Career Advice, Interviews, Jobs

Bromford’s Director of People: “Our DNA Has Been Created By Our Colleagues”

Housing association company, Bromford, was this week crowned as UK’s #4 Best Place To Work in 2019, beating the likes of SAP, Taylor Wimpey, Capital One and Google. So, how does a Wolverhampton-based social housing company providing affordable homes to people across the UK, manage to be a better place to work than some of the biggest and most popular brands in the world?

Here we speak to Bromford’s Director of People Experience, Helena Moore, to find out about some significant changes to the business over the last year and understand exactly what they are doing to make sure their employees are given the autonomy to shape the future of the business.

What does it mean to have your employees honour the company as a 2019 Best Place to Work?

We are delighted but we certainly aren’t complacent. We know there has been a lot of change across the business in the past year and that will always affect people’s opinions. The past 12 months have seen us create a new organisation from two existing housing associations and make plans for a third to join us in the new year. We’ve also reached the first milestone in our company-wide transformation programme that is changing the way the entire business works and we are also rolling out a new model of how we work with our customers. In such times of change it is so encouraging to receive the feedback that we have had from people. It’s genuine, honest uncensored feedback and there’s tremendous value in that.           

What are two or three steps your company has taken within the last year to double down on company culture, employee engagement and employee feedback that may have led to this win?

This year we’ve brought two organisations together to create a brand new Bromford. As part of that during the year we invited all colleagues to help us shape the future of our organisation. More than 400 colleagues took part in 14 workshops we held to help us decide on our new company culture, and their feedback changed everything. Our new DNA has been genuinely created by our colleagues and as a result of the comments we received from them. By giving people the opportunity to really get involved and influence our new culture we’re confident it will make embedding it really feel right across the whole organisation.  

This award speaks volumes about the company but also signals to job seekers that this is an amazing place to work. Why should job seekers apply for an open role at Bromford? What are two to three benefits, practices or traditions that are unique to your company?

For starters we get overwhelming feedback from our new starters about what a friendly place to work this is. Whether you’re based in one of our offices or spend most of your time out and about with customers, we have a really supportive and friendly group of colleagues. We’re also continuing our journey of promoting work as what you do not where you are, by providing more opportunities for people to work in ways that are more flexible and more agile with a strong emphasis on flexible working that is based on trust.

But I think it really comes back to the sense of purpose that everyone at Bromford has,

which is about the difference their work makes to the lives of people every single day. We provide people with homes. But we don’t stop there, we want people to thrive in their homes and empower them to improve their lives.

What kinds of roles are your company prioritising right now? What types of innovation are you investing in within that specific department?

Over the past couple of years we have developed a new way of working with our customers that focuses on improving our relationship with them. We feel that the key to a long term sustainable tenancy is through our coaching model. Rather than having housing managers who have 600 customers on their patch, our neighbourhood coaches work with around 175. By reducing this number it allows them to build lasting relationships with customers and get to the root of any issues they are having; such as learning the reasons why a customer may be struggling to pay their rent and working with them to find a solution.

Our coaches focus on what people can do, what they can bring to their community and how they can make the most of their talents. They connect customers with local services and community groups to help build thriving neighbourhoods. It’s a unique role in the housing sector and we provide a bespoke learning pathway to develop new and existing colleagues. We’re going to be recruiting more coaches in the new year as we roll out this approach to even more customers.

Glassdoor is all about transparency and helping people everywhere find a job and company they love. What insights can you share about the interview process at Bromford? What types of questions do you ask?

We do a mixture of interviews depending on the role. Some of our roles are quite technical, like electricians or surveyors, so for those roles the interviews will include a technical assessment to test for practical skills. For roles which are heavily team-based we do group assessment centres to explore what people are like working together.

The majority of our interviews are competency-based questions, testing a candidate’s suitability for the role. But we also ask a lot of behaviour-based questions, which are based around our DNA to make sure a candidate is the right fit for us. And it’s not always about a candidate having experience in a certain area; sometimes it’s about their skills and how they can be transferred into a role so they can flourish in a new area.

How are you using Glassdoor to attract the types of candidates you’re looking for?

Glassdoor has become increasingly important to us in helping to attract new Bromford people. We’ve been keeping a broad range of reviews from different parts of the business and using them if we have a recruitment campaign in one of those areas. We’ve also been using the Glassdoor success and our success in last year’s 2018 Best Places to Work in our jobs adverts on our social media channels. And we encourage potential candidates to learn more about us and what our people think about working here in our online job adverts, which gives us better informed interviewees.

What keeps you at the company for the long haul? What advice would you give to companies focused on retention?

To retain people, companies need to have that clarity of purpose and that if they’re going to grow, its growth for all the right reasons and to improve the offer to customers. For us, that could be increasing the number of new homes we build every year or providing new ways of supporting our customers to be the best they can.

But it’s also important that people see that their business keeps innovating, growing and changing. We’ve been doing this with our transformation programme and innovative approaches to managing housing through our neighbourhood coaches. And again I think our purpose and the fact we can have such a positive impact on people’s lives is so important to retaining people.

I started my career at Bromford as a housing manager and have worked in different parts of the business and now work in the people team. But this is not uncommon here; there are lots of people who have used their skills to move from one area of the business to another and that’s something that we really encourage and certainly fits with the agility needed as jobs continually change

How can job seekers get prepared for the future of work in your industry?

I think people need to think about careers differently. Careers used to have a clear and linear progression. Now, what you need to think about is ‘what are my core skills and how can I apply them at this company what new skills can I learn to keep me relevant and current.’ It’s about thinking about careers in a more rounded way.

I think people also need to find a way to enjoy and make the most of change, finding ways to use talents in different ways. Because if there’s one thing you can guarantee won’t change, it’s that there will always be change in the workplace.

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