The screw has been turning on social housing providers and local authorities, as wave after wave of challenges have piled on the pressure; historical funding issues were exacerbated by the pandemic, with the ensuing cost-of-living crisis adding to the problems.
The reality is organisations are having to do far more with less in a bid to make the numbers tally. This juggling act is making employees’ jobs even harder as resources are squeezed, leading to question marks around employee engagement and retention.
The cost of replacement
The cost of replacing an employee is around six to nine months’ salary when you combine recruitment costs, training expenses for new employees, salary and downtime in productivity while people get up to speed in their new role. For high-turnover, low-paying jobs, it’s estimated that this cost is around 16 per cent of an employee’s salary; for mid-range positions, it’s around 20 per cent, rising further for senior roles.
Recent research by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that UK workers are taking more sick days than at any point in the past decade. Changes in working culture since the pandemic, coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, have left some employees feeling disengaged and stressed, the CIPD reported.
Set against this backdrop, it’s little wonder that so much emphasis is being placed on staff retention and employee engagement; after all, a happy workforce is a productive workforce.
Happy and motivated
How do you keep your team happy and motivated in the face of economic challenges? The answer is by harnessing the power of automation and behavioural science.
For example, using automation to streamline or replace inefficient manual processes gives housing teams more time to focus on the high value tasks that build relationships and lead to positive outcomes for both the housing provider and its tenants.
Introducing behavioural science
Of course, automation is far from new. What is different is the unique combination of automation and behavioural science, which primarily focuses on how people make decisions, process information and exhibit behaviour. This multi-disciplinary approach draws on decades of research to create a comprehensive framework for understanding how we behave. By realigning policies, programmes and products with how we actually behave, behavioural science is now being used across a variety of sectors to improve outcomes and help organisations make better decisions.
What are the direct benefits for staff using this combined approach? In the housing sector, numerous roles are dedicated to helping and supporting customers, which can be a key source of job satisfaction and overall wellbeing. Combining automation and behavioural science not only helps in supporting customers, it also enhances employee motivation by freeing them from monotonous manual tasks and gives them more time to engage with customers who need one-on-one support.
Simultaneously, the personalised and wide-reaching nature of this engagement helps to promote job satisfaction, as employees recognise their contribution in supporting customers. Consequently, this approach boosts productivity and preserves the psychological safety and wellbeing of housing staff.
The statistics say it all. In a survey of employees from income teams across a range of housing providers over the course of a three-month period, we assessed how individuals felt they were performing in a number of areas, from utilisation of technology to personal job satisfaction.
Workloads and staff satisfaction
In organisations not using automation and behavioural science, one in three employees felt their ability to manage their workload was below average or poor. When asked where they would like it to be, all employees selected either above average or exemplary.
Comparatively, two-thirds of employees in organisations that are using this combined method scored their ability to manage their workload as above average or exemplary. The data shows us that in organisations that have adopted this approach, employees feel more capable of managing their workloads and rate their performance at a much higher standard.
When you turn your attention to tenants, two-thirds of employees not using automation and behavioural science felt their organisation currently scored below average or poor for tenant engagement.
When asked the same question, all employees in organisations that have embraced this kind of technology rated their performance as above average.
Lastly, in those organisations using automation and behavioural science, three-quarters of employees rated their job satisfaction and personal wellbeing as above average. But in the other group, employees were more likely to rate it as either average or below average.
Thirteen Group and Voicescape’s Caseload Manager
In 2021, Thirteen Group wanted to incorporate behavioural science into its operations with a system that would learn and determine the optimal engagement method and message. Thirteen collaborated with our behavioural science and R&D team to develop a solution that would do just that – Voicescape Caseload Manager. Since its adoption, Thirteen has seen improvements in five core areas:
- Caseload reduction – the number of arrears cases requiring manual action has fallen by 65 per cent compared to Thirteen’s previous income analytics product;
- Resource management – housing service coordinators save roughly two hours per week;
- Increased collections – Thirteen exceeded its annual target with a 16 per cent increase in collecting arrears from former tenants;
- Improved engagement – 86 per cent of Thirteen’s users found that automated outbound calls make their job much simpler;
- Improved job satisfaction – 80 per cent of users said that Voicescape Caseload Manager has allowed them to do their job better and improved their overall wellbeing.
These findings indicate an opportunity to create positive transformation within organisations not using this approach, and that employees themselves recognise this and are striving to become ‘exemplary’ in future.
Our research also shows that within these organisations, income teams want to improve how they engage with tenants, but their workloads and current ways of working are prohibiting them from being as effective as they would like to be.
This positive sentiment tells us that there’s a willingness, rather than a reluctance, from employees to embrace the right technology solutions that will support them in their jobs and how they support their tenants. And by doing so, it’s likely that organisations can retain valuable employees by enhancing their effectiveness and delivering better tenant engagement.
Gary Haynes is the managing director of Voicescape.