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Bread and Butter

With work underway to develop the exciting and ambitious new strategy for HomeWorks, Yorkshire Housings internal property repairs and maintenance team and as the service celebrates its tenth year of operations I have been reflecting back on the journey so far and thinking about the key ingredients that have made the service so successful and a real asset to the business.

HomeWorks started out life back in 2010 by bringing together a small team of repairs and grounds maintenance operatives working in the Craven District along with a small team of gas engineers covering the York area and based in York, collectively they carried out about £1.8m of work each year, they performed well and were well received by customers.

David Bolton, Director

Fast forward then to 2020, HomeWorks employs around 150 people so one in four of all Yorkshire Housing employees, the service carries out well over £16m of work each year, has diversified what it does for example; major and planned investment works (decent homes work in sector speak) consistently meets financial targets, provides a great customer service and generally has a set of green lights on the dashboard.

The journey to 2020 has been far from plain sailing and a lot has been learnt along the way. Reflecting back then what key ingredients have gone into making the service what it is today?

Buy-in

Put simply, without the support and willing from the Board, Executive team and other colleagues then growth and investment in the service would not have been possible coupled with this you need the future vision for the service, it doesn’t have to be overly grand or complex but it needs to be something that people can get excited about, believe in and see as achievable.

Economics

There needs to be a compelling business case, what are the clear financial benefits to the business. All direct and indirect overhead costs need to be accounted for and there also needs to be a ‘upstream’ view showing that financial projections can be sustained or bettered for the longer term.

All economic assumptions also need to be assessed against other options for providing and delivering works and services for example; externally sourced.

Business Platforms (inc technology)

Business platforms and key performance metrics are so important – if you cannot measure and report on it, then you cannot manage it. From a financial perspective this involves accounts which clearly show the income and expenditure position including materials supply chain, sub-contractor support, equipment and fleet costs.

Service, team and individual productivity measurement and management is also key along with health, safety and wellbeing measures.

Underpinning this must be customer and colleague opinion – are we providing a great reliable and flexible service that is responsive to customers needs? are we supporting colleagues and teams across the business to do the same?

Are we helping other teams and services across the business meet their business priorities? Are we fully ‘joined-up’ in our approach?

Does the service have the technology to do the job? Dynamic scheduling and resource planning, appointments system, the right devices and system accessibility.

Culture and leadership

Undoubtedly the most special of all the ingredients in the mix that can either lead to a Michelin Star or a burnt offering! is culture and leadership.

A business that people want to work for and with, having a culture where people can thrive and enjoy their work. I have seen many, many examples of our teams and individuals within HomeWorks going the extra mile for our customers and working across the business to support other teams. More recently through our Covid-19 response but also more generally whether that is a safety check that needs to be carried out, an empty property that needs to be made available at short notice for a customer in housing need or just that extra pairs of hands are needed.

It has to be a ‘something for something’ relationship we invest in our people, in turn they invest in us. Over 70% of all HomeWorks Leaders, Managers, Team Leaders and other supervisory roles have all been developed through the service with support, investment and encouragement a fact we are proud of.

Likewise for our front line operational teams we have gone to great lengths to recruit the right people – at times we have really been up against it when we have needed for example additional electricians or multi skilled builders however we have held out for the right people and it has paid off.

We have a great workforce who really support the business and care passionately about providing the best service possible to our customers and each other.

Having great people to lead and manage the service has by far been the most important ingredient of them all.

I am sure that others will be able to add other ingredients of course, not every service, team and organisation is the same however in my view if you start out with the ingredients described here add in a little luck and allow ample cooking time then you won’t be far off. Even better if you are not using fossil fuels to cook with!