An eye on RHPi | Where innovation reigned supreme

23rd December 2016

2016: Where innovation reigned supreme

When I first started writing my blog in April I spoke about 2016 being RHP’s ‘year of innovation’ – an easy statement to make at the time, but something that’s much harder to turn into reality.

So did 2016 live up to its name?

Let me take you through the past twelve months and you can decide for yourself.

January: Strong Foundations

To push boundaries and achieve new and different things as an organisation there’s one crucial factor you’ll need – amazing people. We were lucky enough to kick off the year with strong foundations of a highly engaged workforce which is why I was confident that we’d be able to achieve our ambitious plans. In January we told all our employees about our goal of launching the UK’s first digital only housing service for our new customers that April. Admittedly a few of them did think we were a little bonkers to suggest we could be ready in just 12 weeks! But the special thing about our people is that they always rise to a challenge and they pulled out all the stops to make it happen.

March: A new shop window

If you’re going to launch a fully digital service you need to make sure your online services are world-class. We therefore put a lot of time and effort into developing a brand new website which majors on quick and easy self-service transactions. Customers can book a repairs appointment (choosing a two-hour slot to suit them) in just a few clicks, make payments 24/7 and contact us via web chat weekdays between 8am – 8pm. We’ve had brilliant feedback from customers about how quick and simple the website is to use (my favourite piece being from Barry, a customer who said booking a repair was as easy as tying his shoelace!) and we continue to look for ways to keep improving the user experience.

April: The first piece of RHPi

In April we made history by launching the UK’s first digital-only housing service for our new customers called RHPi. Designed to lower costs whilst also improving service, the savings it will bring will help the organisation invest £250M over the next eight years in providing new affordable homes. The idea behind RHPi is simple. People get a good quality home on a five year fixed term tenancy, are entitled to essential and emergency repairs and 24/7 access to online services. The icing on the cake is the £1,000 cash back we’ll give tenants at the end of the five years if they’re in a position to move on and have been a responsible tenant. We now have over 200 RHPi customers and we’re thrilled with the results so far: 92% of respondents to our customer survey are satisfied with our service and 94% think we’re easy to do business with. Some people thought we might be taking something away moving digital only but our satisfaction figures are actually better for RHPi customers than those who use non-digital services with us.

May: Innovation at every level

I believe that for true transformation to happen everyone in an organisation needs to feel empowered to ‘go for it’ and know that it’s ok that not everything works out. That’s why I came up with ‘4 in 4’ – our very own version of Dragon’s Den where employees can pitch an idea for a business innovation. The best bit about 4 in 4 is that it’s not just the Exec Group who decide which ideas get supported but a room full of people’s peers – everyone’s vote is equal.  We’ve had some brilliant 4 in 4 projects so far – including Sue one of our Retirement Housing Managers who’s helped develop an online system for support plans to go digital and Clayton, a Caretaker who came up with a solution for improving efficiencies around how we deal with bulk rubbish. Proof innovation is for everyone!

September: Swimming with dolphins (again)

In September we came top of Inside Housing’s innovation index for the second year in a row. We see this as a reflection of the hard work we’ve put into creating a culture where people are given freedom to try new things and aren’t afraid to fail. We’re really proud to have sustained the top spot!

October: Share, disrupt, discover

I believe more can be done to drive innovation throughout the sector– in fact I think it’s a necessity if we’re going to work together to help end the housing crisis. That’s why in October we hosted our very first ‘Art of innovation’ event where we brought together over 70 leaders and influencers from the sector to share, disrupt and discover.  We pulled together a diverse range of speakers from the likes of Facebook, Microsoft and disrupters of the travel world Mr and Mrs Smith. Useful insights also came via the Dolphin Index to reflect on how innovative a sector we are compared to others and L marks and Housemark encouraged us to ‘think like a start-up’. I left with hope after seeing the sector’s appetite for innovation first hand. There may’ve only been 70 people there but I’d say they were pretty representative of the sector as a whole.

November: Grand designs

For us innovation spans all areas of our business, including how we build our homes. One of the ways we’re aiming to combat the housing crisis is through factory homes. This year we applied to build the first in a series of developments for affordable rent without subsidy using offsite construction. We’ll be one of the first housing associations to construct homes made in a factory in Leeds established by Legal & General.

We’re aiming for build costs of £55,000 to £65,000 for the 26 sqm, one-bedroom flats compared with around £80,000 to £90,000 for a similar sized property built using traditional methods. This is our first step towards offering homes to the intermediate market – the growing number of people who don’t qualify for social housing but also can’t afford to buy or rent in the private market.

December: Under starter’s orders

Earlier this month we welcomed six start-up companies to work alongside us in our offices as part of Housemark’s Evolve programme (also run in partnership with L Marks). In true RHP style we wanted to be the first to sign-up and are excited to be one of the very first hosts. For me, this is an amazing opportunity for us to learn from a start-up model to further improve our business and offer to our customers. And what’s in it for the start-up? Well it’s a two-way deal. Whilst we hope the start-up will bring innovation into our organisation, the new companies will benefit from our business knowledge, mentoring and support.

And there you have it – our 2016 in brief.

We’ve learned loads along the way but there’s one particular thing that stands out…

Innovation is a process not a destination

For me 2016 has been about raising our game in terms of how we innovate at RHP. And although we called it the ‘year of innovation’ it’s just the start of a continually evolving process. We have big plans for 2017 and aim to work just as hard on those small evolutionary changes (the part of innovation that often gets missed) as well as the big revolutionary ideas.  You can keep up to date with everything we’re up to next year right here in my blog.

Merry Christmas!

David

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