Housing associations which are embracing change and creating first class customer service are allowing the modern tenant to thrive. This article explores two ways in which associations are embracing change and the challenges they are currently facing, particularly focusing on changes to the makeup of the senior leadership team.
In practice, most operational aspects of a housing association now interface more so than ever with the customer. Customers want answers more quickly and through different means of communication. A number of organisations have embraced this, progressing to a more digitalised self-service model. With customer contact increasing, there is a bigger need for candidates for roles in these associations to have customer experience running through their DNA.
This also creates the need for operational leaders, such as a Director of Customer Service, to shift from a focus on the traditional tenant/landlord processes, to steering tenant services by understanding and responding to business intelligence, replicating success and tackling performance issues using technology.
A recent study we carried out across the commercial sector indicated that a key competency necessary for digitalisation is the ‘adaptive leader’ competency. Adaptive Leadership is a dynamic style that embraces an individual’s curiosity, intellectual agility, emotional intelligence, collaboration and reflectiveness. With this particular skill set it doesn’t mean that the new Director of Customer Services will need to have digital programming skills; what they do need to demonstrate is collaboration between directorate silos to embrace the digital change.
Value of looking outside the sector
With the increased need for candidates to have newly developed skills, and to evolve more quickly, why is there so much emphasis on having sectoral experience when recruiting? More importantly, what are we missing when discounting candidates from other sectors?
A key benefit of recruiting people with no prior experience is diversity; in particular diversity of thinking. A senior leadership function that varies in background and experience can offer a more rounded and diverse team. For example, a Director of Customer Services from the retail sector may offer a fresh approach and new ideas to the customer journey.
As an industry, we are seeing that housing associations are becoming more open to candidates from outside the sector to improve an association’s overall performance. When recruiting from out of sector, success lies solely with finding a candidate with the right skills, behaviours and mind set to adapt to the housing sector.