It’s great to learn, socially

Funny Monkeys - courtesy of Afranko.com

Funny Monkeys – courtesy of Afranko.com

I mentioned in my previous post how my new role has seen me move into a new team and help with the build of our brand new learning platform. Being part of the colleague development team we need to have our fingers firmly on the pulse and actively seek new ways to engage our colleagues and pull together the next great piece of content.

In this new team I have the pleasure of working alongside a wonderful colleague by the name of Jo Mason (please do me a favour and say hello to her next time your online). Jo is something of a learning and development guru here at Bromford (she’ll be pretty embarrassed when she finds out I wrote that). That said Jo is so humble and honest in her ways that she’d quickly tell you that she is always learning and striving to hear more of what others have to say.

So, a few weekends back we put that to the test. Jo and I hitched a little plan and decided to reach out to our twitter audience in the hope that the people we know could help shape some of our learning content for us.

We’d hoped that posting a few tweets would be enough to get a few responses and help shape how we pull this together, what happened next was phenomenal.

More than 30 people got involved with over 70 responses in just 1 day! We had people sharing personal thoughts, ideas, suggestions, web links and pictures. We’d really struck a chord. What’s great is that people gave up their personal time to help us out. Some replied early morning, some during lunchtime and others into the evening – oh and did I mention this was on a Sunday too?!

The point is that people are willing to share and learn from one another at whatever time suits them, at whatever pace and in a style that they feel most comfortable in using – whether that’s through type, file sharing or imagery. This is social learning working at its best – for you!

Thanks again to everyone who got involved in #stresslesstips – click on the link below to see what we produced with all of your wonderful creations.

Andy and Jo

http://www.haikudeck.com/-stress-less-top-tips-how-to-presentation-YBYSgrHBKF

If you’ve any #stresslesstips of your own, or have an idea for a piece of learning we could work on in the future, please let me know in the spaces below.

The Bromford DNA, Let It Be

This is my latest post that first appeared as a guest article over at All Things IC courtesy of Rachel Miller (thanks again Rachel). I hope you enjoy it.

*The Fab Four - can you name them?

*The Fab Four – can you name them?

I wonder how many of us could name The Beatles? My guess is that most would name the Fab 4 without breaking a sweat, right? Now, how many of us could reel off our company’s mission statement, vision and values without hesitation? Not so easy is it.

Anybody that follows me on twitter, reads my blog or knows me personally would have almost certainly heard me bang on about the company that I work with and how much I love it! Like The Beatles we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary here at Bromford and it’s been during this milestone that we’ve opted for a cleaner and more leaner approach of inspiring people to be their best.

We’ve ditched the tradition of a mission statement, a blurred vision and an exhaustive list of values. Instead we look for colleagues to work with us who share our newly launched DNA; Be Good, Be Brave, Be Different and Be Commercial, our very own awesome foursome!

Our very own 'Fab Four'

Our very own ‘Fab Four’

Just this week, 6 months since their launch, a number of leaders from across Bromford (including me) were presented with a challenge; to go and investigate our DNA and then feedback to a wider audience what we found. We were asked to visit other teams, see how colleagues are embracing ‘the Be’s’, look at how they are bringing them to life and to, well, Be Nosey!

The day arrived and we had our usual army of tweeters and yammerers (is that the right word, do we even have one yet? If not let’s invent one!), who were on hand to pledge their support and give real-time updates to those who couldn’t be in the room. We were treated to a great variety of presentations ranging from videos to Haiku Decks, a specially built website to a live recording of a podcast! The session was absolutely brilliant; not only did it showcase the wealth of talent we have across Bromford, it also gave us insight into our teams that may have only surfaced previously during lunch breaks and through team meetings.

So for me, someone who relishes a challenge and wanting to #BeBrave and #BeDifferent, I prepared my findings in a unique and inexpensive way. I presented back through our first ever Bromford comic book.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

The comic’s content is taken from video screenshots of our HR team’s away day. What really stood out for me is the fun and engaging way in which colleagues were able to represent and demonstrate the respective Be’s from their team’s viewpoint. Inspirational lyrics, poems, amateur dramatics, avatars and future gazing – this team had it all, and don’t forget they were talking about something that had just replaced all that corporate jargon we used to have!

Now, how many of you reading this can honestly say that your mission statement, vision or values truly enable your colleagues to bring them alive in this way? Will they still be circulating like the Beatles are now; 50 years since they formed? We certainly hope that our new approach will stand the test of time and who knows, we could still be talking about our DNA come our 1st century!

If you’re interested in hearing more about our DNA and the #BeNosey challenge, visit our website and keep checking back for updates as they are released.

*Credit for The Beatles image goes to artist Meredith Kresge. Prints are available to buy here.

Where is your Social Media party?

Social Media Party

I’ll make no secret of the fact that I love a good party. I’d spent much of my late-teenage and early 20 years in many a concert, or festival, or nightclub dance-floors – I’d just love the coming together of like-minded party-goers, united under various guises but with a primary intention – to have a good time. But I would always say then, and stand by it now, that some of the best times I’ve had were the parties in peoples’ houses. Why? Because I’m a social person; I like to talk to and meet new people. I like to hear a few funny stories, learn a few things and get into some healthy debates! And I believe these parties are quite possibly the best place to do just this.

Social Media is no different. I see it as the digital equivalent. According to this report around 67 million of us in the UK are active on Facebook and Twitter. We like to be social online! We like to meet, greet, chat, laugh, learn, share – it’s the make-up of our digital communities. These comparisons got me thinking about the similarity of those house parties I used to attend and the different conversations that took place. So, I’ve decided to take you through a few of the rooms:

Hello

The Front Door

You’ve just arrived to the party so it’s most likely that you’re looking your best right now. This is your first opportunity to wow people and make that lasting first impression. I see similar tones that we apply to our LinkedIn profiles. We spend a great deal of time building our online résumé because our appearance is so important (think about that professional picture you have, the reputable job title and your catchy bio) knowing that people may, and will, judge you by this. (I’m still amazed that some people don’t place a face to their name on LinkedIn). So, get yourself comfortable with those initial first steps and once you start building a rapport with a few of your new connections and the compliments (recommendations) start flying around, you’ll soon be circulating within new groups and sharing some of your great stories!

The Living Room

“I’ve got this amazing story to tell you, pull up a pew”. This is the place where people give up the time to sit down and really listen to what others have got to say, to share in a few stories and chip in with a few thoughts of their own. It reminds me of blogging. Everyone has a story to tell but not all of us choose to share to a wider audience, some of us prefer to sit back and listen while others are happy to speak up. If you like what you hear you may want to join in on the conversation, similarly you may want to voice your opinion if you don’t like what you hear, but the great thing about story-telling is the tacit license you give people to share your message with others.

Facebook

Stairway & Bathrooms

I’m on Facebook, and I like to dabble in and out of my account a couple of times a day, occasionally passing comment – but I don’t pour my heart and soul out on there! But, much like those moments at a party when someone feels the need to cry on someone’s shoulder and just ‘let it all out’, I can’t help but think about those people who feel the need to do that in Social Media – and more often that not Facebook seems the place that people choose to do just that! They share family photos (“ahh, how sweet”); tell you about their latest crush (“uhh, OK”); post pictures of their dinner (“Hmm”); what they’ve had to drink (“did you have too many?”); who annoyed them that day (“tell me more!”); what they’re wearing (“where’s that from?”); and what they’re not (“did I really need to know that!!!”); where they’re going (“I’m jealous”); where they’ve been (“ooh, me too!”); where they shouldn’t have been (”naughty!”); and what they got up too (“you did what!?!”). I do enjoy Facebook. I like to share updates of great places I’ve visited, something I’ve listened to and share the occasional picture of my family, but when people choose to share some of those personal stories with their 100’s and 1000’s of ‘friends’, I’d say to keep those to a more private space – like we do at these parties!

The Kitchen

This is predominantly my favourite room of any party, not so much for my love of food but for the fact this is where the drink is! No seriously, I do find that most parties I go to get the biggest congregation in and around the kitchen – no real idea why but they do. So it may come as no surprise that this is the room that I see most closely connected to Twitter. This is the hub of my online activity. (Today is my 1st year twitter anniversary) It’s the easiest place to flit from one person to the next, the simplest way to strike up a conversation (without the need to waffle – 140 characters to be precise) and if you stick to just 2 simple rules you’ll soon have a growing number of followers who will show a genuine interest in what you’ve got to say. Like I said earlier; I’m a social person.

Social cocktail

I think it’s fair to say that, like a good party, if you really want to embrace Social Media you need to get involved. You’ll only ever truly get out of it what you put in. So make yourself known and be true to whom you are, move around the rooms, strike up conversation and take the time to listen to others.

This week I started my new post as Learning Communities Manager in our Colleague Development Team so I’d be really interested to hear if you share in the similarities that I have. Are there any other social sites that you use? Which one is your favourite and why? And in which room do you see them at your Social Media party? I’d love to hear your thoughts – so please do leave me a comment…

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.

Let’s share facts about the Bedroom Tax

Bedroom Tax 1

In less than 3 weeks time there will be some big changes across the UK that will shake-up 1000’s upon 1000’s of people. Sadly I’m not talking about the long-awaited Glastonbury Festival line-up, nor am I talking about One Direction’s 23,000 capacity sell out gig at the O2 Arena in London. It’s of a serious matter that will see the launch of the Bedroom Tax, the first wave of changes brought about by the coalition government’s Welfare Reform.

Tickets for that One Direction gig I mention are selling for around £125 each on eBay. For somebody whose weekly rent is £100, that ticket price is equivalent to an average shortfall of under-occupying by 2 or more bedrooms, in a 5-week calendar month!

I’m no expert on these changes but I was asked recently to deliver a session on Welfare Reform as part of my Leadership journey. It was decided that we would use the time to open this up as part of a wider-discussion, to realise the impact these changes would have on our business, on our teams and most important of all; on our customers.

We could have spent forever discussing all the reasons why these changes are wrong, how sorry we feel for one another and asking the how’s and why’s. But we didn’t. Instead we had a small moment for reflection and spent a large sum of time digesting these changes, checking in with one another’s understanding and looking at the bigger picture implications of all this and what we need to do as a business, as leaders and as individuals to get us through this.

Goal posts

There is so much to absorb in all that is Welfare Reform, the goalposts are forever moving. Only yesterday Inside Housing reported of yet more amends to the Bedroom Tax which has led to planned protests being axed today. But my best guess is that yet more changes will come about as more pressure mounts on Iain Duncan Smith. This piece in the Telegraph included an online poll where over 83% of people felt that the changes were not fair.

So here at Bromford we’re doing our upmost to keep abreast of the changes; we’re forever updating our website; sharing our stories through Social Media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Yammer; and we’re continually checking in with our customers to gauge their understanding of the changes and the impacts these will have upon their lives.

And I’d like to urge you and your organisation to do the same. The changes are going to happen regardless, we can’t do a lot about that, but we must ensure that our customers and colleagues are kept well informed and supported throughout this. I heard somebody say the other day that they felt there had been more publicity about the Digital TV Switchover than there has for Welfare Reform – and I agree. But could we, as a society, be doing more to change that? With the world going more and more digital and with social media becoming further acceptable in the workplace – do we have good reason not to share in our knowledge? The power of communication is in our hands.

You can’t beat a bit of cake!

Cake

Tuesday, 22nd January 2013 – what an amazing night this was. Hundreds of senior Human Resources experts attended the 11th Annual HR Directors Business Summit at the ICC, Birmingham which included guest speakers, presentations and workshops and concluded with a prestigious award ceremony. I took my position on a cosy 3-seater sofa, had the League Cup semi-final between Bradford and Aston Villa on in the background and watched the event unfold from the comfort of my living room courtesy of Twitter!

Bromford were represented at the event by some of my colleagues (so no need for me to FaceTime in my t-shirt and jogging bottoms, thankfully!), as we were shortlisted in the Recruitment and Employee Branding category. Our campaign; #gottalovecake was up against industry giants like McDonalds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Impetus Automotive, tough competition to pitch against but as my colleague Alex Abbotts said:

Alex tweet

Why not?

I know I represent Bromford myself, so some may consider my opinion biased, but our campaign was brilliant! I’m not going to explain all about it here, I’ll leave that to Alex (who heads up our Communications Team) who does it wonderfully in this great post.

Why did it work?

It engaged. It got hold of the end-user in a way like no other campaign before. It didn’t just tell the audience what the job is and how they can apply; it told them why they will want this position with Bromford. It wasn’t all about us, it was about the individual – we just made the right noises to get the campaign out to them – and boy did we make a racket! I watched a really interesting video yesterday from a guy by the name of Simon Sinek (thanks to John & Vicky for sharing this). He talks about ‘The Golden Circle’, something that turns an idea into a social movement – which is what we did thanks to Twitter using a very quirky hashtag, some great advertising and the brains of a very creative team of people.

 Golden Circle

So, for those of you who don’t work at Bromford, who didn’t attend last night’s event or didn’t see the army of tweets that invaded social media late into the evening; I’m pleased to say that Bromford did give me that ‘punch in the air moment’ – the award was ours!

What a magnificent achievement. What a great team. What a great place to work.

Now excuse me whilst I tuck into my slice of award winning cake!

Can you see the P’s and Q’s in Social Media?

Santa on laptop

That time of year is once again upon us where we dig deep; we generate a list of ‘MUST’ buys and exhaust our bodies and our savings to celebrate the ‘BIG DAY‘. We cook for each other, drink with one another and push our bodies to belt-stretching gluttony. But, why is this?

It’s something that’s been instilled in us from an early age. The festive period is a time for giving and receiving, sharing and celebrating. It’s a time which should bring us closer together, not always physically – sometimes spiritually. We visit that certain someone, we pick up the phone, we send a card, send a gift, and through almost every single interaction there’s an underlining connection; two simple words in acknowledgement of the kind gesture that you’ve shared or received – thank you.

I’d like to think that manners is something else that’s been drummed into us all from the moment we’re able to communicate our first words. When my daughter Jessica first started to mutter words to me I would encourage her to say ‘please’ whenever she asked for something and ‘thank you’ whenever she received what she’d asked for. Admittedly those words were more like “peeeeez” and “taaaaaa” but she soon grasped the concept and now, at nearly 2 and a half, she projects her manners beautifully.

As we approach the final leg of this festive run-in I’ve started to think about our behaviours and draw on the similarities I’ve observed around Social Media. I used to enjoy the high street, especially around Christmas, but it’s become more like a contact sport. Some people enjoy the tussle, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled upon, and the ecstasy of the purchase. But it’s not for me. The ill manners, more specifically, started to get to me. The pushing and shoving, lack of door holding or non-thanks for your efforts, really started to grind on me. So I now take the easy option and work through the majority of my list online.

Don’t get me wrong I haven’t given up on the high street. I’m happy to put my hand in my pocket when visiting towns, villages and seaside resorts – there’s something really special about visiting those quaint little shops, but at this time of the year I don’t think the high street can compete with the online checkout.

FB thanks

And whilst online I also feel I have a duty of attention to our social communities. I have accounts in a number of channels. If you’re a friend of mine on my personal Facebook you’ll notice I make every effort to wish every single one of my 600+ buddies a happy birthday, every year. Some of these people I haven’t seen since I was at school but it’s something instilled into my very nature to do this. If we’re connected through my twitter you may notice the fact that almost every interaction I get is recognised with a thank you. A follow, a mention or a retweet; I appreciate all of these gestures and feel it is only right to express my gratitude. And if you leave me a comment on my blog I’ll always endeavour to leave you a response. This is me, it’s what I do.

So whilst we’re all getting into the spirit of Christmas this month lets also get into the spirit of social interactions. There’s no cost to you for expressing a little manners – just a little of your time – but think about the promotion and the praise that last person has just given you and where it could lead to. We’ll never completely eradicate the trolls and the haters in social media but isn’t it a nice thought that we could drown the noise from these ‘unwanted’ with the compliments and pleasantries we share with one another.

2012 is the first year I can say I’ve been genuinely active on Social Media and if there’s one heartfelt lesson I can take away from it all it’s this; our online social communities are all about engagement. Paul Taylor is the no.1 advocate for this in my opinion – a true digital champion (give him a follow if you don’t already). Not only does he bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and common sense to Social Media, he also brings personality, sense of humour and heaps of appreciation. It’s a great balance to his character and he has qualities we could all take something from.

So whilst Father Christmas waits in the wings to bring a bundle of presents to your communities (and I sincerely hope he does), have a think what presence you can bring within your digital communities. You have a wonderful opportunity to present yourself and your organisation within Social Media, to be an ambassador in your own digital realm, so make the experience a pleasant and social one for each and everyone.

Have a safe and a happy holiday and I’ll see you in 2013!

Andy