Our People, Our Journey

The Housing Executive’s Director of Corporate Services, Trevor McCartney, explains how a healthy and well-skilled workforce is making a difference to tenants and customers.

For the first time in our 44-year history, the Housing Executive has been awarded the Silver Standard for Investors In People (IIP). This makes the Housing Executive the largest organisation in Northern Ireland to hold the Silver standard. With less than 7 per cent of all organisations awarded IIP Silver, this is a remarkable achievement, only made possible by the hard work and determination of the people we have working within the organisation.

In 2014, we embarked upon our Journey to Excellence transformation programme. This programme has at its heart our people and our customers. At the core of Journey to Excellence is a clear and simple principle that motivated, empowered and highly skilled people, supported by best in class technologies and processes, are the key to delivering the very best service to our customers.
Through the Journey to Excellence programme and with the steadfast support of our Board, staff and many other stakeholders, we have delivered a year of genuine transformational change.

As well as the achievement of IIP Silver, our people have delivered remarkable results for our customers. In the last year, the Housing Executive has delivered a £100 million programme of maintenance schemes across Northern Ireland to almost 30,000 homes.

Over £200 million has been channelled into regional services, supporting vulnerable people across Northern Ireland, including £10 million on tackling homelessness. Additionally, £72 million has been administered through our Supporting People programme.

The last year also saw the Housing Executive administer £667 million in Housing Benefit to 167,000 customers. These accomplishments are a direct result of the dedication, hard work and expertise of our people.

Our People Strategy
A key strand of the Journey to Excellence programme is our overall People Strategy. This is a wide-ranging strategy focusing on every element of how we support and enable our people to deliver best in class service for our customers.

As an organisation we have ensured the involvement of staff in the development of our people strategies, including many new people-focused initiatives.

Our people, with the full support of our board, were given the freedom to reconstruct and redevelop the core values for the organisation. These are the values everyone in our organisation now seeks to live by on a daily basis.

Health and Wellbeing
As an organisation, we realise that the health and wellbeing of our people is vital to the achievement of our goals and ambitions. Healthy, stress-free and motivated employees will result in continued high levels of performance and help retain the great talent we already have in our organisation.

The Housing Executive has long recognised the benefits of staff retention, motivation and performance. That is why we have a strong focus on facilitating work-life balance and ensuring the health and wellbeing of our staff. For that reason, we offer the following wide range of initiatives.

Fitech Health Screening
Available to all staff, this is equivalent to a private medical assessment. It includes a stress counselling questionnaire, cholesterol test, blood sugar test, body fat and blood pressure measurement, flexibility, BMI and lifestyle appraisal, resting heart rate, aerobic capacity, lung function and a cardiac risk analysis.

Health Awareness
Our health promotion nurse regularly communicates health awareness material through our staff intranet, drawing attention to, for example, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, skin cancer in the summer, World Mental Health Day or National Stress Awareness Day, but also providing information as to how to spot early signs of illness and how to obtain support and guidance if required.

Smoking Cessation Clinics
There continues to be a general downward trend against smoking in Northern Ireland, with now only 24 per cent of the population being smokers. We continue to be ahead of the trend. Fitech analysis for the last year shows only 10.4 per cent of our staff as being smokers. We continue to encourage staff to stop smoking both through Fitech and through regular in-house campaigns such as promoting No Smoking Day.

Corporate Gym Membership
We have successfully negotiated discounted rates with gym providers across Northern Ireland. A corporate gym membership can positively contribute to increased motivation, productivity and a healthier workforce, as well as help staff achieve optimal health, reduce stress, increase fitness and improve immunity all while saving staff money.

Cycle to Work Scheme
As part of our wider Health and Wellbeing Initiative, the Housing Executive has launched a Cycle to Work scheme for staff. The scheme enables staff to cycle to and from work with the Housing Executive funding the up-front cost of the bike and safety equipment. Staff can then hire the bike back, making regular payments, with the option to buy the bike at market value in the future.

Healthy Eating
To help our staff maintain a healthy diet, the Housing Executive has signed up for the Food Standards Agency’s Caloriewise programme. All of the menus in our staff canteen display the relevant calorie information with at least one healthy option provided every day. The staff canteen is also subsidised by the Housing Executive to help staff maintain a healthy diet and save money at the same time.

Home and Work Balance
‘Flexi-time arrangements’ are utilised by the majority of staff. This provides maximum flexibility for staff to develop working time patterns meeting their personal needs.

Childcare Vouchers
In conjunction with Employers For Childcare Vouchers Ltd, the Housing Executive operates a scheme to help our staff with the cost of registered childcare provision. Staff can choose to sacrifice part of their salary, up to £243 per month, in exchange for childcare vouchers. As the vouchers are exempt from tax and national insurance contributions the potential savings for staff who avail of this scheme are considerable.

The Housing Executive offers a welfare service to provide a range of services to support staff. This includes support and counselling for staff on a wide variety of problems across the areas of finance, addiction, bereavement, mental health, relationship matters, stress in the workplace and retirement.

This support that we offer in relation to work-life balance, health and wellbeing together with our policies and incentives and our occupational health and welfare services, continues to support performance and encourage attendance at work.
To continue on our ‘Journey’ and continually improve performance it is vital to have healthy, happy, engaged and motivated staff. Almost 50 per cent of our staff have over 25 years’ service, which indicates that our people are committed to staying with us and add value to our organisation.

Learning and Development
Our Learning and Development Strategy offers significant opportunities for the development of staff. We invest in staff through a broad range of internal and external training programmes, supporting them in both their day-to-day work and in the development of new skills.
We support and fund our people through further education and we deliver Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) accredited development programmes and CIH Housing and Maintenance programmes.

Our web-based training programmes and supported online courses meet the needs of individual learning styles and our Success Plans are individually tailored to identify the specific training needs of every staff member.
It is this approach to our people that has resulted in the Housing Executive being accredited with IIP Silver for the first time in our history. We, however, have absolutely no intention of resting on our laurels. Our aim is to achieve, through our people, IIP Gold standard by 2017. Watch this space.

Northern Ireland Housing Executive
The Housing Centre
2 Adelaide Street, Belfast, BT2 8PB
Tel: 03448 920 900

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