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.

Advertisements

Tech out the future of Housing!

Future house

Technology is constantly evolving, and at a phenomenal pace. SMS messaging recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary yet it is no longer the primary form of communication through a mobile handset – not now social media has nestled its way into our everyday lives. The television set has been commercially available for almost 90 years but despite our appetite for soaps, films and live sport we are watching less on a traditional set and opting for other devices such as desktop PC’s, mobiles and tablets.

This story on the BBC tells how “Local Authorities had been required by law to provide council housing since 1919” and whilst there is still very much a demand for Social Housing – is the traditional service we once knew evolving into a service that offers more than just ‘Bricks & Mortar’? Here are some of my thoughts:

 

Social Media

Whether you prefer to tweet, like, post, pin, video or get linked in; chances are you are on Social Media and if you are it’s highly likely that people who reside in social housing are too – it’s just what people do these days. Social Media is happening, regardless of your viewpoint, but if you choose not to take part it will still continue to happen – without you! If customers are choosing to express their feelings about your business, positive or otherwise, isn’t it best to have a presence yourself and engage in that conversation? You might just learn a few things along the way too – for me personally, I find a wealth of information through my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

 

Self-service

Having the option to self-serve isn’t a new thing. Supermarkets and petrol stations have offered this facility for years and now with touch screens and smartphones in the hands of almost everyone, this drive will naturally gather more momentum over time. But will this catch on in Housing? At Bromford we firmly believe in helping our customers be as self-reliant as they can be which is why we launched our new Deal last year. But when will Housing reach the point that customers can do more for themselves digitally? Customers being able to pay their rent through a mobile device, accessing their statements, obtaining financial advice and support, booking a fuel service and diagnosing their own repairs, I’m sure these are all possible but will we ever truly go mobile with them?

 

Mobile Technology

Mobile technology continues to redefine how people and businesses are interacting with one another. According to this survey, at least 72% of mobile device owners use their devices for browsing or making purchases online. These people are online whilst they are waiting for appointments, watching TV and working yet what surprises me is that some organizations are choosing not to give mobile access to their services. However, there are some companies who are well and truly embracing what mobile technology can offer, like this fantastic project; Shared Walk (which you can read about in this post from Shirley Ayres). And mobile technology is not just for the benefit of the customer. There’s an opportunity here to introduce mobile learning and training for your employees, enhanced system integration so that users can access their desktop whilst they’re visiting customers’ homes, and at some point in the future we could see Google Glass in the workplace – now that would be something!

 

Reward Schemes

Reward schemes could be a great way to increase loyalty and incentivize engagement. Here at Bromford we trialed the government’s Tenant Cashback initiative last year, Sainsbury’s and BP have been connected with Nectar for years, Boots introduced Treat Street recently and Amazon now has Amazon Local. I think we’ve all heard of Groupon and Living Social and have a fair idea of how that works, this is what Groupon’s ‘about’ page says:

Groupon

How good would Social Housing be to offer that kind of experience to its customers in their communities?! Could this be that product that truly enriches the landlord/customer relationship?

 

3D Printing

Printing has, for a long time now, been a taboo in our offices. Many of us even carried taglines such as: “Please don’t print this e-mail unless you really need to” in our email signatures. But 3D Printing would no doubt be a welcomed addition to our work. Although we are still some way off from making this phenomenon both a timely and cost-effective tool, imagine a world of Social Housing where we are able to instantly print those boiler parts we need rather than having to wait for that 7 day turnaround from suppliers? Imagine if we could design and then print that new home your customer is longing for! What if we could print that new body part for that accident prone….OK, you get where I’m going with this!

 

Like I say, these are just a few of my observations and I’m sure many of you have some of your own. Social housing is so much more than just homes that people live in. At Bromford we’re about supporting people, inspiring, and creating opportunities. We’re about changing peoples’ lives for the better!

So where do you see the future of Housing? Where do you see technology playing a part in your workplace? Are there any technological advancement’s that you think would enhance the customer experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sow our Futures

 

This week saw my role take yet another turn as I was asked to take part in an online debate through the Guardian website discussing how housing providers can help to cut rent arrears. The approach to take part came just last week and whilst I was pleased to have been asked I must admit I was a little confused as to why they would ask me. How does Tenant Cashback appeal to this audience? Why me? It got me thinking about an earlier blog I’d written: Your presence is out there!

So, the discussion is only hours away and I’m doing some reading in preparation for the midday kick off. Lots of debate around Universal Credit and Bedroom Tax – I’m still scratching my head, a little self-critical on the value of my presence but hey, I’ll give it 100% and speak of what I know.

The introductions are laid down and the conversations under way. Questions and viewpoints come from all over with customer’s welfare rightly at the forefront. There’s talk of rent collection, Universal Credit, Direct Debits and customer eviction notices! These are some worrying but very genuine and pressing matters that are circulating within the very organisations from where we work, but there’s an underlying message behind all of this which I quote from one of the commenters on the forum:

“Education, education, education”

Something new is happening right now and something that some of us know little about or we are uncomfortable with, so we need to ensure the message is out there and we need to support our customers and our colleagues. But we must remember that with education also comes communication. I made a comment in the debate:

“If customer’s are given a voice they will speak, give them a choice they will make one, give them an opportunity they will take it.”

In the shape of society today we can ill-afford to walk around with the blinkers on, we need to open-up our senses and be more aware of what’s going on around us, whether that means to integrate our services, listen to advice from others or adapt our approaches – we simply cannot continue on a single track without accepting and embracing change. Some changes will happen regardless, with or without our influences, so it’s down to us to greenhouse our ideas for the sake of our customers and each other – we need to sow our futures.

20120809-095831.jpg

The Masterplan

I’ve been blogging for a couple of months now and felt the timing was right to give you a whirlwind tour into my life and how I’ve ended up doing what I do today.

From an early age I loved to draw, I’d always be picking up pad and pen to scribble and copy pictures of my favourite football player or character from Transformers. So I applied this enthusiasm into my education and pursued a career in Art & Design. I studied through my GCSE’s, took A-Levels, plodded through a year at Art College and then came away from University with a degree – all of which led me to a career in social housing, eventually!

When I was 21 I had to seek my own housing options and was made up to be offered my first Housing Association property. It was a comfortable 2 bedroom flat which I shared with my girlfriend and we furnished it with hand-me-downs from family. Over time we started to replace a few bits and pieces with things we were able to buy for ourselves and with help from our friends and parents we decorated throughout, adding new fixtures and fittings along the way. I wasn’t brilliant with DIY (my wife will tell you I’m still not) but we had help from others where and when they could spare us the time. I was happy, I had a girlfriend (who is now the very same wife who criticises my DIY attempts), a flat I could call my home and a university degree – although sadly I’d been unable to secure a job, hearing the constant sound of; “we love your work but we’re looking for somebody with a little more experience”.

Throughout school and university I worked in a hotel kitchen washing dishes and mopping floors. I worked in a warehouse order-picking for a major high-street supermarket and tried my hand working in a call centre for a high-street bank. I then came to learn about Bromford back in 2003 when I took up the opportunity to work in the Customer Service Centre. I’d hoped that this would give me the vital office experience that I craved to help me with those set-backs I’d had pursuing my career in Graphic Design. In honesty I saw a job with Bromford as more of a stepping stone for me, a chance to earn some valuable office experience that I could use in future job interviews – little did I know that Bromford would actually shape my career path!

As I’m about to turn into my 33rd year of youth I look back over these experiences and wonder whether all of these were in fact all part of the master plan for me. In my spare time I love listening to music and followed Oasis over the years, I share with you below some lyrics from their track ‘The Masterplan’:

“I’m not saying right is wrong

It’s up to us to make

The best of all things that come our way

And all the things that came have past

The answer’s in the looking glass

There’s four and twenty million doors

Down life’s endless corridor”

I’m not asking you to go reciting the words of Noel Gallagher but I do wonder whether my future was already mapped out for me and if in fact my longing for a career in Art & Design was just my creative bloods getting flowing for something beyond graphics and drawing. Those job application refusals; were they because I was never destined to follow that path and instead my longing for ‘office experience’ was me bedding myself into an organisation I’d grow to love? Me opening the door to my very own Social Housing home for 5 years; was this to give me a taste of what it’s about, to learn from those experiences that I would then take with me to use in my job today?

I look at my past not pondering over the things that could have been but instead to learn from the experiences. It was unbeknown to me at the time but I do now firmly believe that these were in fact my windows of opportunity, corridors of choices and doorways to success. If then my future has already been mapped out for me perhaps I’m just making decisions that are leading me to an inevitable outcome – if we are all part of a master plan, I’m making the most out of mine.