I wish it could be #Housingday, everyday!

#Housingday demonstrates all that is great with the Social Housing Industry.  The energy, enthusiasm and positivity is infectious.  The pride in the work that gets done is insurmountable, and understandably so.  You just need to look at the hundreds of tweets detailing the spectrum of work that goes on around the Country repairing properties, assisting young and old to live independently, improving the employability of tenants, linking with the local community- and the list goes on.

And as good as all this is, it also illustrates one of the key issues.

The principle is sound- to increase the awareness of the positive impact that Housing organisations have on tenants lives.  And it will do that.  However, a large majority of these positive stories will be to people who already know about it.  Yes, the hope is that some people will see the hashtag trending, and have a look at what its all about but in comparison to the significantly detrimental impact programmes like Benefits Street, or sensationalised tabloid stories have, it is likely to be but a drop in the ocean.

Now I’m not saying that its not worthwhile, because it absolutely is.  But we need to reach a wider audience, and on a more regular basis.

I’m a relatively new dad.  My son is 21 months old and is the centre of my universe.  And I’ve become that annoying dad who is so proud of his little man, that I seem to be able to find any opportunity to get him into conversation.  Not only to the obvious family and friends groups, but pure strangers.  Someone on the train who has a child (“ahh, my son does that” I say, and think silently in my head, “but better”).  Or someone I interview at work (” so I see you have 2 children, I have a son blah blah).  I’m sure its only a matter of time before a trap some other unsuspecting member of the public and show them the 1342 similar pictures on my phone…beware, it could be you!

There is a point to me telling you this.

I think we need to have a similar approach to promoting the work done in Housing.  Yes, we need to tell everyone in our sphere of work because that will help with information sharing and collaboration, but we need to be proud about Social Housing and boast to anyone that will listen.  They say that it takes 12 positive experiences to negate 1 negative one, so its no mean feat to drown out the white noise created by the negative press.  But  IT IS eminently achievable if we take the impetus from #Housingday and carry this on throughout every day.  Look outside your office window and see which organisations are in your “community” and engage with them on a professional front- is there anyway that you can both benefit from working together- apprenticeships, work shadowing etc.  They don’t need to necessarily transact with Housing to be engaged.

Once these “outsiders” are involved, they will go out into their own spheres of work and promote on our behalf and soon enough the sensationalised headlines from Benefits Street et al will be drowned out by the positive noise coming from every other angle!

UK Housing does fantastic work.  Lets not just tell each other, lets tell everyone else!


Stop, collaborate and Listen!

ViceI promise my music taste is much better than my blog titles suggest- one from McFly and now one from the original white rapper, Vanilla Ice!!  But he is wiser than his step haircut and garish shellsuit suggests!

However, if I ever quote Tinchy Strider and the Chuckle Brothers, you have my permission to stone me.

I don’t want this blog wouldn’t be a rant but a couple of things have happened this week which have confused, frustrated and annoyed me about some of the systems that exist in my sphere of work.  Previously good services or systems have been eroded through funding issues and cut backs that have resulted in them losing sight of their aims or even their entire raison d’etre.  My first frustration (and subsequently the theme to this particular blog) is…

…The Job centre…

The clue is in the title.  It is there to help those people who don’t have a job, get one.  Simple right?  To be a link to employment opportunities, to advise on ways to improve your employability and to be a centre where you can get a job!  Simple really.  The premise makes sense and by and large, thats what it does.

However, over the last few years, it seems to be more of a benefits surveillance service-there to make sure that those people claiming job seekers are actually looking for jobs.  I have had two people either turn down an interview or have to re-arrange the times for an interview, in order to go to the Job Centre to report that they still haven’t got a job……… is it just me, or is that ridiculous??  I know why its come about, but surely common sense should prevail here??  Bureacracy for bureacracy’s sake and creating more work and less time for everyone involved.

Its an example of people being busy getting busy- heads down and working hard to deliver meaningless KPIs which don’t actually feed into the ACTUAL goal- getting people jobs.  Rather than demonstrating how many people you have made apply for roles that are unsuitable, listen to what the jobseeker wants and work with them to achieve that.  And if their aspirations are unrealistic, then you either try and find a way to make it work, or you work on reviewing their aspirations to make them achievable.

Making people apply for roles not only creates more work further down the chain, but it also demotivates the jobseeker and makes them think there is nothing out there for them.

Surely, we can be doing better than this?

In the connected world, it should be easy to work in collaboration, not only with the jobseekers themselves, but with other organisations that can help support their aims.  Is there a remote way to make sure people are legitinate jobseekers, which can then mean that those people at the Job Centre can work in positive and proactive ways to help people get jobs.  They could link up with employers, agencies, training companies rather than work against them by passing the buck to them.  They could research areas that their clients are interested in and signpost them effectively rather than tell them to send their CV to every job possible no matter how irrelevant to their skill set.  They could promote their clients and empower them rather than process them as a number and demotivate them.

The current system is fundamentally broken and we need to fix it from grassroots level and on a local basis.  I’d be keen to know where this is happening well and how we can replicate this.

So whilst O2 are telling us to “be more dog”, I am starting my own viral call to arms…lets “be more Vanilla Ice” and Stop, collaborate and listen!




Recruiting and networks…..Make the connection!


I was having a conversation earlier with a client who seemed to be surprised that they hadn’t managed to source any suitable candidates from their recent recruitment campaign.  They fired a number of questions at me, that they felt were the probable reasons for the lack of responses.

Is the salary not enough? The salary was fine- market rate

Are we not an attractive employer to applicants?- They are a good company, low turnover, perhaps a little understated (which could be a source of the problem)

Do we need to add more to our benefits package? Nope- generous holidays, car allowance, flexi working and contributory pension scheme.

Are there people in the market looking for this type of work? Yep, absolutely.

All were valid questions, but actually aren’t the reason for their failure to attract enough applicants to count on 2 hands (or enough SUITABLE candidates to count on 1 finger!!!).  So why did the campaign (which cost a few grand) abjectly fail?

The reason?

They wanted to engage with the local community and hopefully employ someone from the local area.  Of course they do- its a Housing Association and thats their raison d’etre.  So they felt that the best way to get local applicants was to advertise in the local newspaper (and on their own website)!

And that would have been the right way to recruit if it was the 1980’s and people actually looked in newspapers for jobs anymore.  Especially, when you are looking for someone at entry level, and so are more likely going to get applications from Generation Y and Z!

Know your audience people!!!

This is an extreme example but it is a common issue that the diversification of our communication channels is creating real difficulties in reaching the target audience??

For example, I’m on Facebook, Linkedin and I’m getting in to Twitter.  I’m not on bebo, Instagram, Flickr or the plethora of other networking sites.  I read a paper sporadically, but mainly rely on the Guardian and BBC websites for my news updates.  The local paper goes straight into recycling.  I am registered with Totaljobs and CV library, but not any of the other multitude of job boards.

So, lets imagine that I am the ideal person for a particular job that Company X is recruiting for (you may need to suspend your disbelief on that last sentence).  Now, and I don’t say this very often, but……lets do some maths.

There are apparently 20 networking sites (with over 100million users) and there are over 2000 job boards operating in the UK alone.  So that means I am on 15% of networking sites and I’m on 0.001% of job boards.  Add that to you having a 0.03% chance of catching me reading the physical Guardian (I’ll perhaps get it once a month) and absolutely no chance of getting through to me by the local rag.  That gives you a 3.75% chance of finding me (some may argue that is a good thing).

In this connected world, where global is local, how can this be?  Many of these tools sell themselves as giving you access to a bigger pool of candidates, but has it all gone too far?  Rather than shooting fish in a barrel, you are shooting fish in a barrel 2 miles away.

So what is the answer?

I believe its all about networks.  I’m probably doing myself out of a job here, as that is what people use me for- my networks, my links to the best people in the market.  Things like Linkedin, twitter, Facebook and the  other 17 main networking sites are only useful if you have an audience, or network.  And your audience is only a click away.  But if you don’t make that click, they might as well be on Mars!

Too many organisations use it as a broadcasting medium, expecting people to want to listen.  “We have a Facebook page and a twitter account” so people know about us.  They are that guy at the party who always wants to talk about himself…you know the guy- he’s the one you avoid.  If you reach out to people, be interested in them, build your network by understanding who is in your network, then this network will feed you in the long run.  Just look at Bromfords twitter only recruitment campaign.

You show yourself to be a decent employer, one who is interested in people and by default, interested in its staff, an employer of choice.  This kind of information spreads through other networks which in turn become your network, and soon enough you have an engaged network, one that is coming to you to know when the next role is coming up.  If you manage it right, with your next vacancy, you’ll just have to open the virtual window and shout down to your network to ask who fancies coming in.

When everyone gets to that stage, thats when I suppose I’ll have to look for a new job myself…




The R-word


So the good news is the recession is over!!  We now find ourselves in a Job Creation market which is much more pleasing to the ear (especially as a recruiter!).  Apparently there will be 400,000 new jobs created this year across the UK which can only be a good thing. I’ve had to take my feet off the desk, packed away the crossword books, and dusted off my phone ready for action.

So is it going to affect you??  You may have no plans to grow or diversify, or may have a stable workforce, but don’t ignore this sweeping market change as you may be indirectly affected and it could have a serious impact on your business. Even those organisations who (allegedly) arranged a “non-recruiting” pact with their competition fell foul of the scrabble for available talent (read more here- Facebook poaching from Google).

Before the evil Recession word reared its ugly head, there was another R word in town- Retention.  Everyone was trying to find out how to keep hold of their talent, as they were worried that they might never find a suitable replacement.  As it happens, the former (recession) helped solve the latter (retention) for many as people stayed in jobs for the perceived security it offered.  Any staff leakage was often lead by the organisation who made redundancies whilst seeking to streamline and find efficiencies.  Staff retention activities fell further and further down the “To Do” list until they finally dropped off all together.

But the balance of power is swinging rapidly back to the side of the employee and if you don’t act now, you may find yourself having to find replacements for some of your best staff members.  IDS found that staff turnover in Social Housing & Care was 11.8% in 2013, and I expect that to increase markedly over the next few years as people get itchy feet, get brave or get headhunted!

As our survey discovered recently (See here), the drivers for employee satisfaction have changed as our workforce welcomes new generations.  What worked in the past, may not work now or in the future.  Do you have a clear and aspirational career path?  Are you dinosaurs when it comes to Social Media?  Do you shackle your employees with process and policies rather than offer the freedom to demonstrate innovation and intra-preneurship?

Don’t mistake the impact of recession for company loyalty.  You have to work hard to keep your best talent, and you can NEVER rest on your laurels- the moment you do, is the moment you’ll start to see your brilliant people walking out of the door and on to a new opportunity with a neighbouring organisation.

So its time to dust off your Staff Retention agenda, perhaps carry out a staff survey (we do a Great Places to Work survey every year which is a useful tool for constant reviewing of our conditions) and ask yourself,

“Why would I stay with this organisation?”

If you struggle to answer that question, I’d start updating your Job Descriptions, as you are probably going to need them soon!


Its not ACTUALLY all about you…


I don’t care what those McFly boys say.  Their harmonies may be tight and their hair may be funky, but their advice is not always on point.  They sang, “Its all about you”, but I disagree.  Now I don’t know all the words, so I can’t be sure if the main theme of the song was definately giving advice on the main consideration when designing a recrutiment campaign, but I can’t imagine what else a song would be about!!??!!

My work world is constantly changing and evolving.  There are so many more possible options to consider when recruiting, and so many different means to choose- newspaper, industry press, website, job boards, social media, or dare I say agency (I promise this isn’t a sell).  I’m not here to tell you what works best because it is horses for courses and each work well in different situations.

But what I ask is that you take a little time to make some considerations before you go down any of the tracks above.  Remember that you want to ATTRACT the best talent in the market, not REPEL them!

Everybody loves a list don’t they, so here are 5 things to think about:

1.  Consider what you are wanting to achieve

If you keep that at the forefront of your mind, you will achieve a better outcome.  If you are looking to penetrate a new market, you set your goals and vision and work out the path and milestones to achieve it.  Why not give the same consideration when looking to bring people into your business?  If you want someone who is gregarious and the role needs them to interact with a variety of different types of people, then don’t fire inane questions at them and mark their scores based on pre-determined answers you want to hear.  Equally, if you need an analytical type, then an assessment day is probably not the best way to sift out the gem!!  And the answer is definately not to use every type of assessment tool, and line them all up one after another until you have drained the life out of every applicant and know not only their strengths, weaknesses, development areas, motivators etc, but also the name of their first ever pet, the fact that their difficult upbringing has lead to their lack of confidence in large groups and their reason for dropping Religious Studies at GCSE.

2. Consider the recruitment process from the applicant point of view

Once you know what it is YOU want from this process, have a think about how you can make it a POSTIVE experience for THEM.  An interview process shouldn’t be dreaded, feared or an opportunity to go on a power trip.  It should…..don’t laugh…..be enjoyed, by both parties.  You are hopefully meeting a future colleague.  But those people that might not be right for this role, could be high fliers elsewhere in the business or within other business that you could work with in the future.  I think it was Jan Carlzon who said that every interaction with a customer was a “moment of truth”, an opportunity to dazzle, and this also applies to your recruitment process.  You are on trial as much as they are.  Applicants are customers and if a customer has a bad experience, you know they will be telling their friends about how bad an experience that interview was.

3. Don’t hide behind processes

Once you get too obsessed with processes, the main thing that is going to attract applicants is diluted or gone altogether.  Your business is your people- make sure you showcase it and show off how great an opportunity this is.  Don’t get caught up in bureacracy for bureacracies sake.  If you have certain hoops that simply have to be jumped through, then keep those lines of communication open with the candidate at all times.  They might not mind hanging around for a few days, if they know that will be the case, but if they hear nothing, this will only frustrate them and could lead to you losing them.

4. Know what you want

I had a case recently, which is probably the catalyst for this blog.  We had sent an outstanding applicant to a role as a Head of Service for a very good Housing Association.  There was an excellent match, and we had been given a verbal offer.  Then they decided to have a re-think about their structure and how the applicant would fit in with that.  They (including the Chief Exec) invited her in again to discuss the new structure and decided she would still be a great fit.  The over the weekend, they had a re-think and decided they might have another rethink on what they want, and she may not be right.  They invited her in again and decided perhaps it wasn’t right.  Then they had another change of heart and decided to set up a telephone conversation to discuss how she would fit.  Needless to say, the applicant decided that this perhaps wasn’t the sort of organisation she wanted to work with because she also has a choice in this process.  They lost out on a great applicant because they didn’t represent themselves in the right way, and seemed to be directionless and unable to make a decision…which actually isn’t the case.  they just chose to brainstorm DURING a recruitment process and infront of the applicant.

5. Remember the above

The power of the list is partially in its number and a list of 4 things doesn’t work, but 5 is so much better.  Plus, its always good to confirm things.

The market is changing again, and applicants are going to be back in the driving seat.  Ignore the applicant experience at your peril!