Introduce yourself and tell us about your organisation
I’ve been Director of HR at FirstPort for just over two years, and I have always worked for organisations which have the customer at the heart of everything they do. We’re all Property Managers and it’s important that each one of our employees knows the role they play in looking after our customers’ homes. From recruiting the right people, creating accurate and easy to read accounts, to ensuring contractors are engaged and paid on time.
Our organisation looks after people’s homes – 185,000 of them. We are the UK’s largest residential property manager and to deliver a great experience for our customers it’s important that our employees are skilled, engaged and motivated. With a diverse workforce of over 3,000 people working across multiple office locations and sites, this means recognising differing needs, whilst at the same time finding a common thread to unite everyone – and that’s passion for our customers.
What do you think defines an organisation as a top employer today?
Working for a ‘top employer’ will mean something different to every single one of our employees, me included! For some it’s about a streamlined and efficient HR process, for others it’s about engagement and feeling part of the family and for some it’s about being able to grow and develop.
We know that if employees feel healthy and well, they’re more likely to be able to be their best selves at work and deliver a great experience for our customers. That’s why we’ve invested in a wellbeing programme which includes tools and support to encourage mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing and we are training employees to become mental health first aiders.
As an HR team, one of our key objectives is to ensure that we’re easy to do business with. We use technology to provide instant access for all employees to things which are intrinsically important (pay, holidays, benefits) and ensure that user-friendly information and support can be found on our Intranet.
Tell us about a recent initiative that you have instigated within your organisation that you are most proud of?
Regardless of someone’s role or career aspirations, I’m confident that most people feel the same about their first day of a new a job – nervous and a little apprehensive. We have reacted to this by making our welcome one that hopefully puts our new employees at ease before they even walk through the door. We deliver a welcome pack directly to our new employees before their start date. As well as information on what to expect on day one, it also includes a tea bag and chocolate bar to enjoy while taking it all in.
We hope this little touch creates the right impression of the friendly organisation they’re joining. I’m pleased to say that this friendly and supportive approach continues throughout the on-boarding experience with a company induction that helps employees understand their own role in looking after our customers’ homes, our objectives, values and ways of working.
What is the next objective in your organisation's journey to keep improving the employee experience?
We listen to our employees; through our monthly ‘pulse’ surveys, Yammer and our MyVoice forums. We know that our people leaders play a big part in the experience of our employees and one of our key focuses this year is to ensure that all of our leaders have the skills and tools to provide an engaging experience for their teams – be that through effective communication, development conversations or role modelling our Values. We’re launching new leadership development programmes which will ensure that we develop and retain the best people managers in the industry.
What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation today and how are you planning to overcome it?
From a people perspective, and because we are such a geographically-dispersed workforce, we’re constantly looking at ways of improving our communication and engagement channels, to make all employees feel like part of the family. We do this in clever, inventive and friendly ways and utilise technology. Some employees prefer a written communication directly from our Chief Executive, while others want bite-size information in a more visual format, such as a video. Our intranet provides all employees with access to news and information 24/7, connecting them to other teams in the business.
We’ve created a TV channel for video communications. More informal channels have also worked well for us, such as Yammer, which is an incredible tool for building a community (particularly key when you have lone workers). This is used by an impressive 2000 of our 3000 employees to comment on, ‘like’ and share information.
How will your organisation have to adapt to meet the changing future workplace?
Our employees want the opportunity to be their best selves at work and we are committed to providing learning opportunities for everyone, whether it be one of our 90 eLearning modules that can be completed in an afternoon, or one of our 40 plus face-to face-training courses delivered internally. It could also include our bespoke Concierge Academy and Customer First training, or more formal external training and qualifications up to degree level. I’m really proud of our mentoring programme, which is in its second year and gives our employees the opportunity to develop relationships & networks and enhance their skills. It’s also a firm commitment that we’re investing time and resources into their careers.
In the future we’ll be using more technology to improve our customer experience. We’ve seen great results from our Digital Eagles programme, which we worked with Barclays to develop, which enables employees, and our customers, to become more digitally confident and support each other in doing so.
This interviewee was kindly introduced to us by ‘Top Employers Institute – the global authority on certifying excellence in employee conditions.’ Their organisation is certified as a Top Employer.