Novus Blog

How Eagle-eyed Contractors Can Help Landlords

HOW EAGLE-EYED CONTRACTORS CAN HELP LANDLORDS

  13 JULY, 2018      CSR , INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
Kevin Rhone, head of social value at Novus, explains why housing associations can glean new insights from contractors working in their communities and use them for more than completing building works. The social housing sector faces unending challenges. Not only are they tasked with regenerating communities, pressured to provide high quality homes and services, and challenged to increase their build rates, they’re also looked to as a key stakeholder in ensuring the safety and security of people in their communities. Having eyes and ears on the ground in these communities to make sure customers are safe and well is a bank-breaking investment, however. This is particularly true of national organisations borne of the spate of M&A activity in recent years. Monitoring communities more deeply than they’re obligated to do is almost impossible over their geographic footprints. Particularly since, for these organisations, huge amounts of capital have to be spent solely on maintaining stock. However, many RPs are missing an opportunity. They’re not using contractors’ insights, yet these businesses can offer a wealth of understanding about local communities. Construction and Maintenance Teams’ Positive Impact Of course, customer care officers can’t be everywhere at once. Construction and maintenance teams interact with housing associations’ customers every day. They see it all first hand and can be friendly faces on estates while also helping associations to identify solutions to regular issues. Many on-site professionals are keen to engage. They aren’t simply there to fix and repair homes, they build relationships with communities and in some cases, can be vulnerable people’s most frequent visitor while they’re around. They will regularly help elderly residents with their shopping and can be the first to discover if they’ve had an injury. Housing associations can also ask these teams to be vigilant for signs of violence and abuse and can ask them to keep their eyes open in areas where there are suspicions of drug use. While, yes, any responsible person would report illegal activity, contractors can help further by identifying trends too – how or why certain issues may be cropping up frequently. Using them in this way can help housing associations think up new ideas of how they might be better addressed. CSR Programmes It’s not just about pointing out the problems too. Many contractors have CSR programmes and housing associations could also use these to proactively address challenges in their communities. We run a national CSR programme called Changing Lives. So far, we’ve changed over 33,000 lives since 2015 through community projects that provide work opportunities or skills development or regenerate certain areas to help improve aspirations. One of our projects in the last year saw us work with a national housing association to provide temporary accommodation for homeless young families in Sheffield, for example. Advice for Landlords Landlords can do this by opening the channels of communication. Contractors and their on-site teams can provide regular updates or join team meetings to discuss issues on estates. They can also work in conjunction with customer care teams during their day-to-day work too, offering opinions, advice and useful context before officers contact residents. Contractors are a resource often under-used in this respect. However, landlords could not only get a better understanding of the real issues in their estates, but get the insight needed to help them solve them, by involving the people who are in their communities every day.
A day in the life of Michelle, our Helpdesk supervisor

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MICHELLE, OUR HELPDESK SUPERVISOR

  05 JUNE, 2018      INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
It’s a bright mid-May morning at Novus Scotland’s Bathgate office and Michelle has just come back on shift.   Michelle and her team of eight coordinate the responsive repairs of about 15,000 properties across Scotland, scheduling some fifty maintenance operatives to fix a whole range of resident-reported problems ranging from blocked toilets to broken garden fences. Michelle first checks the e-mail from the afterhours Helpdesk to see how her last job of the previous evening has progressed. Michelle is proud that Novus provide a 24-hour continuous service to help the residents with their most pressing maintenance issues, but sees that this plumbing job has not yet been fixed due to some sensitive safety considerations preventing Neil - the maintenance operative - from visiting the property alone.   After fully understating these concerns, Michelle contacted her Housing Association customer and arranged for Neil to be accompanied on his visit. Using the Impact Response workforce management system on-line job scheduling system, Michelle arranges for Neil to meet his Housing Association “chaperone” at 10:00am so the job could be completed. All the information he needs is automatically routed to Neil’s handheld Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) allowing him to see all necessary job details then record his arrival time at site, hours on task and capture the resident’s satisfaction with the finished job. Satisfied that the job had now been scheduled, Michelle returned to the other outstanding jobs across Scotland.  By querying the Impact Response system, she determined that twenty eight new jobs had been entered into the system - either by residents calling in, or directly by the Housing Association customers.  Michelle sorted these jobs by region and distributed them to her team for scheduling.   Michelle then got down to allocating the open jobs in her region to maintenance operatives.  She drew on her knowledge of the local area including traffic conditions during the day and of which types of repair an operative is qualified to handle.  This also involves optimising the route between jobs to ensure that each operative is busy but can make each appointment in the scheduled time window.  Michelle allocates operatives by postcode and has several printed maps of her coverage area to make this possible.   As Michelle grabs an early coffee she reflects on her morning so far.  She is delighted to have got the sensitive plumbing job underway and pleased that all the reactive repair works are being scheduled by her team.  Michelle knows how critical her team is to maintaining the resident’s quality of life, whilst ensuring that the Novus team are used to best effect to fulfil the contractual commitments.
What the new Non-Exec Director brings to the business

WHAT THE NEW NON-EXEC DIRECTOR BRINGS TO THE BUSINESS

  30 MAY, 2018      COMPANY UPDATES , INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
John Palfreyman shares his thoughts on becoming the newly appointed Non-exec Director for Novus. Novus is privately owned by John Seddon’s family. The family have been in business for over 120 years and have a very clear view of why they are in business together. Following my appointment as Non-Executive Director at Novus Property Solutions, I recently had the pleasure of attending a “Non-Executive Directors (NED) in a Family Business” masterclass, run by the Institute of Family Businesses in association with the Financial Times. This inspirational one-day session was delivered by practitioners with a wealth of first-hand family business experience.  The delegates were either engaged as NEDs, or seeking to appoint a NED into a family business leading to fascinating discussions in the breaks and breakout sessions. These are my ten key “take-aways” from this session: 1. Clarity of role - for the NED to be successful, it is essential that there is total clarity of what is expected from them.  This needs to be shared with the board members - and (obviously) the NED - then periodically reviewed. 2. Champion of family culture - family businesses have a culture so clear “that you can taste it” (quote from one of the keynote speakers).  For example, Novus’ family values are documented here.  It’s essential that the NED understands, buys into and then champions the family values in all interactions with the business.  The NED must also speak up in the event that family culture and business goals misalign. 3. Balanced attributes - a NED is usually recruited to fill specific knowledge gaps at Board Level.  But the NED’s personal chemistry with family members and the Chief Executive Officer are equally as important and an essential pre-requisite for success.  The interpersonal aspects need to be nurtured through regular, informal interactions with the Board and family members. 4. Comprehensive on-boarding - the NED’s time to value is directly attributable to the quality and thoroughness of the on boarding process.  Gone are the days when an hour with the Company Secretary walking through the last Board pack will suffice.  The new NED must take time to get to know the Board, family members and Chief Executive Officer and their on boarding should include visits to selected remote office locations to understand how the company operates. 5. Complete objectivity - the NED must be totally objective (and be seen to be so) in their advice to the Board and Chief Executive Officer, and avoid forming closer ties with specific Board members.  The NED must also avoid getting involved in family or Board “politics” and forming “power axes” with other NEDs or Board members. 6. Mentoring - the NED is ideally placed to mentor selected Board and executive team members, including the ‘next generation’ family members. 7. External context - the NED brings external context into the family business, mitigating the risks arising from “it’s always been done like this” philosophy. 8. Successor planning - because of their objectivity and external context they bring, the NED is also ideally positioned to help with successor planning, to ensure that opportunities for key staff are achieved and the “flight risk” for key position holders is mitigated. 9. Challenging, but ego-free - the NED should (and must) challenge the Chief Executive Officer and family members where appropriate, but must do this in a sensitive, ego free manner avoiding confrontation and from a position of objectivity. 10. Sounding board - the NED must be available to the Chief Executive Officer and family members for brainstorming, idea validation and so on.  Again, the NED will offer impartial, objective advice in these interactions acting as a “critical friend” to the business. I am very excited to be able to fulfil the position of the Non-Executive Director for Novus after working in the information technology industry for 40 years, most recently with IBM at director level. Novus has a history of innovation which has seen it embrace change and adapt to meet new challenges. It’s an exciting time to join the business as it looks to improve efficiencies through digitisation and leverage information for strategic advantage. I will be working with Novus’ Board of Directors to integrate information-led innovations into project delivery and business management.  
Working at Novus - Neil Hand

WORKING AT NOVUS - NEIL HAND

  30 MAY, 2018      COMPANY UPDATES
Like many of our long-standing employees, our CEO Neil Hand chose to invest his career in Novus. Below Neil discusses the reasons behind his long service and his favourite aspects of Novus. What is the greatest thing about working in Novus? The ambition, commitment and drive of people to make a difference and ‘Get it Right’. What has been your greatest achievement? Seeing my apprenticeship out. I was not the best apprentice, I didn’t like getting dirty! What has been your most challenging moment? I cannot say that one moment sticks out, I have had many challenging situations through my career to date.  I always try to deal with challenges head on and see them as an opportunity to learn, develop and change for the good. What is your most memorable story? I was about 17 or 18 and an apprentice travelling in the back of a transit van to Telford every day, the journey took about an hour.  In those days vans had 2 fixed front seats and bench seats made from wooden planks either side in the back. This particular day the foreman (Jack) had picked up a piece of plate glass, laid it on the floor of the van, and covered it with a dust sheet.  It was about 6 ft x 4ft so took up the whole floor. As we got into the back of the van Jack told us that the glass was on the floor and to be careful not to stand on it.  As usual, I lay down on the bench seat and slept on the journey to work and as usual when we arrived on-site Jack would bang on the inside of the van to wake us up. I had been out late the night before and took a little while to wake up, as I sat up everyone else was out of the van and as I stood up there was a loud crack and the glass shattered, it was then that I remembered that the glass was on the floor.  I had to go and tell Jack that I had broken the glass, he gave me the most almighty telling off which sticks with me to this day. What are you looking forward to in the future? Leading Novus through this phase of development and transformation.  Also trying to play a little more golf and visit a few more places.
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Contact Christopher Olley at Citypress
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Email: novus@citypress.co.uk
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