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Can a career in housing become a home?

Posted by Zosia Katnik, Brand Manager, on 09 Nov 2015

Let’s face it... there are some professions and career paths that you just don’t fall into. Doctors, astronauts, architects...do any of us honestly know somebody who became a surgeon by accident, or simply by ‘knowing someone’ in the field? Probably not. The truth is that the drive to match your expertise and skills to those needed for these roles, demands all consuming dedication and passion - one that sees you through the complex and more challenging times and validates the level of concentration and focus needed to get you there. We’re not saying that this doesn’t apply for any other career, just that these specialist roles are ones that people actively choose and make a conscious decision to pursue. 

Skills and expertise aside, you could argue that it takes a certain type of personality to become an air traffic controller, and you’d probably be right. Some of us are built to enjoy the pressure and responsibility of navigating hundreds of aircrafts that carry thousands of people every day, in the knowledge that one tiny mistake could be catastrophic. Whereas others are built more for becoming a member of cabin crew who has that inbuilt patience and exceptional customer care that takes our minds off said air traffic controller, who has our fate at their fingertips.

So what about industries? Does the same apply? Are there certain companies better suited to some people than others? We think so. There are some sectors that have struggled to be attractive and an obvious choice. How many people think of housing when they’re considering starting a career or a career change, for example? Does it take a certain person to work in housing?

As a social landlord, we’ve started to ask ourselves these two very questions, after an interesting series of events has put us at the start of a journey that we think is really exciting and a potential game changer.

Late last year, we had the pleasure of welcoming some fresh faces, straight out of university, who we employed for three months to carry out some basic data entry. Was a local community housing association their first choice for temporary work? We doubt it. Did they understand the ins and outs of housing and tenancy management? Not really. A more interesting question for us was whether these two factors were actually important. And we quickly came to the conclusion that they really weren’t.

We’ve got a unique style and culture at Red Kite...we write a bit differently, we challenge the norm of tenancy management and we talent spot outside of our sector. We look at the likes of Apple and Google for inspiration, because we can, and we truly believe that some of their key principles can be translated into providing exceptional housing services.

We’re of the opinion that the likes of Apple and Google would have had a lightbulb moment that changed the course of their futures... and for us, our moment was the arrival of Amy and Becky. What they offered above and beyond the role we employed them for was a genuine desire to do the best for our customers. A refreshing approach to handling a phone call. Undeniable compassion and honesty.

Three months later, data entry complete, it was difficult to let them go. So we didn’t. If some industries aren’t the natural choice, how do you keep those who accidentally fall into them? How do you find the Amy and Becky’s of the world and help them realise that no matter the company, certain traits and attitudes can flourish in the most unlikely of places? What is clear from our conversations with them and our current recruitment stats, is that they and others like them, would never have considered applying for some of the roles that we feel they would be great at!

Heads of Finance, HR managers and Board members beware – business plans and budgets aren’t really designed around flexibility, but we’ve decided to introduce exactly that when it comes to recruitment. Yes, we have an idea of optimum headcount and salary spend, but how could we justify losing two potential talents that are the epitome of what we stand for? Talents who have the innocence to challenge existing ways of working and see things differently. Talents who have emerging skills that the traditional housing model finds hard to attract.

There’s a balance, of course, and probably a bit of risk that we have to prepare for, but we’ve made a conscious decision to focus wholeheartedly on finding the right people to move our organisation forward. Where we find them is the next question and one that we see as fundamental in our new approach working in the long-term.

After that, it’s about how you retain people, nurture and develop them, within an industry that wasn’t their natural choice. What’s the motivation for an air traffic controller with qualities of team work, attention to detail and emotional stability to work for an organisation that doesn’t obviously demand these characteristics? A slightly elaborate example, perhaps, but the underlying principle is the basis for asking our million dollar question.

This is just the start of our journey to design, implement and embed a new approach to recruitment within what has always been perceived as a slightly less attractive industry, but we’re excited. People put so much effort into finding a company that suits them, so why shouldn’t we do the same to attract them? Housing will become the next Google, you just watch...

At Red Kite we are always open to having an informal chat with anyone who believes they can add value to our organisation. Just drop our Chief Executive an email at CEOtalentspot@redkitehousing.org.uk, or even better, just give us a ring on 01494 476100 and talk to any of our staff!

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Red Kite Community Housing, Windsor Court, Kingsmead Business Park, High Wycombe, HP11 1JU

Red Kite Community Housing is a charitable registered society which operates for the benefit of the community under the Cooperative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. VAT registration number 123147939.