In any given organisation, if people are able to truly be their authentic selves, then their enjoyment and performance at work will only improve. Building an environment that is honest, hardworking and supportive is crucial to allowing this to happen.
Luke James, Co-host of The Interview, sat down with Caroline Moore, Executive Director for People and Corporate Services at Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group to discuss how she creates this environment, the importance of a good culture, and belonging.
I am the Executive Director for People and Corporate Services at Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group. We provide homes for people predominately in terms of social housing but also with some leasehold and private developments.
I did a degree in Human Resources, but initially found it quite hard to get into HR. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario — if you didn’t have any experience, then people didn’t want you, but you needed the degree before you got the experience. So I did a few other things before entering HR. When I was working in London I took a role at Expedia and worked my way up through the ranks. I moved back up to the North East, took on more responsibility there, and then decided to do something totally different. I had always worked in the private sector and wanted to feel like I was giving something back — I moved to SBHG in 2019 and have been here ever since.
We’ve got a real focus on hybrid working, depending on people’s roles. We try and have as much flexibility as we can with that. If colleagues want to work from home, a coffee shop, or an office, that’s fine subject to their role and agreement from their manager. There is a lot of trust needed for that, but I think we have found the balance now. From a well-being perspective, it gives people the opportunity to have a better work-life balance. And in London, commuting costs are expensive, so it makes a financial difference too.
When colleagues join us, we give them a one off payment that they can use to set up their home office. We try to get people together once a quarter so we can ensure that we’re all connected. There are also often team days in the office, which vary in frequency.
On Fridays, we have Look Forward Fridays, where we get together with a well-being or diversity focus. We have talks and guest speakers, even things like pilates sessions or discussions on financial well-being. We started them in lockdown but they have been great, so we’ve continued them.
This is actually why we often try to do things on a Friday afternoon, because it tends to be a quieter day where people have more time. Sometimes, people just switch their camera off and have it on in the background, so they can multi-task and tune in optionally if they have time.
It is important for people to understand how they contribute to the bigger picture. Once a year we do a business kick off session to start the financial year. It discusses the organisation’s higher level goals, what it means for our customers and the business at large, and then we look at how that feeds down to our day to day work. I think it’s important for people to feel connected to the wider purpose of their work and how it feeds back to improving people’s lives and homes.
It’s important to align people with an organisation’s values. I know that can sound cheesy, but in our recruitment process we look for people with aligned values. We run a number of development programmes which people can go on to develop their leadership or management skills. We’re currently focusing on the idea of resilience and having the ability to manage change, so we make these opportunities available.
Looking at teams I’ve worked with, I think authenticity is really important. Colleagues can tell if someone isn’t being themself. A strong sense of integrity too, as well as confidence and the ability to inspire confidence in others. Sometimes organisations go through challenging times, so having a leader that one can look to and believe in them, then that makes a huge difference. Also, not being afraid to admit to mistakes and grow from them. I think people appreciate that honesty.
It’s to do with pace. The pace in the private sector is typically faster than in the sector I’m in now. But because this organisation has people from a mix of backgrounds, we have great pace. Also, to minimise bureaucracy where possible so progress can be made. We try to empower colleagues to make their own decisions as well.
One is definitely to do with having the confidence to be yourself and work somewhere that allows you to be yourself. When you’re starting out in your career, you might meet people who you admire. Work out why you admire them and pick up those good traits so you build your own work personality. Equally, you’ll see people behave in ways that you don’t like — so make sure to take note of those behaviours too.