Catherine Wilmot, Executive Director (Operations & Finance), Northern Housing Consortium talks about why empowering staff through training and development is so important to the NHC and how we strive to support staff wellbeing.
Having worked most of my professional career within services organisations I am a passionate believer in the importance of a happy, healthy and motivated workforce in an organisation’s ability to be cohesive and deliver the best services it can. Furthermore, through study towards a Masters degree in Organisational and Business Psychology, I have academically cemented my experience that one size does not fit all when it comes to managing your workforce or promoting the many different facets of health and wellbeing to individuals. Health and wellbeing not only covers physical and mental health, but also the environment staff work in, the opportunities to develop or train, and to work as a team, work-life flexibility, and organisational leadership and overarching values.
“We believe in empowering staff at all levels”
Our personalised training and development plans support our staff to become subject matter experts in their field. I believe that staff members should feel encouraged to complement their sector and role knowledge through study and through affiliation to the professional member body related to their role. We are currently supporting 26% of our staff body in their studies towards recognised academic or professional qualifications and many staff are members of professional member bodies, ensuring authenticity in the specialist and sector support we provide to our members.
We believe in empowering staff at all levels. Each individual has a unique insight into what works in their roles and involving them in the strategy shaping process is a powerful way to give staff some autonomy over the processes they know best.
This year our staff at all levels were actively engaged in the development of our new corporate plan, encouraging them to use their individual areas of expertise to best effect. Using key corporate objectives and ambitions developed from a recent member perception survey and agreed by our Board, we developed a refreshed plan that will help us to continue to succeed and to achieve our objectives through to 2022 and beyond.
We have a strong staff culture at the NHC, and this year we asked a volunteer staff working group to support a modernisation of our corporate values, the glue to our ability to deliver the new corporate plan. Our member focussed, collaborative, innovative and supportive values relate to us as teams, as an organisation and as a membership body.
“We are passionate about the wellbeing of our staff”
We are passionate about the wellbeing of our staff in order to facilitate the best support to our member organisations. We have established a staff-led wellbeing working group to discuss and promote initiatives to sustain and improve physical and mental health and wellbeing amongst staff. We recently undertook a full staff wellbeing survey which generated very positive results – but we are striving to do more.
“Our flexible working policy, allows staff to be fully agile”
We now have nearly 80% of our staff signed up on our remote working programme, which, together with our flexible working policy, allows staff to be fully agile and choose an optimal time and location to deliver their workplan effectively. 100% of our staff are now fully equipped with the communication tools and IT infrastructure to be able to work remotely if required, minimising any risk of downtime.
“We have held several events in recent months on mental wellness”
We are all very aware of the impact housing has on mental health. Staff working in housing organisations are particularly susceptible due to the nature of the vulnerable residents and complex issues they deal with on a day-to-day basis. The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has launched a guide to help housing organisations improve their approach to mental health and here at the NHC we have held several events in recent months on mental wellness: including a mental health and housing conference and training courses covering individual, team and tenants’ mental health. We will continue to bring members together to discuss approaches to mental health – look out for a seminar for HR and People Directors later this year.
Overall, we believe our noteworthy recent sickness record, of only 1.8 days per employee for the full year, is testament to the success of our remote working programme and other staff wellbeing measures put in place. We hope that these measures and ongoing actions will help to sustain this excellent performance within the organisation, and further develop our staff as role models and ambassadors for the sector in general.