For the majority of us, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought life as we know it to some kind of halt. It has afforded the sector some time for reflection and to assess models of working across the board. Many of the social housing providers I speak to via our Director Forums learnt some hard lessons from the pandemic and are now trying to future proof their organisations and use it as a catalyst for change. Prior to the pandemic spend in Repairs and Maintenance increased for the third year in a row in FY19/20, rising by 9.1% to c.£5BN, reflecting market changes, accelerated spending on building & resident safety and the early stages of the decarbonisation agenda.
How can we find the right balance of delivering a high-quality repairs and maintenance service whilst managing costs and harnessing new technologies and approaches to work post-pandemic?
Get the Right Fit
The “right” delivery model is dependent on geography, scale, key staff capabilities, organisational culture, strategy and roadmap. We recommend undertaking an options appraisal which assesses the health of the service across its roots. This will provide a snapshot of capabilities to truly understand which balance of a model will be the best fit and pave the way for genuine success.
Change Hearts and Minds
We are regularly brought in to assess the feasibility of service models; to ‘sort out’ a failing external contract, or to understand why an internal service isn’t working . Following some time with the team, it is not uncommon to discover that the perceptions of service performance are vastly different across the organisation Often, the organisation needs to reframe and reset perceptions to help ensure performance expectations are aligned across the board. Regarding external contractors, often, the initial procurement of the external contract may have got off to a flying start, but there aren’t the skills in the team to manage the contract effectively.
Invest in the Right Technology
Following a relatively stale period of R&M system innovations, there has been a flurry of new technology to support teams to communicate better, deliver front line services remotely, or automate and streamline processes.
For the team at Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, investment in internal terms with the right technology is key to success.
“At WCHG we take our social value agenda very seriously but we are also acutely aware of the need to focus on improving our core value landlord proposition, make sound commercial decisions that align with our purpose and have operating models that are sustainable. This is a key reason we are now looking to refine our delivery model for repairs and maintenance and are investing to equip our internal R&M team with the right technology to deliver great quality, great value services to our customers.”
Go Beyond Traditional Procurement
Rethink specifications, service level agreements and what added value you can gain from a contract. Scan the market to identify the supply chain and service you are seeking prior to the procurement process then you will use a more commercial approach. However, if you procure great rates but don’t involve the managers or upskill the team to manage the contract, your hard work will be wasted. One of our ambitions for the Vantage Directors Forums is to harness the strength in numbers to make better procurement decisions and learn from each other’s experience, particularly in the decarbonisation agenda.
Use maturity appraisals to help formulate next steps
Judging progress purely based on customer satisfaction and cost is not enough. A great way to assess whether you are progressing towards your goals is to use maturity appraisals. Take into account what your organisation is seeking to achieve, where you are currently at and help focus on realistic outcomes rather than tasks. They also help articulate your story – key for internal communication and keeping the RSH happy!
Vantage are leaders in transformational change and R&M performance improvement in social housing. To join one of the Vantage Forums, working smarter together, visit www.yourvantage.co.uk or call 0151 342 5989.