RHP Group is a housing provider that owns and manages around 10,000 homes across South West London. With just 250 employees, we are a small but dynamic organisation that likes to punch well above its weight. We’ve been named as the most innovative housing provider for three years in a row by the Dolphin Innovation Index.
Our CEO is passionate about employee engagement and very supportive of new initiatives. One of our strategic pillars is to be an inspiring place to work, and my team plays an important role in this – primarily by supporting line managers and encouraging two-way dialogue within the organisation.
Aligned to this, there is a clear recognition of the critical importance of line managers in employee engagement. It is part of their learning and development plans, and something that they are measured on via 360-degree surveys.
Line managers attend a mandatory monthly one-hour ‘Excellent Employer’ session to discuss employee engagement. It’s a great forum to brainstorm new ideas to improve our employee experience and discuss the workplace that we aspire to be. It is a significant cost to the business in terms of manager’s time, but to us it is a worthwhile investment and a clear signal of the importance that we place on engagement.
Part of our role in the communications team is to help line managers to
bring our corporate messages to life for their teams. Last year, we introduced more consistency in team communication across the organisation. Managers are expected to run weekly team huddles – lasting no longer than 30 minutes and designed to be snappy and interactive. We created activity cards to help managers start discussions around key topics. The cards provide an overview of the structure of
the session without being overly prescriptive. We leave them plenty of room to adapt the messages and make them their own.
A few months ago, we covered sustainability to address employees’ feedback that we should do more for the environment. To raise awareness around what we’re already doing, we organised a treasure hunt around the office where employees could find out about our solar panels, our energy meter and all the things we’ve implemented. The activity card helped line managers lead their teams to the different clues and summarise what they had learnt.
We always encourage people to post a photo of what they’ve done or share what they have learnt on Yammer, and people are proud of sharing the great ideas they have come up with in the huddle. It creates a bit of healthy competition between teams!
Some line managers felt a bit out of their comfort zone at first, but now more and more are coming up with new ideas during our Excellent Employer sessions. Last year, all managers were offered storytelling workshops and ‘Speaking with confidence’ sessions. It’s been a great way to give line managers ownership of our messages.
We try to incorporate a human side in everything we communicate. Our working principle is that we take our job seriously, but not ourselves.
We run ‘quarterly sprints’ to engage employees around our three-month business targets. Rather than focusing on annual goals, we talk about short-term targets in a creative way. Every quarter, our sprint has a memorable theme, for example in the summer it was the ‘RHP World Cup’. For the launch, we got a pop-up goal post in our courtyard and invited everyone to a penalty shootout competition, weaving in our targets for the quarter ahead. Having line managers and leaders kicking that process o shows that they are taking ownership of the targets.
Of course, we also engage with our employees directly. Yammer is a very powerful tool to share what’s going on across our organisation. A couple of years ago we took this to the next level by introducing our video booth RHP Express, where people can lm a short clip which is then posted on Yammer with the #RHPExpress hashtag. We always incorporate a feedback element in our campaign, and this is one of the ways in which people can share their thoughts on a campaign or topic. For Valentine’s Day, we gave people different props and asked them to read their love letter to a different team.
“We always encourage people to post a photo of what they’ve done or share what they have learnt on Yammer, and people are proud of sharing the great ideas they have come up with in the huddle.”
We like the idea that everyone can be a leader, and we try to drive innovation at every level of the organisation. We’ve launched our own version of Dragon’s Den (called ‘4 in 4’) where we give people an opportunity to pitch their idea for business transformation in front of our leadership team and other employees.
After their presentation, people vote for the best idea on Yammer, and the winner gets to nominate a project team and has three months to deliver the project.
We know that not all ideas will work – which is fine as long as people learn from the experience. Some ideas have been successfully implemented – one of our retirement scheme managers helped improve our process for managing our customer support plans more efficiently. It was great because she is 67, which debunked some of the myths about what a typical innovator is!
Another popular programme is our quarterly Great Place to Debate where we pick a topical issue affecting our sector and ask volunteers to come forward to debate. It is a great way for employees to develop their skills, including getting an argument across in a constructive way, positively challenging a different point of view and speaking publicly. The audience in the room can ask questions to each team at the end before voting for team with the most persuasive argument.
For us, it’s important to encourage people to have their own points of view and step out of their comfort zones to share them with the organisation and take ownership.
“We like the idea that everyone can be a leader, and we try to drive innovation at every level of the organisation.”
Biography: Chloë Marsh
With experience in communications, L&D and HR, Chloë’s passionate about the link between highly engaged employees and better business results.
Over the past two years, her team has been integral in getting both customers and employees ready for the launch of RHPi, the UK’s rst digital only housing service. They’ve continued to build engagement across all digital channels and today 70% of interactions are made online.