Pulling Power – how housing associations can increase candidate attraction

Kimberley Wallace, Pulling Power - how to attract quality candidates At a time when the sector needs to focus on attracting and retaining the best candidates to help overcome the current challenges, it’s time to reflect on the potential of housing associations as employers of choice.

For several years, the sector has been extremely well represented in the Sunday Times 100 Best Not-for-profit organisations to work for list, with the 2015 awards seeing 16 out of the top 20 (over 75%) coming from the sector. Jonathan Austin, CEO from Best Companies, even told HRMagazine.co.uk last year that social housing was one of his favourite sectors to work with because ‘they just want to do the right thing and do right by their people’ and ‘people feel proud to work in an organisation that makes a difference’.

Also in 2015, the Great Place to Work Awards (GPTWA) saw One Vision Housing come 2nd in the Top Medium-sized Employers list, as well as receiving a special award for ‘Delivering Excellence in CSR’. The Large-sized Employers list also featured two housing associations. As the GPTWA don’t differentiate between private and not-for-profit organisations, these results illustrate how housing associations are equally valued as employers of choice against commercial organisations. In Scotland’s Best Employer Awards 2014, Irvine Housing Association won the Not-for-Profit Employer of the year, and went onto win the overall ‘Scottish Employer of the Year’ award (where nominees included other Small-Medium Enterprises and Large employers). Yet further evidence that housing associations are one of the best places to work and forge a long-term career.

Despite these positives, the sector as a whole does struggle with its brand as an employer of choice and attracting candidates from outside the sector.

So what can you do to promote your organisation within the labour market as an employer of choice?

  • Strengthen your employer brand; and promote this via social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.), one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to communicate to an ever-growing audience. It is also essential for attracting Generation Y and Z candidates.
  • Clearly establish and promote organisational values as part of the brand; the sector is hugely attractive to those wanting to work with organisations with strong ethos towards corporate responsibility, human-centred values, and social purpose.
  • Promote career opportunities; potential employees can be attracted to clear career paths. Recruitment pages could feature video case studies of employee career paths or quotes from staff about why they like working for you.
  • Promote non-financial benefits; few choose a social housing career to earn millions. Other benefits such as training opportunities, health and wellbeing benefits, or flexible working are attractive to those looking at total reward package as opposed to basic salaries.
  • Cater to differing work motivations; many people are motivated at work by financial reward, but it’s more likely employees within housing will be driven by achieving other rewards such as work-life balance, manager/workplace recognition, learning and development opportunities, career progression, or job satisfaction. Ensure your organisation caters to these needs through initiatives such as flexible working, employee awards, succession planning etc.
  • Apply for awards and accreditations; a good way to get recognised as an employer of choice is through awards such as Sunday Times Best Companies. If you don’t want to go into those leagues just yet, try applying for well-known accreditations such as Investors in People, which illustrates an organisations investment in its workforce.
  • Get your ex-employees to act as ambassadors; Richard Branson uses the mantra ‘train your staff well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want too’. In practice you’re always going to have staff turnover, but make sure you treat you staff well enough when they are your employees, so that when they do leave they speak highly of you as an organisation.

Together these simple actions can help to develop your own brand as an employer, as well as promoting a more positive image of the sector overall.

Altair provides HR and Organisational Excellence consultancy services for housing sector clients across the UK and Ireland. To find out more, or if you have any HR needs that you would like to discuss please contact Kimberley Wallace on 07585 954 218 | kimberley.wallace@nullaltairltd.co.uk.