Best Companies 2019: The top 25 Housing Organisations

Best Companies surveys 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 2019 is no exception, with the sector displaying positivity towards My Company, My Team and My Manager.

Workplace engagement specialists Best Companies uses a unique workplace engagement model to measure organisations on eight factors.

For the fourth consecutive year, Best Companies has used this model to create 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.

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.

In a year-on-year comparison for those who are both in the 2018 and 2019 list, the greatest improver in overall factor score this year is wellbeing.

Similarly, there has been a notable increase in ‘My Company’ scores and the item ‘I love working for this organisation’.

The greatest differentiator between listed and non-listed organisations is Leadership, as there is a 10.58% difference in factor score between the listed organisations and the non-listed organisations.

This difference can be explained by the large differences in question scores that relate to senior managers living the values of the organisation, senior managers listening more as opposed to telling, and the level of confidence that respondents have in the leadership skills of senior management.

This is evinced by Homes in Sedgemoor CEO Jen Barfoot, who sets aside two weeks during September to meet every single colleague to find out how they are feeling and how they would improve the organisation.

There were positive results for housing associations and ALMOs when employees responded to questions on whether the organisation encourages charitable activities and believing they have a valuable contribution to make in the organisation’s success.

For example, Community Gateway Association has colleagues involved in the development of allotments, vegetable growing schemes, wildlife gardens and Britain in Bloom.

It was clear from those who came higher up the list that placing high importance on employee and resident wellbeing was a key indicator of positivity from employees.

One example of this is Stockport Homes Group, who have come top of this list, having introduced initiatives to ease stress such as yoga and in-house holistic therapies.

Another common theme throughout the 25 was a focus on being green, with Monmouthshire Housing Association tracking CO2 reductions and installing energy-efficient boilers for residents.

Thrive Homes have supported staff to be greener, too, introducing two electric charging bays and policies that reduce the need for staff to come into the office.

Clearly, there’s no shortage of organisations aiming to improve and make a difference, both in the sector and beyond.

1. Stockport Homes Ltd

Stockport Homes tops the list after excelling in the Giving Something Back, Wellbeing, and Leadership categories. The organisation has been recognised for its comprehensive environmental policy, for making sure its Active Listeners have completed the Mental Health First Aid and Assist courses, and for the enduring commitment of its senior management team to lead by example. By championing initiatives that benefit both staff and clients, Chief Executive Helen McHale herself ensures Stockport Homes is a great place to work and acts as a shining ambassador for the sector.

2. Regenda Ltd

Regenda goes one better than last year by firmly planting its flag in the Number 2 spot. Though, with excellent results in the My Team, My Manager, and Fair Deal categories, the result doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Staff communicate easily through the intranet site The Club – which also publicises health, wellbeing and charitable initiatives – and the LEAD programme offers participants the chance to work-shadow, learn new skills and showcase talent. Spot Awards also reward employees who have gone the extra mile with cash bonuses.

3. Melin Homes

Another one to improve on its previous ranking, Wales-based Melin Homes jumps up three places to claim the Number 3 spot. The organisation excelled in the Giving Something Back category, thanks to the ideas and initiatives proposed by its Internal Energy Green Group; stormed the Wellbeing category due to its Zest and Zlim (health and wellbeing) initiatives (fitness); and shone in the Fair Deal category, its ‘Diolch’ initiave picking up the bulk of the points by offering rewards such as vouchers, flowers, lunch and afternoon tea.

4. Community Gateway Association

Community Gateway Association performed notably well in the Wellbeing, My Team, and Giving Something Back categories. Its People Services team particularly impressed. As an example, in 2018 the team initiated a week of random acts of kindness, when colleagues were randomly selected to receive treats, such as vouchers for a meal. They also provided lollies for their outdoor and mobile workers, as well as a free ice cream van on-site during the summer heatwave.

5. Weaver Vale Housing Trust

Weaver Vale Housing Trust also excelled in the Wellbeing, My Team, and Giving Something Back categories. In the Wellbeing category, the organisation impressed with its Health and Wellbeing Framework, which allows staff to access internal and external resources, and its work with the Resilience and Wellbeing Partnership; stood out in the My team category for its open days and ‘Big Picture’ activity at its staff conference; and earned recognition in the Giving Something Back category for its proactive attitude to environmentalism.

6. Newydd Housing Organisation

Newydd stormed the Giving Something Back, Personal Growth, and Wellbeing categories to go one better than last year and claim sixth place. The organisation was noted for its Green Travel Plan, which outlines current and future provisions and initiatives, such as paying cyclists 20p for each mile they cycle, as well as its status as a gold Investor in People organisation. Newydd’s InShape initiative also impressed, with its offering of group activities, such as bike rides, lunchtime walks, and art classes, and its stress management training sessions and subsidised massages.

7. Homes in Sedgemoor Ltd

Homes in Sedgemoor maintains its Top 10 residency thanks to scoring highly in the Personal Growth, My Team, and My Company categories. The ALMO ensures spending on learning and development represents at least 1% of turnover, and it has implemented programmes to help staff understand the customer’s perspective. HiS also divided the area into a series of neighbourhoods in which they support activities such as resident-engagement events. To top it off, the CEO sets aside two weeks per year to meet with employees to find out how they feel and how they would improve the organisation.

8. Swan

Swan secures eighth place once again, after excelling in the Giving Something Back, Leadership, and Personal Growth categories. Hosting talks and workshops during Sustainability Week and using BRE SMARTwaste for all live construction sites; the clear embodiment of the company’s values in its senior leadership team combined with the CEO’s ‘agile working’ encouragement; and its investment in building better relationships with colleagues were just some of the reasons Swan has managed to hold on to its lofty placement for another year.

9. Victory Housing Trust

North Walsham-based Victory stood out in the Fair Deal category thanks to its honorarium scheme that allows colleagues to nominate those who have gone above and beyond, and in the Wellbeing category due to its proactive effort to train staff in mental health and wellbeing and running an Engagement Team to improve engagement and wellbeing of staff. Victory also excelled in the My Company category, in no small part because of the Chief Executive and senior leadership team’s willingness to give up their personal offices and adopt a hot-desking policy.

10. Network Homes

Network Homes rounds off the Top 10, after a strong performance in the Fair Deal, Personal Growth, and My Company categories. Within the organisation, managers can nominate staff for a Merit Award for outstanding work; Vector 360 feedback sessions allow managers to review performance; a Gender Pay Gap report introduced an Aspire Programme aimed at helping women achieve their career goals; and ‘Ace Sessions’ have been introduced, which follow a tailored theme on how staff can help achieve the organisation’s objectives.

11. Port of Leith Housing Association

Port of Leith Housing Association provides over 2,700 homes to more than 4,000 people. The association excelled in the Fair Deal category by implementing a performance and recognition policy that details how staff performance should be addressed, in the Wellbeing category due to its Healthy Working Lives Group and workplace initiatives that encourage employees to make healthier lifestyle choices, and in the My Manager category by offering coaching to its leadership team and supervisors and a mentoring scheme to staff.

12. Fife Housing Association Limited

Fife Housing Association scored highly in the Fair Deal category due to initiatives such as providing staff with a personalised ‘passport’ that communicates its Rewards and Recognition Strategy in an accessible format. The association also stood out in the Personal Growth category for its shadowing scheme and by actively encouraging employees to seek further development, and in the My Manager category for its external leadership consultant, who works to motivate teams and make members feel valued.

13. Black Country Housing Group Ltd

Social housing and care provider Black Country Housing Group performed notably well in the Personal Growth, My Company, and Leadership categories in no small part due to its comprehensive learning and development programme and 14 workshops, for actively ensuring remote staff feel part of the Black Country Housing Group family, and by CEO Amanda Tomlinson’s efforts to take time out of her day to engage with staff – often visiting those who work in remote locations.

14. Cairn Housing Association

Cairn jumps three places from last year to claim Number 17. The association was noted in the Fair Deal category for its annual staff awards; in the Wellbeing category for its adoption of a flexible working approach; and in the My Manager category for its offering of Action Learning Sets and Management and Leadership Programme, the latter of which provides participants with access to online forums so they can share their leaning journey, resources and ideas.

15. Thrive Homes

Hemel Hempstead-based Thrive Homes excelled in the My Team, Fair Deal, and Giving Something Back categories to make in into the Top 15. Employees’ Facebook interaction was found to enhance colleague engagement, while its adoption of an agile working policy has reduced the need for staff to travel. Thrive was also recognised for the rewards it offers to employees – such as a personal ‘Thank You’ card from the Chief Executive or the Big Birthday Breakfast and £50 Amazon voucher staff received on the organisation’s tenth anniversary.

16. South Yorkshire Housing Association

Maintaining its place on the list is South Yorkshire Housing Association, which performed highly in the Giving Something Back, My Team, and Leadership categories. The association was particularly noted for its Sustainability Manager, who’s responsible for driving environmental activities; its ‘transform strategy’, which increases communication between colleagues and improves customer service; and its management competencies, which detail daily practices that are expected of leaders, such as delivering service excellence and showing self-awareness.

17. Equity Housing Group

Equity rockets up six places from last year to claim the Number 17 spot. It stood out in the My Manager category for its ‘output-driven’ approach to managing performance and the ability for staff to choose how and when they deliver objectives, and in the Wellbeing category for offering things like Wellbeing Workdays and meditation sessions. The Group also excelled in the My Team category for its adoption of new computer software, a new, fast intranet, and Breakfast Briefings that keep colleagues abreast of company news.

18. Broadland Housing Group

Broadland Housing Group makes the list after excelling in the Personal Growth, Giving Something Back, and Fair Deal categories. The association was recognised for its investment in training, such as online courses, professional qualifications, day courses and work shadowing; Environmental Champions, who run awareness events throughout the year; and the range of benefits they offer to employees, such as an ‘agile working’ policy, to help facilitate a healthy work-life balance.

19. Calico

Lancashire-based Calico makes the list once again, after performing well in the Giving Something Back, Leadership, and Personal Growth categories. Its environmental initiatives, which include an ongoing programme to install thermal insulation into properties; personable nature of CEO Anthony Duerden, who meets all new employees on a one-to-one basis; and Leader’s Journey course, which teaches managers how to lead through values were just some of the ways Calico was able to stand out among the crowd.

20. Newark and Sherwood Homes

Newark and Sherwood Homes performed exceptionally well in the Leadership category by ensuring its core values, which include putting the customer first and delivering excellence, are always realised. It also shone in the My Manager category thanks to its High-Calibre Manager, an internal programme that helps ensure managerial quality within the company; as well as the Wellbeing category, where it was found the likes of its agile working and flexible working policies enhanced staff wellbeing.

21. Monmouthshire Housing Association

Monmouthshire Housing Association and manages and maintains around 3,600 homes and 270 leasehold properties within Monmouthshire. The association stood out in the Giving Something Back, Wellbeing, and Personal Growth categories by implementing such initiatives as using energy-efficient boilers to improve carbon offsetting, using Mind’s Wellbeing Action Plan to help employees support their own mental health, and by selecting three individuals each year to eventually become senior leaders via the MHA Future Leaders Programme.

22. BPHA

Social housing association BHPA earns its spot on the list by excelling in the My Team, Giving Something Back, and My Manager categories. In the My Team area, the organisation was recognised for its intranet service, The Hive, which acts as the key mode of interaction for staff; it was recognised in Giving Something Back by ensuring all staff have one day a month for volunteer work; and it scored highly in the My Manager category by running workshops for junior and middle managers.

23. Orwell Housing Association Limited

Social housing and supported housing and care provider Orwell Housing employs around 700 staff and manages approximately 4,000 homes with over 7,500 residents. It performed notably well in the Wellbeing, Personal Growth, and My Company categories in no small part due to its increasing number of Wellbeing Champions, proactive attitude to encouraging employee development, and ensuring it maintains engagement with employees – including those who work remotely within the East Anglia area.

24. Orbit Group

Midlands-based Orbit builds 2,000 homes a year, and has a portfolio of 42,000 properties. The organisation stood out in the Fair Deal, My Manager, and Personal Growth categories thanks to initiatives like the Stars in Orbit scheme, an online portal accessible on the company’s intranet that enables people to send e-cards recognising exceptional work; encouraging leaders to build genuine relationships with their team to ensure everyone has a manager they feel connected to; and its innovative approach to team building.

25. Stonewater

Social housing provider Stonewater makes the cut after excelling in the My Manager, My Team, and Personal Growth categories. It received particular praise for the likes of its leadership model, a six-month programme broken into four modules, and its Team Talks, which see employees gather at their local office for updates and presentations of key topics. Stonewater was also recognised for its Leadership Development Programme, a four-day training course that takes line managers through the challenges of managing a team for 12 months.