Industry Leaders
Leeds Federated Housing Association
Head of Corporate Services

Megan Henderson

In a hybrid working world and a sector facing increasing regulations and requirements, creating a supportive culture that meets the needs of customers and supports their strengths is a challenge many Housing leaders are facing.

Co-host of The Interview Max Webber sat down with Megan Henderson, Head of Corporate Services at Leeds Federated Housing Association, to discuss her journey as a Housing leader and her take on navigating the pressures facing the sector.

Megan's Journey

Max: Can we start with an introduction to your role and the organisation?

I was born and raised in Leeds, living just 300 metres from the house I grew up in — you could say I’m a local girl! I studied Art at university in Glasgow, after which I did a range of temping jobs. I knew nothing about social housing, but loved my temp job at Leeds Federated and was fortunate that opportunities came up so that, 20 years later, I’m still here.

On Leeds Federated — we’re a traditional registered housing provider, and have been here for nearly 50 years, having been formed by the amalgamation of various providers back in the ‘70s. We manage 4,500 properties, which are mostly general needs housing, and have 130 staff. We’re currently halfway through our five-year plan, with the commitment to build 150 homes per year over this five-year period.

Max: What initiatives are you working on to build a sense of inclusion, belonging, wellbeing in the workplace?

I’ve been an advocate of mental health for about 20 years — At  Art school, I saw a lot of mental health challenges, so it’s always been close to my heart. A big part of our People Development strategy is our five pillars of wellbeing — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and creative; ensuring people have what they need on a day to day basis as well as encouraging collaboration and connection with colleagues.

On Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in particular, this has always been a massive part of our culture, and we work with Housing Diversity Network, WISH and a Regional EDI group for Housing Associations. A key part of our approach here is listening to colleagues — to understand what they want, rather than telling them what we’re doing. A big thing that came out of one discussion was the importance of our induction process, to build a sense of belonging and inclusion from when someone first joins us. We have a specialist provider whose surveys enable us to more intimately understand where we’re doing well and where we’re not doing so well, to help inform our focus areas moving forward.

We also measure colleague demographics and compare these with our customer demographics and board demographics, to ensure the people we employ are representative of our wider audience.

Max: Other Housing sector guests on The Interview have spoken about how colleagues today are facing more pressures than before — how do you approach this challenge?

This is definitely a challenge; one which I’m sure lots of businesses face. Years ago, we held Investors In People (IIP) gold, and three years later we managed to retain it — both strong accolades at the time, but we’re not there at the moment though we are steadily making progress where we can..

The first time we got gold, I remember speaking to the assessor — they do a survey that you can’t incentivise people to reply to, but we got a really high response rate and positive feedback, which is always great to see as a HR leader. Yet since then, we have seen the world change —  starting with the rent reduction in 2015 we have seen the list of financial and regulatory pressures across the sector increase creating a really volatile environment for both us to work in and for our customers to live in.

Our Housing Officers are experiencing increasingly difficult cases, and are facing pressures of meeting multiple requirements. We’ve seen our levels of long term sickness increase. We’re seeing that stress absence is more commonly a combination of both work and home and it’s getting harder to get people back into work. 

The move to agile working has also reduced our connectedness which means there are lower levels of shared knowledge. When promoting activities and initiatives, we emphasise that spending time with colleagues isn’t wasted time — you’re building connections and gaining shared knowledge.

Max: What do you find effective to draw the link between culture and commercial success?

In a not-for-profit sector, we operate a little differently. There is a direct link between customer satisfaction and colleague engagement — the wellbeing and motivation of colleagues are two key areas that hugely improve customer experience and customer satisfaction.  We’ve seen a reduction in customer satisfaction and, although this is similar to the rest of the sector, it doesn’t make it acceptable for us. From a people perspective it’s clear that investing in resourcing and support for colleagues will help achieve the outcomes we care about.

Max: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given across your career?

I’ve been given two strong pieces of advice — one personal, and one work-related. The latter first: my current boss encouraged me to work at a level above my role, without expecting anything for it. This means that you’re stretching yourself to be ready for that job at the next stage when it comes up, without trying to do two jobs at once. The personal one, for the parents out there: whatever you do to get your child to sleep is what they will need to get back to sleep when they wake in the night — keep the nighttime routine simple, so they can settle back to sleep with ease.

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Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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