RHP CEO discusses how he put people at the heart of the business strategy

RHP was crowned as UK’s No.1 for best place to work in 2016. The CEO, David Done joined HRD Connect to discuss the importance of being a people-focussed organisation in order to become the best service provider.

As UK’s No.1 for best workplace (mid-size category) awarded by Great Place To Work UK, What for you, makes it the best workplace?

Firstly, doing simple things really well. For us, having a crystal-clear purpose and an inspiring vision is really important in being a great place to work. Our purpose is the provision of affordable homes for local people, and our vision is to be the very best in the UK.

Linked to that, I think that aiming high and setting yourself some big and vivacious goals is really important. In my experience, good people like to be challenged and it creates a sense of excitement in the organisation. The thing which has defined RHP over the years is that we have always tried to be the best that we can. We would rather try and aim for excellence and fail than settle for mediocracy and succeed.

Also, recruiting people who share your passion for what you are trying to do is vital. As you know, we recruit people from all sorts of different backgrounds and sectors. As a result of that, we have created a very diverse workforce which has brought with it, lots of new ideas and some great talent.

Finally I would say, it’s all about backing good people to succeed.  For us, we place a lot of emphasis on playing to people’s strengths and not on their weaknesses. We try to align employee engagement activities with innovation.

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At the HRD UK Summit you said that RHP decided to become the best service provider. What can companies do to ensure they excel in their area of business?

Being a great service provider means being a very people-focussed organisation. We position ourselves as being very customer and employee focussed and we have the same kinds of values for both groups of people.

For example, our key measure of success, when it comes to being a service provider is being easy to do business with. We use exactly the same measure when dealing with our employees. As I mentioned before, recruiting people who share your passion for great service is absolutely essential, because you will not be able to deliver great service unless you get people who really believe in that.

I also think, setting people free to do good things is really important in terms of your culture. We have tried to embrace people to use their common sense and good judgement to make good decisions on behalf of customers, and have tried not to manage people.

Linked to that, we also believe that you should never blame people for getting things wrong. Just because you disagree with decisions people make, I think it’s really important to be careful not to criticize people for actually exercising good judgement.

We are not an organisation that is full of rules but we do draw a few red lines for people. We have things that we will always do, and things that we will never do. Then we have behaviours that we want to embrace and support and the behaviours that we don’t want to see in the conversation at all.

For example, treating customers with respect and never talking down to customers, and equally within our own teams, agreeing that we will always support each other no matter what.

Even if we have difficult and tough times, we will try to avoid blaming each other and actually try to focus on sorting things out.

The final thing I would say about becoming the best service provider is very much about introducing new technology. The battle for great customer service is changing, it’s focussed very much on online service delivery and development of intelligence systems, so I think that’s the next stage for us to be a great service provider.

Read more about employee engagement

How can aligning the people strategy to the business imperative deliver tangible business results?

Quite simply, we know from our own experience that there is a clear and indisputable link between being an excellent employer and delivering great service. We simple believe, you don’t get one without the other. If you create a great place to work, where you treat people really well then good things will happen. No matter what business you’re in, it is true that the people who work for you are the face of the organisation.

The final thing I would say about it is that there is clear independent research which shows that having an engaged workforce results to a higher level of customer satisfaction. These are the main reasons why I think having a strong people strategy is good for delivering good business results.

As a housing company, why is it important to hire people ‘outside of housing’?

We want to attract the most talented people around, so from our point of view we don’t limit ourselves to just one sector. In particular, at RHP we are looking for people who want to change things and be the revolutionary disrupters and do things differently. So we are looking for people who share our value for change and to get the very best people we have to look way beyond the sector.

The other thing I would say is that we recognise that to deliver a great customer service, we need people with a new skill sets these days. In particular people from digital backgrounds. We can’t get these people from just looking at the housing sector.

Where can organisations begin to create a great place to work from a standing start?

There is a very simple answer to this, it starts at the very top – not enough leaders make being a great place to work important enough. We spend our lives at RHP talking about how important it is to us and trying to just find the type of culture we want. So I think that a really good thing for people to do is to try to speak about the organisation from an employees perspective, and ask yourself a question, how do you want people who work for you to describe the organisation? I think on top of that, establishing structures both informal and formal at all levels of the organisation and to talk about and debate real life business problems. From that, you can generate ideas and it is something that works really well.

Finally I would say, instil the organisation with praise and encouragement, it costs absolutely nothing to support people in that way. It gives the opportunity to actually recognise good work no matter what it is, rewarding the right behaviour is so important in creating a great place to work


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