues the skills required to be more empowered and the confidence to act when necessary.  It can also enable managers with the skills to encourage empowerment to support them in making these changes in behaviour. When I have delivered these types of programmes I also see a change in the managers as they become more confident in their teams’ abilities. This encourages them to become empowered themselves and work at a higher level.

The above points are just a few things to think about if you ever consider reducing training within your organisation. I think one piece of advice I would give to anyone planning training, is to really think about what you need to get from the training and ask yourself ‘what is my required return on investment?’ This will help you make sure that the time you and your colleagues spend and the money invested is maximised. I find having the answers to these questions helps the training to be targeted, measurable and delivered in the right way at the right level.

Glynis Osborne is the senior development consultant and founder of Thinking Success UK For more information please contact her on 07545 895 216 or

The NHC and Thinking Success UK High Performing Leaders programme kicks off in September. For more information visit the events page here.

Guestblog: Ward Hadaway – Social housing risk profiling

Ward Hadaway logo

In its guest blogs, NHC Supporter Ward Hadaway offers the legal perspective and some guidance on some of the social housing sector’s most pressing issues. In this edition: social housing risk profiling.

What are the main financial risks facing social housing providers?

This is one of the things which the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) attempts to address with its Sector Risk Profile (SRP) 2017. The SRP focuses on financial risks that may cause a social housing provider to fail to comply with the regulator’s economic standards. It details the main risks facing the social housing sector and some of the actions registered providers should be taking to manage those risks.

Fundamentally, the SRP highlights how the HCA will seek assurance that boards are managing those risks effectively.


What are the risks?

The rate of policy change in the social housing sector, together with increased development activity and diversification into building for sale and other non-social housing activities, are flagged up as potential risks.

Also highlighted in the report is the potential impact of any future increase in interest rates and the resulting effect this will have on business plans and loan covenants. This is to be considered alongside the impact of rising inflation and ongoing rent cuts, which are likely to affect a registered provider’s overall business plan and delivery of forecasted cost savings.

Fiona MacGregor, Executive Director of Regulation at the HCA, says the regulator will have an “increased focus on the quality of stress testing”  and wants to see “that boards have a clear idea of the early warning signs or triggers that would lead to their carefully thought through mitigation plans being put into effect”.


What must social housing boards do?

Boards of registered providers must continue to ensure that they meet the requirements of the regulator’s consumer standards, including the obligation under 1.2(b) of the Home Standard (the requirement that a registered provider must meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of the occupants in their homes).

While diversified activities can support registered providers’ core activities, boards must assure themselves that this is the case and it does not come at the expense of their fundamental role. Governance structures must evolve and boards must recruit the skills required of a diversified portfolio as the sector continues to enter into a range of new commercial ventures and relationships.

It was regarded as “essential” in the SRP that registered providers stress-test a wide range of potential scenarios that are inherent to their business, particularly when it comes to potential economic risks and risks to rental income.

As the adoption of Universal Credit builds up steam, preparations are to be taken to minimise any risk of cash flow problems as tenants are switched over to the new system.


What next?

The SRP is particularly concerned that:

  • the finances/cash flow of registered providers are stress-tested to ensure that mitigation plans are developed.
  • whilst planned de-regulation will grant certain freedoms upon registered providers, boards are to ensure that they are in full control of decisions around constitutional changes and disposals.
  • all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of the occupants in their homes are met.

The sector is under particular scrutiny and in this climate, the HCA has a clear aim to promote a viable, efficient and well-governed social housing sector able to deliver homes that meet a range of needs.

For further information, please contact Howard Walker, PR Manager at Ward Hadaway, on 0191 204 4446 or

Guestblog: Ward Hadaway – The DCLG Building Safety programme

Ward Hadaway logo

In its guest blogs, NHC Supporter Ward Hadaway offers the legal perspective and some guidance on some of the social housing sector’s most pressing issues. In this edition: the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Building Safety programme.

The Grenfell Tower tragedy has focused attention on the quality and safety of high-rise buildings across the UK. One of the responses to the incident has been the DCLG setting up a Building Safety Programme aimed at supporting owners and residents of high-rise buildings.

The programme introduces a checking and testing process to identity buildings which are of concern and aims to develop advice and provide solutions. A dedicated web page has been set up to enable people to monitor progress.

With assistance from the fire and rescue services, the DCLG will support Landlords in ensuring the safety of their residents and taking immediate steps to start any remedial work needed.


The Building Safety Programme

The Building Safety Programme is advised by an independent expert advisory panel which recommends actions it thinks the Government should take immediately to help identify buildings that are of concern and that may aid in improving public safety.

The DCLG has issued the following three advice notes which are available on the Building Safety Programme webpage:

  • Explanatory note on safety checks and testing.
  • Advice on recladding.
  • Explanatory note on large scale testing.

The advice notes draw on the advice issued so far to private and public sector landlords and building owners on the process to arrange fire safety tests on cladding on high-rise buildings, including social housing blocks.


Checking and testing

The launch of the DCLG Building Safety programme webpage followed an announcement by the government of a newly developed screening test by The Building Research Establishment (BRE) aimed at assessing which type of core material is present in the cladding of high-rise buildings. The BRE have undertaken initial screening tests to identify which blocks have cladding which does not meet the requirements for limited combustibility within the current Building Regulations guidance.

The DCLG is first sharing the results with local authorities and housing associations who have confirmed that their buildings are clad in the material types tested. The results will then be made publicly available via the DCLG’s website.

The DCLG has also written to all building control bodies in England to stress the key Building Regulations requirements when cladding work on high-rise buildings over 18 metres tall is carried out.


Immediate steps for landlords

Building owners are firstly advised to identify the cladding and insulation materials used on their buildings if they have not done so already.

If a building has been identified as a cause for concern, the DCLG has also provided immediate interim measures to be taken in order to manage fire safety. Landlords and building owners are advised to:

  • notify the fire and rescue services.
  • check that a fire risk assessment has been carried out in the last 12 months.
  • engage with residents to ensure they fully understand the fire safety procedure.
  • check that there is no combustible material in the vicinity of the cladding.
  • check that smoke detection equipment is working correctly.

Building owners are also advised to take their own professional advice on what steps to take; this will be dependent on what materials are on the building. The DCLG states that professional advice may be obtained from:

  • a qualified engineer with relevant experience in fire safety, including fire testing of building products and systems, such as a chartered engineer registered with the Engineering Council by the Institution of Fire Engineers or
  • from an assessor employed by a test laboratory accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service.

Building owners should utilise the DCLG’s advice and support to either gain reassurance that their buildings are safe or assist in making decisions about what steps they can take to ensure the safety of residents.

For further information, please contact Howard Walker, PR Manager at Ward Hadaway, on 0191 204 4446 or

Guestblog: Savills – Helping housing providers build better businesses

Change in the social and affordable housing sector is constant. The last two years have put paid to any notion otherwise.

From the rent cut to the Housing and Planning Act 2016, from the reclassification decision by the Office of National Statistics to the deregulation of housing associations, and from two general elections with the Brexit vote inbetween, change has been constant. Then came the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, the repercussions of which are only beginning to become clear in terms of fire safety and asset investment. Housing professionals might be forgiven for feeling a little dizzy at the pace and monumental nature of all this change.

Yet it is worth considering that, as change is constant, the need to assess and reassess our business plans must be too. A finely crafted plan from 2015 may have positioned the business well and have been great at the time but it was two years ago and is now in need of being updated.

So how to be smart about this? How to ensure you and your colleagues aren’t missing opportunities, or running in circles?

A useful way of approaching this is thinking in terms of business efficiency.

At the headline level, this does mean picking up the mantra from the housing regulator and the government of ‘doing more with less’ but it is not just about the numbers.

In a dedicated Business Efficiency seminar Savills is holding with the NHC in Castleford on 25th September, we will explore the opportunities for housing providers to build more efficient businesses.

Key topics we will cover include:

  • The economic and policy context.
  • Effective asset management.
  • Treasury management and funding options.
  • Joint ventures and partnerships.

The aim of the event is help housing providers generate greater business capacity. How you use this capacity is up to you. It could help provide more affordable homes. It could support diversification into new areas of business to better deliver your social aims. It could give breathing room and build resilience to prepare for continued rent cuts to 2020.

Forward-thinking housing providers have been considering these issues for some time – and they continue to do so. The NHC event will hear from some of these organisations and their experiences. Savills will also be able to provide an overview of the sector based on work we have done supporting housing providers in recent years.

The seminar promises to be a fascinating day and one that I hope as many housing colleagues as possible are able to attend to share their views and ideas. I look forward to seeing you there.

Helen Collins is Head of Savills Housing Consultancy


Visit the events page for more information on ‘Business Efficiency Seminar – unlock your potential’ at WDH in Castleford on 25th September.

Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation in Social Housing

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will change the way tenant data is dealt with. From 25th May 2018, all organisations will need to ensure they comply with the new data protection legislation. At this stage the social housing sector needs to be aware of the changes and should start reviewing documentation, and whether processes will comply with the new requirements.

One new requirement is that of “accountability” – whereby organisations will need to show the way in which they are complying with data protection principles.

Requirements will change on key consent principles in the GDPR which will include:

  • Building customer trust and engagement.
  • Making sure that the consents you ask individuals for match your consent practices.
  • Offering individuals “genuine choice and control”.
  • Making statements of consent very clear and specific.
  • Being “granular” in the consent you’re asking for – a “blanket” consent under a generic statement isn’t good enough.
  • Naming the third parties who will rely on the consent.
  • Allowing people to withdraw their consent.
  • Keeping consent practices under review.

Emphasis of the principles is clear enough – manage personal information responsibility, make clear requests for what you require and offer people a genuine choice over whether to actually give their consent. A further aim of the GDPR is to prompt a cultural shift in the way that consent to sharing information is given. Consent should be separate from main terms and conditions, and it should require “clear affirmative action” from the individual giving it.

The Return of Customer Profiling

Customer profiling has climbed housing providers’ list of priorities again recently after an apparent lull. More than ever, finances are tight in our sector and providers must be sure that resources are targeted where they will make the greatest impact. Painting a detailed picture of customers can help do that. From a purely commercial perspective, one of the most important parts of any business is to understand who your customers are. Every time you scan your loyalty card at the supermarket, the store is collecting information about you and what you like to buy. A twist on this ‘getting to know you’ approach can be put to good use in housing services.

The information gleaned from profiling a tenant base can be extremely valuable, not only in terms of where to focus resources and targeting support for customers in need, but in many other commercially beneficial ways. One of the findings from the soon-to-be-published fourth NHC Universal Credit Research report is that over two-thirds of respondents have or are planning to carry out a customer profiling exercise of their tenant base to determine those at risk of falling into arrears or of having difficulty paying their rent. This will help those organisation to pinpoint where claimant support should be targeted and thereby maximise rental income.

But how do you go about profiling your customers? There are valuable sources of guidance for carrying out profiling exercises but a single approach will not meet all requirements of every organisation. The desired outcomes of the project should determine how the organisation goes about collecting the intelligence required. Housing organisations’ resources are finite and there may already be valuable information on your systems perhaps from tenancy sign-up about household composition or disability, or from information collected since on vulnerable people. This may be all you need.

Some organisations embark on large-scale studies of their tenant base, commissioning external consultants to collect wide-ranging information to pinpoint certain tenant types and segment them based on demographic, behavioural or value-based characteristics.

There are many considerations when embarking on a customer profiling exercise and NHC will be holding a free member roundtable in York on Tuesday, 14th November where these considerations will be addressed using real-life examples. For more information and to book onto the event click here.

NEA’s ‘Improving Energy Efficiency In Communities’ Project

In 2017-2018 National Energy Action will build upon its partnership with EDF Energy to deliver another year of its Improving Energy Efficiency In Communities Project which aims to reduce the wider impacts of fuel poverty for households across England.

The project provides FREE basic energy awareness training to frontline practitioners within voluntary and statutory organisations.   Training aims to equip individuals with the skills and knowledge to better identify and assist households who struggle to manage their energy needs and to maintain a warm and healthy home.

Organisations can also benefit from FREE energy advice surgeries/ awareness sessions to help their service users to better manage their energy use, access appropriate energy tariff and payment options as well as insulation and heating schemes, income maximisation, money and debt advice services.

NEA is providing all trainees and energy advice recipients with copies of a bespoke information leaflet to aid service signposting and referral.

As part of EDF Energy’s commitment to provide a more holistic service, EDF Energy customers accessing NEA advice services can also benefit from a range of Priority Services, which includes access to Warm Home Discount rebates, money advice, trust fund grant assistance and the Priority Services Register.

The Improving Energy Efficiency In Communities project is national but has a key focus in the North East, North West, London & South East, South West and the Yorkshire & the Humber areas.

For enquiries about FREE energy advice surgeries /energy awareness sessions in these areas contact:

For enquiries about awareness/ advice sessions in all other areas (and all general enquiries) contact Malcolm Dove at NEA on 0191 269 2932 (email:

For enquiries about FREE basic energy awareness training for frontline practitioners across England contact Tracy Norris, Business Support Officer at NEA on 0191 269 2946.

NEA is grateful for support from EDF Energy for this project.