Social Housing’s People Problem & How It Can Be Overcome

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years you’ll be more than aware of the pressures being put on most of society by a number of factors including the after effects of Brexit, Covid-19, current cost of living crisis, and ongoing war in Ukraine. The effects of each are wide-ranging and the social housing sector is not impervious to the consequential negative impacts on staffing.

Dude, Where’s My Workforce?

Many organisations are struggling to recruit new staff or unable to compete in terms of retaining existing employees. Income collection functions in particular have felt the brunt of this and the sector is currently experiencing a paucity of skilled income collection officers, especially so in the South and South East.

As one of the most challenging roles within the sector, the income officer job often comes with a workload that can feel overwhelming and demoralising. It’s therefore unsurprising that many income officers leave the sector to seek different opportunities elsewhere. For social landlords, against a backdrop of increasing numbers of tenants requiring different levels of engagement and support, it’s more important than ever to retain skilled and dedicated team members.

It’s also worth asking the question as to whether the growing rates of adoption by many organisations of a 4-day working week is compounding an already difficult recruitment situation? The pull of improved work/life balance and more freedom and flexibility for employees is attractive to many workers, so should social housing providers fear or embrace such practices?

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘til It’s Gone

In order to quell the steady stream of experienced staff leaving income collection roles, it’s imperative that good team members are  retained. Investing in the needs of  staff can be incredibly beneficial to the performance levels of an organisation – happy team members can lead to reduced sickness, higher morale, and ultimately, help avoid ‘churn’ of existing staff.

Conversely, happy and motivated teams lead to high productivity, improved job satisfaction, and higher retention rates. It’s also worth noting that low morale can impact an organisation’s external reputation; with reviews on sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed available for all to see, recruiting new staff to an organisation in which the staff are purportedly unmotivated becomes a markedly more difficult task.

Tackling Mounting Pressures

A lot of sector energy is (quite rightly) focused on tenants and as expectations of the role shift to meet the changing needs of our tenants, the welfare of our staff is important too given that it’s those staff who are ultimately responsible for providing adequate levels of service to tenants. Housing income officers currently face increasing workload pressure as they can potentially look after 800-1400 properties, many with high support needs. At a time when early intervention and timely support for tenants has never been more critical – its ironic that the impact of higher and ever-changing caseloads mean income officers are less equipped to make the early contact needed.

Seemingly insurmountable and ever growing caseloads can feel demoralising, time consuming, and unsatisfying in a job role and results in high levels of burnout and staff churn amongst the ranks of income officers. Ultimately, in not reaching tenants in time to enact intervention measures and not having the capacity to address problems in the immediate term, officers may feel like they are letting tenants down. Even on the best days, stress can prevent staff from being fully focused and working to the best of their ability, all of which contributes to disengagement, higher levels of staff sick days, and strained relationships in the workplace.

Although some might say that the forthcoming requirement for social landlords to ensure staff have new qualifications, it could be argued that the move is a positive one that looks to further professionalise the sector. This, in turn, will potentially help attract fresh talent as well as retain existing staff via the promise of improved career development opportunities.

Technologically Speaking

The continuing development and growing adoption of predictive analytics platforms (such as Mobysoft’s RentSense) is also helping to alleviate some of the pressures explored within this article. As discussed, workloads of income officers are forever increasing and the legacy systems they rely on are often disjointed and do not present a clear picture of individual cases. This means that staff can find themselves apportioning valuable time and resources to cases that perhaps do not need the level of human intervention as first thought.

Solutions such as RentSense however can more effectively flag cases and group problems/issues/concerns together. This is increasingly allowing officers to identify the correct cases to focus on and ultimately assists organisations in implementing a work flow that is achievable, subsequently creating a more pleasant working experience for staff.

As RentSense is cloud-based, data essential to efficiently actioning cases is quickly at hand and effortlessly shared across teams, allowing transparency of workloads and better allocation of staff resource. In freeing up officers to be more proactive instead of reactive, RentSense enables officers to extract maximum value from day, speaking to only the most vulnerable tenants and enacting real change to the lives of those they support.

If you’d like to find out more about how Mobysoft can help your organisation streamline service operations, more effectively and efficiently allocate staff resources, and demonstrate upturns in income collection, then book a RentTest by filling in our online form.

Julie Lorraine