What happens when you mix Play Your Cards Right, Blind Date, Family Fortunes and an old school headmaster?

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Well at Helena Partnerships you have the recipe for a very lively (and noisy) staff event, complete with yellow brick road.

Five months ago we hosted the biggest group therapy session St Helens has ever seen. This was in the format of four mini conferences for all front line staff. We posed real business problems such as how can we keep our rent coming in against a backdrop of welfare reform? How can we create demand for our larger homes when people are literally throwing their keys back at us?

The result of our initial staff events? Eleven years of frustrations and ideas bursting to the surface and 75 pieces of flip chart paper too!

We saw real highs and also lows. Some of our frontline staff were almost in tears seeing how the estates they had fought tooth and nail to transform had started to decline and the number of empty homes grow. Letting our homes because a burning platform as staff linked empty homes with less rent, a reduction in services and ultimately jobs if things didn’t turn around. Cue pop up estate agents, telemarketing in the evenings and weekend and Helena staff becoming walking adverts for why somebody should rent a Helena home.

We took the excessive amount of flip chart paper and turned it into 16 staff engagement projects which we labelled Sweet 16. We launched these on Yammer and in just a few days over 200 of the 240 staff who had taken part had signed up to Yammer. They then chose the projects they felt they could make a real contribution to. The problems they have explored solutions for are not easy. At times they have seemed like an uphill battle but our creative approach to engagement has made hard subjects both accessible and fun.

Since the events staff have worked tirelessly and collaboratively to develop practical business solutions. They have worked with colleagues who they may have never spoken to before. Their ideas just make sense. Some have been implemented already and others are nearly ready to go.

Although this was all about staff engagement rather than strategy development, our frontline staff have reminded us valuable business lessons about thinking about the customer experience and journey, rather than basing services around teams and structures. They have pushed their own boundaries and stepped outside their comfort zones. Divisions between teams have eroded and a common purpose has created one big team.

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As I sit here today, just one session into a series of four, I can hear clapping, whooping and see lots of smiles. I can also see flip chart sheets being filled up which means even more ideas are coming forward.

I am a firm believer that you can achieve just about anything if you get the inside of your organisation right and create an army of passionate and talented business leaders with true dedication.

For more information on how Helena Partnerships approaches staff engagement or to find out more about Sweet 16, contact Caroline King, Head of Communications and Engagement.
Tweet me: @CKingAtHelena
Email me: Caroline.king@helenapartnerships.co.uk
Call me: 07766245492

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What Moyes can learn from housing comms

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As you walk through a storm….oh, wait, wrong song

Today’s post comes from Robert Doyle, Communications Officer at Helena Partnerships

If Manchester United were a housing association, how would they be doing?

Some of the stock is a bit old and there is need for development but as a club they appear in rude health.  According to accountants Deloitte’s they are the fourth richest in the world, bringing in £346million last season. They have countless happy, loyal tenants and have embraced the commercialisation that providers must do to thrive in a constantly shifting sector.

Unlike housing associations, however, United’s stock is built on sandy ground. Behind the boardroom door, some £71million of last year’s income was burned on simply financing the cost of the Glazer family’s Wonga-like takeover of the club. Another £48million went on repayments.

As financial fitness becomes ever more important in housing – and under FIFAs new fair play rules – such wasteful debt would be raising more than eyebrows over at the HCA. The spending of £27million on Marouane Fellaini  may also cause “concerns over governance”.

My big worry for Moyes and United, however, is not their finances but how quickly their reputation for invincibility is fading.

Certainly Moyes has suffered bad luck with injuries, decisions and so on. Such is football. However, as communication is my trade, I can’t help but offer Moyes some advice on one area where he is going badly wrong. He is losing the story and when you lose that you lose everything.

Whereas Sir Alex Ferguson plucked luck out of the air with self belief and, like Wonga, expected his players to give 5853% every game, Moyes already has the haunted look of a (whisper it) England manager.

The folded arms, the hang-dog expression, the outbursts of exasperation and rueful glances at the gods above. The faces of Graham Taylor, Kevin Keegan, Steve McLaren swirl around Wee Davey’s restless sleep, calling him like sirens to join the squad of the damned.

Even a kitchen-sink psychologist will tell you leadership is about fearless confidence and constant encouragement. While this starts in the dressing room and training field, games are also won and lost on the newspaper page and in front of the TV cameras.

There is nothing more powerful than the story. Fergie grasped this and grasped the narrative by the footballs. His story was that United are constantly under attack by cheats and fools and villains but as the “greatest” team in the land they must rise above this, never give up, fight to death, fight for themselves and for the millions who support them.

It’s the stories we tell, the stories we take within us, the stories others believe that make the difference. There must be a symbolic exorcism of Fergie’s ghost, new players, new tactics, a new story, a new chapter.

United will soon be back to frustrate their rivals. Juan Mata will surely shine

If Moyes doesn’t survive, however, there’s one crumb of comfort. At least he doesn’t have to contend with the bedroom tax or pay off the Glazers’ arrears.