This is just the beginning.

I woke up at my usual time this morning, a little after 6:30am, and my daily routine picked up where I last left it on Tuesday. I poured myself a steaming mug of coffee, opened a sachet of wet food for the cat and settled down in front of the TV whilst scrolling through my tweets. But today didn’t feel quite the same as it usually does.

I felt guilty.

You see, on Wednesday 14 June my routine took a slight deviation. I, like many others, took part in #ukhousingfast. We forfeited our meals for the day and made a pledge to donate money, raise awareness and gather items for our local food banks, a service which so many families (too many), rely upon.

HF tweet

 

We stood united. An army of housing people posting messages of support and sentiment throughout the day.

We achieved some amazing things that day; our tweets reached over 178,000 people; we smashed our £1000 fundraising total, and; hundreds of items made their way to local food banks, specifically those run by the amazing Trussell Trust.

UKhousingfast analytics cropped

Huge thanks to Asif Choudry for providing the stats

 

But my guilt remained. It was far too easy for me to get up at 4am and scoff some porridge and banana to help get me through the day. Far too easy to call at my local chippy to feast when the clock struck 10pm and the sun settled down for the day. To go to bed that evening, get a good night’s sleep then wake up the next day smoothly easing myself back into my normal routine just felt wrong.

What I’d experienced for one day is sadly the norm for so many, day in, day out. Food poverty doesn’t just affect those who find themselves homeless, some of them are fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads, they may even have work to go to, but they come home, they’ve paid their bills and they then search the cupboards with nothing but a void space staring back at them. These people are our customers, our tenants, our neighbours, our friends, our family.

I spent 14 June trying not to think about food. 1000s of people in the UK cannot think of nothing else but food.

Food banks are an essential service which is relied upon too often and this has got to stop. Evie Copland nailed it with this tweet:

EC tweet

 

My guilt is slowly easing knowing the good work we have all done; seeing the coming together of people who have shown endless generosity and kindness for others in need has been wonderful.

Donations

Donations made by my awesome Bromford colleagues

 

We have made a difference, so thank you, each and every one of you, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is the end.

Let’s make a stand, let’s make a change, for this is just the begninning.

 

Our simple choice, one big problem

Hungry child

Photo credit: jrmiller482

“C’mon Jess, you’re going to be late for school if you don’t have your breakfast soon! What’s it going to be today? We’ve got:

Hoops

Rice Crispies

Weetabix

Porridge

Toast.”

This is a typical weekday morning for us in the Johnson household. Stress levels can go through the roof trying to get our little one ready for the day ahead, but when I step back and really think about it, it’s not that big a deal, is it?!

If Jess decides she really doesn’t want her breakfast that day she’ll be OK. There’ll be some warm buttered toast waiting for her when she gets into class, then there’s school dinners to look forward to, and not forgetting the selection of scrummy puddings on offer; jelly and ice-cream, cake and custard, fresh fruit and pancakes, chocolate crispy cake – the list goes on!

For too many people, they will not have this luxury or choice.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank, says it handed out 1.2 million food packs in 2016/17. Compare that to the 41,000 food packs in 2009/10, that’s a 2927% increase!

Some people will use services like this more than once. It’s said that the average person will use a food bank twice a year, this means around 590,000 different people relied on the services of the Trussell Trust in 2016/17.

These figures are heart-breaking.

So, on 14 June 2017 I’ll be joining an army of UK Housing professionals like Amy Nettleton and Neil Goodrich (who convinced me to sign up), to take part in #UKHousingFast. We’ll be giving up our meals, putting together food packs and raising funds, all in support of, and to raise awareness for, the amazing Trussell Trust.

Plate pledge

My #PlatePledge for #UKHousingFast 2017

If you’d like to know more, or fancy getting involved yourself, visit the #UKHousingFast blog.

Thank you.

No matter what the barriers are, invest in people

Mashpi Lodge

Photo credit: latour.com

In 2001, former mayor of the Ecuador capital city of Quito embarked on an ambitious journey to transform the Andean forests, which had suffered from deforestation for many years, into a global tourist attraction.

As a lover of nature, I recently watched a BBC TV programme with my jaw anchored to the floor. Roque Sevilla, former mayor turned businessman turned environmentalist, shared his personal multi-million dollar project with us; the incredible Mashpi Lodge and Reserve. It’s a striking structure which provides a holiday home for just 42 guests, placing them in the middle of the tropical forest just outside of Quito. It’s constructed almost entirely out of huge glass panes in an attempt to place its visitor’s, as-one, with nature in a way they’re unlikely to have ever experienced before. I was in awe.

As you’d expect, delivering such an ambitious project would never be plain sailing. Roque had several obstacles to overcome, including a machete-wielding local!

Jose was a farmer who lived in the nearby village and farmed in the Mashpi Reserve. He worked for a logging company that had moved into the area in the 1990’s for a lumber concession so spent his days hacking through the dense woodland.

So, how did Roque deal with this? How would you deal with this?!

Roque offered him a job.

Upon meeting Jose for the first time, Roque brought along an orchid expert. It was a brave move. As they talked and walked through the forest, the idea was to re-channel Jose’s thinking; to remove any negative thinking, to re-imagine his surroundings; to really open his eyes and look at the positive things which lay before him – to not only see what good the forest can do for him but what he can do for it.

Jose admitted to never noticing the colourful and fragrant blooms before. He was blinkered, channelling his anger and frustrations at the innocent trees. However, through this intervention, Jose quickly built a trusting relationship with Roque, and now, thanks to this new found knowledge, he quickly took up his offer of employment as Village Chief (that’s a resident tour guide to you and me).

Thriving in his new role, Jose not only welcomes and chaperones guests to the Lodge, he’s now a botanist; cultivating and blooming a personal collection of orchids in the newly developed tourist village.

Mashpi Lodge has firmly inked itself a place in my bucket list, but in reflection I was thinking how much Roque had achieved with Jose and Quito’s wider community.

Jose

Photo credit: mashpilodge.wordpress.com

In some ways, Bromford has its similarities. Our coaching approach allows us to get closer to our communities in ways we’ve never been able to do before. Much like in the case of Jose, if you truly want to make a difference to peoples’ lives you’ve got to get to know the person first; what are their hopes, their dreams, their hurdles and their barriers.

When we recruit we’re looking for the right person, with the right skills – not just for today, but for tomorrow too. We offer a job with a good salary that has an excellent benefits package. We offer excellent in-house training with opportunities to grow and develop. It’s a two way thing; we’ll show what we can offer them – but equally we want to know what they can do for us.

Mashpi Village didn’t just happen overnight. The money helped, of course, but it took time to develop – and by that I don’t just mean physically. The natural habitat and the local community had to be considered and respected. By simply ousting Jose, for example, could’ve had catastrophic consequences. Instead, time was invested into him as a person and because of this both parties reaped the rewards.

So, whether you’re recruiting for a vacancy, coaching someone through life, or building a luxury holiday lodge in the middle of a mountain forest – make sure you take the time to invest in people.

Why, Daniel Blake?

 

why-daniel-blake-header-v3

Finally, I watched I, Daniel Blake last night.

I missed all the hysteria and controversy that surrounded Cathy Come Home 50 years ago, so I made a point of watching Ken Loach’s latest offering at my first opportunity.

I’m not going to lie to you, I sobbed. The tears rolled down as the end credits made their way up.

I reflected on the story thinking:

Why is UK housing in such a mess?

Why is our benefits system so baffling?

Why are parents having to skip food for themselves just so that they can feed their children?

Why do we see technology as the answer when being human is the human being connection?

Why, just why?

As I woke the following morning, the central heating kicked in, I flicked on the landing light and made my way down the stairs to boil the kettle and prepare breakfast. I couldn’t wait to see my daughter; to tell her that I love her and to cuddle her into next week!

Sadly, these things I sometimes take for granted are an everyday struggle for many families up and down the country.

I, Daniel Blake awakens your senses to this.

It’s a sobering realisation of the failing benefits system and the struggles within social housing.

Ken Loach, I salute you.

Please, watch this film and share its message.

A message to my younger self

shutterstock_475291216

Dear Andy (aged 24years, 5months),

 

I know you’re only a few weeks into your new job, and the archaic computer system you’re using with the black screen, green text and ‘tab’ navigation is a little cruddy; but trust me, this will get better.

 

The repairs call centre that you’re working in; you see it as just a ‘stepping stone’ to bigger and better things. But listen, today the customer service centre (as it’s now called) handles a multitude of queries – everything from rents to repairs, home moves to house shares, they’re even handling social media queries and talking to customers whilst they’re watching Bake Off on a Wednesday evening. My apologies, Bake Off doesn’t even exist yet does it, let alone Twitter and Facebook!

 

I hear your cries about the training events you keep being sent on; classroom event after classroom event. You’ll love what we have now. That earlier point about computers; those have been replaced by colour screens, they’re super-fast and can even go wireless…and all that classroom training you’ve got coming up; all that can fit into these tiny little devices no bigger than your notepad! You’ll be able to access all that resource material, all that expert knowledge and all you’re learning records in just a few clicks of a button.

 

I know you don’t have the time to spend all day talking to them, you have queues from others trying to get through. I appreciate you don’t have the website we have where customers can watch ‘how to videos’ and report repairs online, nor do you have engineers going out to do regular service checks on our homes like we do now – all of which can help reduce those large volumes of calls; but every one of our customers have their own story, they just need to be heard.

 

That’s why we’re changing the way we’re working. We believe that establishing the right kind of relationship with every customer can help them get the best from their home, our services and their communities – so we’re introducing neighbourhood coaches. They have smaller patches to work with, around 175 customers each, a far cry from the 500+ they had back then ‘eh?! This means they can get closer to those customers who most need it, dedicate more time to them and help them to do more for themselves; manage their money, their relationships, get into work or college.

 

So, think twice about looking elsewhere. That call centre (as you know it) has some exciting changes ahead. Bromford is going to evolve and create some fantastic opportunities for its customers and colleagues.

 

Be brave and stick with it. Make a difference and add a bit of you. But remember; there is no spoon. Don’t worry, that’ll all make sense when you join me here in 2016!

 

All the best, Andy.

 

from,

Andy (aged 37years, 4months)

Engagement Specialist at Bromford

 

P.S. Being a Dad is awesome!

Simple. Engaging. Fun.

Hand pulling out wodden block.

Image source: Living in Jenga Land | Irrefutable Success

Games, don’t you just love them!

I’ve not long returned from a wonderful family break in North Wales, and despite a topsy-turvy few days of weather – we made the most of our time away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

We stayed in a beautiful caravan (paid a little extra for a newer model with central heating – just as well) and the site boasted some fantastic facilities; go karting, crazy golf, arcades, Segway’s, and a large entertainment complex with live shows every evening which catered for both its younger and more mature guests. But do you know what? Despite all of these fab offerings it was the simplest things that we enjoyed most.

Pass the Pigs, Jenga, cricket on the beach – yep, all of those. What ticked the box for me was the coming together of us all; we could all get involved, all have a say, and all had a chance to release our inner-competitive egos. These games kept us gripped for hours. We all wanted to play. We all wanted to win. All 10 of us – from my daughter of 5 years old right through to my dad of 70 years young.

You see, with games as simple as these everyone can play a part.

And that’s the approach we’re taking with the learning we’re creating at Bromford. Keep it simple, keep it inclusive and keep it fun. There’s still a stigma associated with traditional e-learning that gets people twitching and wincing like they’ve just bitten into a Haribo Tangfastic for the first time. We’re going through a constant debate in L&D at the moment; do we drop the name e-learning completely or simply change its landscape? That’s for us to fight over. But whatever we choose we consciously keep to the 70:20:10 model.

Our approach is to have all colleagues’ needs and styles in mind. If a colleague prefers to go through an online course, sit within a classroom or pull up a chair next to our desks – we must be able to cater for all. Whatever their method of choice, we should always inject a sense of fun, personality and delivery of message in an easy to understand and inclusive way, irrespective of your background or prior knowledge of the subject.

There was only a few of us that had played Pass the Pigs before – but those who hadn’t soon picked it up.

Jenga is a strategic kind of game which requires silence and patience in abundance – but every single one of us wanted a piece of the action.

The game of cricket had us all on our feet and running havoc on the beach – even my parents – and was won by my 13 year old niece who, with little to no persuasion, swapped her mobile for a cricket bat and put the rest of the family to shame!

Each game was different.

Each one had a hook.

Each one got us involved.

Simple. Engaging. Fun.

If you have any thoughts on how to make learning fun and exciting, or if you’re willing to share any ideas that you or your company has implemented, please do share them below or on twitter.

Hack traditional learning, embrace digital

Hacked

Well hello there, I’m back! Truth is, I’d never really gone away but I had taken a side-step from my blog whilst I reflected on things, re-evaluated and sharpened my saw.

To mark digital learning day I originally wrote this post for our website on behalf of our learning and development team. We are taking steps to hack our education here at Bromford – something 13 year old Logan Laplante talks about brilliantly in this TEDx talk from 2013 (please spare yourself 11 minutes to watch this and be inspired by Logan’s story of why he quit traditional education to be home schooled by his mom.)

The way we deliver our learning to colleagues has gone through some changes, something not everyone reading this will be aware of. Traditionally classroom delivery was favoured but as our organisation has grown the difficulty of achieving this when you have around 1200 employees was becoming more and more apparent.

As digital and social learning grew around us we wanted to piggyback on this opportunity and have a slice of this for ourselves. And Be.Bromford was that very opportunity.

Be.Bromford is our own learning platform that’s built by, and for, our colleagues and their learning journey begins with us way before they’ve even popped on their name badge for the first time!

We give successfully recruited candidates access to our Onboarding site (which sits within Be.Bromford) up to four weeks before their start date and this allows them to see and hear, first hand, what it’s really like to work at Bromford. They will hear from colleagues and senior leaders through video and written article pages, and understand our expectations of them and what it takes to really embrace our special culture.

The Onboarding process does a really good job of speeding up the induction period but what it also does is give these new colleagues an early insight into Be.Bromford and get a feel for how it works and what the navigation feels like. When day one comes around for the colleague they’ll get full access to the rest of the site. From here-in they’ll have access to the rest of the site.

Colleagues will use Be.Bromford to submit their one to one’s and annual reviews and use the site to explore a wealth of articles on various learning topics. We have animated and traditional learning videos, games, resources, screencasts, leadership tools and a social learning community for colleagues to share and support each other with their learning queries and experiences. We’ve also introduced a fantastic new tool called getabstract which helps colleagues find, extract and digest business books’ content in less than 10 minutes.

All of this is helping us to shape and build our next big learning project: something we’re working on we’ve called Job Ready Pathways. These pathways of learning are packaged up for colleagues by job role. It allows new starters to go through all the content they need to get them job ready and prepared to deliver their role and focusses on clarity and consistency for all.

24/7

Be.Bromford is slowly changing colleagues’ behaviours and the way we deliver our learning. We recognise traditional classroom training still has a very key place but what digital learning is doing for Bromford is complimenting the experience. Colleagues can access their pre-learning through Be.Bromford 24/7, share thoughts and ideas, research content and even help write and deliver it for others.

Digital learning for Bromford isn’t about taking anything away from what we currently do it’s about creating more learning opportunities for colleagues. It’s our enabler. It’s our Google.

You can watch our Be.Bromford video by clicking or tapping here.