Over the past couple of years, we’ve been working hard to enable greater flexibility across RHP – a big part of which has been creating better opportunities for remote working. This has been achieved through our ‘Your work, your way’ flexible working programme, which was designed to empower people to get the most out of their lives and do the best for our customers.
This meant that when the pandemic crisis progressed, we were in a strong position to make a smooth transition to remote working with minimal disruption for our customers and employees. Here are the top things we’ve learned before, during and as we emerge from the crisis.
Start with the right mindset…
The biggest challenge in moving to a more agile way of working wasn’t our technology but our collective mindset. Over the past 18 months, we’ve done a lot of work to shift attitudes around flexible working and to break down any perceived barriers. We did this by working closely with our departmental managers and subsequently their teams to understand what was stopping them from working flexibly and how we could help unblock this for them.
We recognised one size wouldn’t fit all and that the flexibility a caretaker or a member of our contact team might have would be different to someone in, say, a support team. Therefore, the key idea behind ‘Your work, your way’ was to have freedom within a framework where each team and individual could see how it worked for them. We then made sure we captured a range of examples of where it was working and turned them into case studies so people could see how it could work for someone like them.
Use technology as an enabler
Alongside our work on our corporate mindset, it was important that we had the right technology to create an effortless experience when working flexibly so that neither external nor internal customer services were affected. This included providing all office-based employees with a laptop, introducing Microsoft Teams as a project collaboration and video conferencing tool and implementing a mobile telephony system so that no one was tied to their desk.
Just as we aim to provide our customers with choice, convenience and control in how they access our services, we want to provide our staff with the same standards. Therefore, all of our employee systems (such as our HR portal, benefits platform and learning hub) all work well on mobile and can be accessed from anywhere.
We’re also lucky that Yammer has been embedded as a key internal communication channel for a number of years now because it’s been absolutely invaluable as a way to keep us all connected during the pandemic.
Having strong foundations in place has meant that during the pandemic we’ve been able to experiment with our existing technology to provide a better service and increased levels of engagement.
This has included exploring a lot more of the functionality within Teams; as well as being a lifeline to keep us all connected with video calls and project collaboration, we’ve found the ‘live event’ feature (which we hadn’t used before) to be particularly useful.
For example, I host a live briefing on there every week to keep everyone up to date with how things are progressing and to answer any questions people have submitted (they can also post questions live). We regularly get over 75 per cent of the workforce tuning in live to this (including our caretakers on their phones) and people can easily watch it afterwards too. We’ve also used the function for more informal activities such as our recognition awards ceremony where, as a leadership group, we surprised everyone with black-tie to hand out the awards virtually. We’ve also used it to support wellbeing initiatives such as live yoga sessions and talks on resilience. The live event function is probably something we’d have never thought about using before, but we’ll definitely be continuing with it.
Yammer has also been an incredibly important tool in keeping our people connected and engaged. We’ve transitioned events that were previously face to face onto the channel such as our ‘A great place to think’ speaker programme which we hosted as a ‘Yam Jam’ instead. We’ve also been pulling everyone together weekly through Yammer with ‘Friday Connect’ which involves a fun activity for 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon.
A strong sense of camaraderie and fun, underpinned by the fact we take our jobs seriously but never ourselves, is a key part of our culture. Therefore frequent get togethers to socialise and celebrate with one another are really important to us, so anything we can do to replicate that during this time is very welcome.
Put people at the heart of technology
Overall, the pandemic has encouraged us to refine our digital strategy and we’ve only been able to do that due to the strong foundations we already had in place. At the core of it, we’ll ensure that whatever technology we introduce, it’ll start with a clear understanding of what the people (customers and employees) who will use it actually need. This includes:
- Implementing a new mobile telephony system during lockdown which has made it completely cloud-based, enabling us to deliver full contact centre capability from people’s homes, helping us deliver a more seamless service.
- We’re also looking at ways in which we can keep our customers better informed of their repairs, inspections and payments.
- Our employee-led ‘Leading lights’ innovation group is running customer focus groups on how we can improve our payments journey.
- We’re also holding focus groups with our employees to harness the learnings from this time in terms of remote working, including what benefits they’ve discovered, what they’ve found difficult and if they have everything they need to do their job well (starting with the right technology and systems, for example). This will help us turbocharge our flexible working programme.
- Recently launching our ground-breaking ‘Stellar’ customer service programme. The programme will support our employees to deliver a consistently excellent customer experience across all channels, including how we translate our brand personality in the virtual world.
We’re pleased to say that all of this work has had an impact, with demonstrable increases in both our employee and customer satisfaction over the past three months and a significant shift in our TrustPilot score to 4.5 stars. We’ll continue to look for ways to get more out of technology during this period to enable greater flexibility in how we work and deliver services, with the view to ‘go back to better’, not ‘back to normal’.
David Done is the chief executive of RHP.