The ClwydAlyn way – Trust, Covid and Service Reform

ClwydAlyn’s mission is all around addressing poverty, through the work we do and our work with our partners. This means that we focus time and resources on supporting tenants that might be struggling with income poverty, fuel poverty or food poverty.

With the impact of Covid19 now unfolding, this mission has become even more vital. This is why we wanted to learn from how our staff and customers have adjusted to a different way of living and working over the last nine months so that we can be in the best possible position to deliver our support at a time when its needed more than ever.

Listening to customers

We are talking to our residents about which of the recent changes we should keep and what service standards and ways of working they would like to see for the future.

This is really important to ClwydAlyn because we understand that the more flexible we are, the better services we can provide.

Feedback that we have received has shown us that residents welcome more flexibility in the way they access our services – for example, some might prefer to view a home and sign up to a new tenancy on a Saturday morning, others might want to discuss their support plan online rather than in a more formal setting or be able to speak to the contact centre at 8pm.

Those of us who were office based, know (now) that we can work from home and get our jobs done, but we are missing the social interaction and creative energy we generate when we meet and come together.

Work life balance

Staff are telling us that they want a better work life balance. They have valued having more time to make the tea and keep on top of household chores by being at home more. They have also told us that helping the environment by commuting less is important to them, and that they want more flexibility around when they do their work and the chance to fit this in more around family and caring responsibilities.

However, we are also hearing staff tell us that they miss their colleagues and the  social side of being “at work”. They are missing the chance to throw ideas around and see what others think, the chance to share a problem as it arises and that some are experiencing challenges with work and home life merging into one, making it harder to switch off.

We also know that some staff cannot work at home long-term because their physical spaces or family situations make it very difficult.

The best of both worlds

We believe we can achieve the best of both at ClwydAlyn.

We have developed the concept of each team having an agreement which sets out  the work pattern for their team, and we have given teams the freedom to decide how they draft them and make this work best for them.

The only guidance from the leadership team has been that no matter how teams choose to work over what working pattern and whichever hours they choose, we need to ensure we get everything done that we need to in order to meet and exceed customer expectations (both our customer colleagues and resident customers) .

We believe that this level of flexibility means that we’ll get the most out of our teams and in doing so, achieve more for our customers.

Our vision

Our vision for the ‘head office’, is that many teams will come together for some time each week, on whatever day and at whatever time suits them, and be at home or elsewhere for the rest of “their” working week. We want to be equipped for staff to be able to work anywhere.  

Each team agreement has been shared with everyone in the company so that we all broadly understand each team’s work patterns and when/who is best to contact. The agreements have no standard template and set out how each team has decided it will work but also what co-operation they need from others to get their jobs done.

This way of working and being, requires more multiskilling and less roles with a single expert so that more people in a team can deal with an enquiry/help solve a problem.

Team agreements aren’t just for traditionally office-based staff – they can work for our trades team and homeless staff too. Giving the teams the freedom to decide for themselves we have found that we can have greater flexibilities in our homeless services and we are already seeing the benefits with staff suggesting different shift patterns which would suit their team and residents better; and being more confident to ask for a shift change or swap when personal issues arise rather than phoning in sick. Some staff are working compressed hours which allows us to extend the working day for customers (and staff save on child care); for some more weekend working is beneficial with more time off during the week; we believe there could be something in it for everyone.

Trust

In moving towards this flexible way of working, trust is key.

This means moving away from the traditional concept that time is an effective way to manage performance and moving towards measuring the value of work that is being done. We trust our teams to work in the way that suits them best and provide the freedom to enable this.

We have also adopted values-based recruitment, which is ensuring that we get the right fit between us and our people.

We believe that the “ClwydAlyn way” will make us a distinctive business – enabling us to recruit the right people, be more agile for our partners and commissioners and most importantly, to provide the best possible services for our customers to achieve our mission of beating poverty in North Wales.

Author bio

Clare Budden is the proud Chief Executive (and a board member) of ClwydAlyn, and has had a long career working for Housing Associations and Local Government, leading many service areas including Economic Growth, Regeneration, Housing Benefits and Council Tax, and Housing and Homelessness services.   She is Chair of 2025 (a movement set up to tackle avoidable health inequalities in North Wales), and was recently one of the members of the Welsh Government Homeless Action group, which developed proposals for the Housing Minister, which have been accepted, on how to end Homelessness in Wales.

She is also  a member of the Transformation Advisory Board, which works with the CEO of the NHS in Wales on plans to deliver “A Healthier Wales”. Clare is a member of the Stakeholder reference group for the North Wales Health Board, and a board member of the North Wales and Mersey Dee Business Council.  

Clare is passionate about eradicating poverty and inequality, and gets angry that the place where you live or were born still has such an impact on life outcomes. Linked to its mission to work with others to end poverty, ClwydAlyn has set ambitious goals to end evictions from its properties, and achieved an 85% reduction in year 1.  Clare is a proud Welsh woman, living close to where she grew up in North Wales. She feels lucky to have been able to live the life she has chosen, and wants to do what she can at work to make sure others can.

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