Best Companies 2018: The top 25 housing organisations

Best Companies survey thousands of employees across the not-for-profit sector each year to determine the organisations with the highest levels of workplace engagement.


Housing associations and ALMOs have typically fared well on the list and 2018 is no exception, with the sector displaying good levels of leadership, job security and optimism for the future.

For the third consecutive year, workplace engagement specialists at Best Companies have created a list of the 25 best housing sector organisations to work for in the UK. More than 9,500 employees from the sector gave their views on how they feel at work through the b-Heard survey.

Using a unique workplace engagement model, organisations are measured across eight factors: My Manager, Leadership, My Company, Personal Growth, My Team, Wellbeing, Fair Deal and Giving Something Back. Asking the right questions enables Best Companies to accurately measure levels of engagement in organisations.

All respondents are invited to respond to 70 statements on a seven-point scale, with questions ranging from job security to work-life balance. Responses are then combined and normalised to give each organisation a Best Companies Index (BCI) score, now recognised as the UK standard for workplace engagement.

Recent research published by Best Companies reveals 2018 to be a promising year for employee engagement in housing associations. All eight engagement factors that the survey measures show signs of improvement. Whilst it has been a difficult few years for the sector, employees seem to be more positive and are looking to the future again.

Whilst people are feeling similar to 2017 about their pay and benefits, employees have an increased sense of job security (up 4.70% from last year). Employees are also more excited about the direction their organisation is taking and think there are extra opportunities to learn and grow.

Strength of leadership plays a central role in overall increasing levels of engagement. Leadership saw the biggest engagement factor increase (this score was up by a marked 2.59% compared to 2017) and the survey question asking employees if leadership inspires them had a hike of 3.54%.

Those organisations placing at the very top of the list confirm the trend, with the key differentiator between listed and non-listed organisations being a strong senior management team, and many of the survey questions with the highest increases from last year related to leadership.

One such organisation is Stafford and Rural Homes, who scored highest in the Leadership factor and secured the very top spot on the list. Here CEO Karen Armitage shares a ‘thought of the day’ on every computer and arranges induction meetings with all new starters to discuss the organisation’s values.

The senior management team of another high scorer, Regenda Limited, all attended a three-day values and purpose workshop, with CEO Michael Birkett also checking in with new employees after six and 12 months to ask for feedback.

Another area that sets the very best apart is those that give back to their community, particularly organisations that are helping the environment.

Wales and West Housing, who had one of the highest scores for how employees feel about how their organisation protects the environment, developed the ‘Buy Right’ project – an in-house sustainable procurement policy and toolkit. Ground source heating and cooling is also present at their offices, as well as solar panels to cut energy consumption.

Jonathan Austin, CEO and founder of Best Companies said: “All the organisations featured play such an important role within our communities so it is fantastic to see housing associations perform so well in our b-Heard survey this year.

Housing associations leading by example and the overall positive trends in engagement for 2018 certainly show promising signs for the future.”



1. Stafford & Rural Homes

Managing over 6,000 homes across Stafford and the surrounding area, Stafford & Rural Homes has topped the list of the UK’s best housing associations to work for. The organisation has the highest overall scores for wellbeing and fair deal, with many employees saying they love working for the organisation (85%). Its 178 employees are happy with their work-life balance (86%) and are inspired by chief executive Karen Armitage (89%). SARH recently implemented a major digital business transformation project to improve engagement with staff and customers, ‘Making Every Contact Count’ is directly linked to the organisation’s values: communication, approachable, respecting, empowering and supporting.

2. Wales & West Housing

Established over 50 years ago, Wales & West Housing has more than 11,500 homes in 15 local authority areas across Wales, and maintains the number two spot for the third consecutive year. With a mission to achieve strong sustainable growth to make a difference to people’s lives, homes and communities, the association achieved the highest score in the list for giving something back and employees feel encouraged to engage with voluntary charitable activities (93%). Its 401 employees have confidence in the strength of their senior management team (79%) and feel that their manager motivates them to give their best every day (72%).

3. Regenda Limited

Featuring in the list for the second consecutive year, Regenda Limited takes third place this year. A housing association owning and managing over 13,000 properties in the North West, the organisation’s aims are to support its residents to have the best possible quality of life. 84% of employees feel proud to work at Regenda and 83% agree that work is an important part of their life. Scoring highest in the list in the ‘my team’ factor, teams care for each other (85%). The organisation recently launched the Regenda People Lottery, giving employees the chance to win prizes in a monthly draw (and 10% of all entry fees are donated to local charities).

4. Homes in Sedgemoor

Homes in Sedgemoor manage nearly 4,200 homes, including sheltered accommodation for residents over the age of 50 or anyone in need of extra support. Taking fourth place on the list, employees feel that team members help each other (92%) and the organisation achieved the highest score in the list for a sense of family spirit (91%). Chief executive Jen Barfoot recently met with all employees for ‘15 minutes of fame’ to discuss how they feel about their role and the organisation, with 98% of employees agreeing this approach was positive in getting their voice heard.

5. Two Rivers Housing

Gloucestershire’s Two Rivers Housing move from 11th to take the number five spot. Creating great homes and supporting communities is the organisation’s mission and the majority of employees are proud to work for the organisation (83%). Senior managers are visible and approachable (78%) and people are happy with their overall work-life balance (76%). Team awards, where employees can nominate departments, have become an annual calendar fixture to celebrate achievements. The ‘2020 Group’ also progresses innovative ideas and initiatives, recently seeing great success in rolling out the ‘Helping Hands’ project to allow every employee to spend a day a year on charity projects.

6. Melin Homes

Melin Homes improves on its 2017 ranking and jumps up the list by 10 places. Managing over 4,000 homes across South East Wales, Melin recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The 261 employees feel that they have the resources they need to do their job (78%) and that the organisation has a strong social conscience (84%). The team arrange a variety of events that aim to engage both office-based staff and employees that work remotely. An award-winning health and wellbeing initiative – Zest – helps employees prioritise their work-life balance, with 76% of employees feeling their manager takes an active interest in their wellbeing.

7. Newydd Housing Association

Working across Mid and South Wales, Newydd Housing Association puts its vision of providing affordable, sustainable homes at the forefront of everything it does, this year moving up a place to seventh. Employees have a sense of team, with the majority feeling that people in their team go out of their way to help each other (83%). A new internal newsletter has reinvigorated teams to nominate colleagues or ask questions and give comments to its chief executive through its ‘Pester Paul’ box. Staff also feel that the association cares about the environment (80%) and the organisation pays 20p per mile for staff who use a bike to travel to work.

8. Swan Housing Group

Swan’s aim is to deliver more services for its residents and more affordable homes to meet housing need in East London and Essex, and moves from number 15 on the list to eighth place. Swan’s employees are now working in a more agile way, enjoying stylish new hub spaces. A high percentage of employees believe in Swan’s social purpose, with 80% of employees excited about the future of the organisation and 74% are confident in the skills of Swan’s senior management team.

9. Weaver Vale Housing Trust

Weaver Vale Housing Trust based in West Cheshire takes ninth position on the list this year. Wellbeing is a focus for the organisation and the 333 employees can take advantage of an annual Wellbeing & Personal Development Allowance, typically used for leisure, hobby, relaxation and learning opportunities. Staff think their team is fun to work with (80%) and that managers will respond if they see employees being under too much pressure (72%). The organisation’s e-magazine ‘The Eye’, which shares news, updates and competitions, has an 85%+ open and read rate, encouraging more people to come forward with content and talk to each other about work and projects.

10. South Yorkshire Housing Association Limited

Care, commitment, respect, honesty and integrity are the core values that help SYHA to provide care and support for vulnerable people in the Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire regions. Jumping to 10th place on the list, the organisation’s staff feel managers regularly express appreciation when they do a good job (78%). With 4,000 homes to rent, and 1,700 properties including extra support from specialist staff, the 510 employees believe the organisation has a strong social conscience (83%). The organisation continues to provide innovative people programmes, with their award-winning LeadWell Academy breaking records for applications two years in a row.

11. MHS Homes

MHS own and manage around 8,500 homes in the Medway, Maidstone and Gravesham areas of Kent and secure 11th place on the list. Its 264 employees feel the organisation has a strong social conscience (81%). The organisation heavily invests in the community through volunteering and raising money for charity, with staff spending more than 235 days volunteering in the ‘Day for Medway’ project. Important to the organisation is its CREATE values of community, respect, excellence, agility, teamwork and enjoyment.

12. Calico

Earning 12th place on the list, Calico own and manage around 4,600 homes across Lancashire and aim to make a difference to the quality of life of the individuals and wider communities in which it works. Its 600 employees say their job is good for personal growth (76%) and are excited about where the organisation is headed (74%). The organisation recently established a Wellbeing Champion group, made up of employees across The Calico Group to help deliver wellbeing messages locally and keep informed of what individual teams would like to see in relation to wellbeing.

13. My Space Housing

My Space is a charitable housing association and registered social landlord based in Horwich, Bolton, providing housing where there are no other forms of accommodation available, or all social housing opportunities have been exhausted. The organisation scores highly for wellbeing, with employees feeling happy with their work-life balance (77%). Job shadowing also allows new employees the chance to learn from established staff and the organisation arranges for new starters to spend time with external agencies and companies that work closely with their client group to enable a better quality of service and understanding.

14. Rooftop Housing Group

Rooftop provides affordable housing for the community, providing specialist housing for ex-service personnel, those with learning disabilities, those living with dementia and key workers. Placing 14th on the list, its 167 staff believe there is strong management in the organisation. Employees feel they can tell their manager if their work is going badly (80%) and think that their manager cares about how satisfied they are in their role (77%). A new Leadership Development Programme was launched in November 2017, aiming to create a baseline of learning for all senior managers and encompasses reflection on their personal leadership style.

15. Stockport Homes Group

Increasing its position on the list to 15th, employees of Stockport Homes feel the organisation has strong leadership which ensures the organisation is run on sound moral principles (78%). Its mission to be ‘one team, transforming lives’ ensures the organisation scores well in the giving something back factor and 75% of employees took part in voluntary charitable activities during work hours last year. 76% of staff believe the organisation genuinely cares about the environment and cycle to work days are actively promoted. A Reward and Recognition Strategy ‘Rewarding Aspiration’ has been developed for all staff and the ‘ASPIRE rewards’ programme has been implemented to facilitate an ‘on the spot’ reward approach.

16. Salvation Army Housing Association

With 137 staff and core values of servant leadership, passion, inclusion, respect and excellence, the Salvation Army Housing Association takes the 16th spot. The association creates quality homes for residents to live independently and make their own choices in life. The focus within SAHA is upon ‘Transforming Lives’ and creating opportunities for residents. All people managers attend a 12-month coaching development programme developed in conjunction with an external training provider. Managers score well overall, with employees feeling listened to by their manager (81%) and that they can talk openly and honestly (83%).

17. Cairn Housing Association

With almost 3,500 homes across 24 local authorities, Cairn Housing Association’s mission is ‘To provide quality affordable services, with our communities and partners, throughout Scotland’. Securing the 17th position on the list, the organisation scores highly in the wellbeing and fair deal factors. Its 165 employees feel that work allows them to meet their responsibilities at home (76%) and a recent benefit available to all employees is Gymflex, allowing employees to join a gym or leisure centre of their choice at a discounted rate. Staff also receive a free counselling service and bi-annual health checks through BUPA.

18. Curo

A housing association and housebuilder in Bath, Curo provide great homes and high quality care and support services across the West of England and takes 18th position on the list. All 499 employees are encouraged to take part in a team away-day for planning and team building each year. Scoring highly in the ‘my team’ factor, Curo’s employees feel part of a caring team that looks out for each other (82%) and one that is fun to work with (81%). A ‘Colleague Conference’ gets everyone together once a year and the annual ‘Spotlight Awards’ allow employees to celebrate achievements.

19. Broadacres Housing Association

Broadacres Housing Association achieves the 19th position on the list. Based in the market town of Northallerton in North Yorkshire, Broadacres own and manage more than 6,000 homes. Recently appointing a new occupational health partner, Broadacres had an increased focus on how to support its 311 employees with their wellbeing. 70% of employees are happy with the balance between their work and home life. The organisation’s recent ‘Bee Diverse’ event gave staff the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities and supported cross-departmental communication to give areas a better understanding of the whole business.

20. First Choice Homes Oldham

Securing the 20th positon on the list, the mission of First Choice Homes Oldham is ‘To be a trusted provider of quality homes, excellent landlord and support services, creating thriving and independent communities’. Giving something back is important to the organisation, with 87% of employees agreeing that the organisation encourages charity work and each team member can use two work days per year to volunteer. The ‘Chatterbox’ group, consisting of team members from a variety of departments, was brought together to help understand any significant issues that were hindering the organisation achieve its aims.

21. Cartrefi Conwy

Formed in 2008, Cartrefi Conwy is an independent, not-for-profit, registered social landlord that takes 21st place. Its 170 employees score the organisation well for giving something back, with 81% feeling that the organisation has a strong social conscience and 77% believing that it genuinely cares about the environment. Catrefi Conwy’s board recently approved a sustainability strategy to drive forward environmental initiatives including waste and energy reduction and promoting sustainable working and lifestyles. There is also a Health and Wellbeing Group – Motiv8 – which looks at activities to improve all areas of staff wellbeing.

22. Ongo Partnership

Ongo is a partnership designed to give something back to communities. Its purpose is to look for new opportunities to help the people of North Lincolnshire, and all profit made is reinvested back in the organisation. Employees feel that expectations are clear (70%) and that they can make a valuable contribution to the organisation (82%) to mean the organisation takes the 22nd spot. The organisation allows time off for work and non-work related development with full pay, and each employee is eligible for a professional subscription. Monthly HR surgeries also allow staff the opportunity to attend and express any concerns or issues.

23. Equity Housing Group

Based in Stockport, Equity Housing Group builds and looks after 4,600 homes across the North West, South Yorkshire and Staffordshire. Its purpose of ‘changing lives through meeting customers aspirations’ helps the organisation feature on the list for the third consecutive year. The organisation scores highly for wellbeing and in the ‘my team’ factors. 81% of employees feel their team is fun to work with (81%) and staff are happy with their overall work-life balance (72%). Last year the organisation held a ‘Wellbeing week’ for all staff, comprising of a variety of activities from free health checks to Zumba.

24. CHP

Established in 2002, CHP have two main aims: to provide excellent services and to increase the supply of affordable homes to those in need. Development for its 292 employees is a focus, with 71% agreeing that their role is good for their personal growth. A learning and organisational development programme ‘Developing Together’ creates a sense of inclusiveness around the variety of learning and training initiatives that are held each year. The organisation also holds regular lunchtime and after work fitness sessions, including circuit training, pilates and football on its purpose-built outdoor artificial turf court.

25. Freebridge Community Housing

Scoring well in the leadership factor, Freebridge Community Housing’s 217 employees believe in the plan for the organisation (78%) and are inspired by the leadership (78%) meaning the organisation takes the 25th spot on the list. Chief executive Tony Hall was recently named as Inspirational Leader of the Year at the National Housing Heroes awards. The organisation has five core values which underpin its strategy: working together, empowerment, customer focus, integrity and enthusiasm. These values form the basis of its reward and recognition package and value badges are given to employees who are truly living the values.