Everything Social Housing

Newport City Homes: building a workforce that truly reflects their community.

The name Newport City Homes is synonymous with first-class employer branding. They're the crème de la crème of the housing sector, so we were really pleased they were keen to chat about what they’ve done to create such an impactful brand, how their values tie into it and what they’re doing to break through the stigmas that come along with *certain* industry roles.

We were chuffed to get some time in with Jenny Rawle, Talent Acquisition Partner at Newport City Homes. As a bit of newbie at #TeamNewport, it was really interesting to speak to Jenny about her first impressions, and how she felt Newport City Homes represented the communities that they support.

Jenny, thanks so much for having a chat with us today. We know you’re pretty new to Newport City Homes (congrats!)... We wanted to start off by asking you what has impressed you the most about the NCH brand so far?

"Thank you! I really love their focus on values. It’s something that they’ve worked on quite recently, and as such, their values have changed to truly reflect their brand.

Their values all centre around trust, inclusion and collaboration. But they aren’t just empty words, they actually live out those values. For example, they involve customers - their community - in so many decisions, including the actual process of realigning their values.

Plus, and this is especially relevant for my work, we write specific questions for the interview process that highlight our values. For us, it’s as much about finding someone with the right skill set as it is about making sure someone fits in with the team. They need to share our values, otherwise, we can’t expect them to embody them. It’s a really important part of planning out that interview process, as we need to ensure that we find the best person all round, not just someone who can tick the experience boxes".

We love that; we find that it’s an often overlooked part of the recruitment process but such an important one. Speaking of the recruitment process, we know that you put a lot of attention into what comes ‘after’ the interview. Could you tell us more about that?


"Follow-ups are a big thing for us at Newport City Homes. We want people to know that the door isn’t closed just because they’ve been offered a job; our support goes far beyond that, and we know how impactful that ongoing communication can be.

We see it as a check-in period. Typically we will touch base with them fairly soon after the interview to see how they found the entire process and if they have any feedback. We then will touch base again towards their three month probation period, and then a few months later. Essentially, we want to look out for any issues and let them know that we’re still there to help them if they need it. We tend to do this through the hiring manager, and then we will also share with the client any feedback around three to four months down the line.

We’re all about building relationships for the long term - it’s what we do really well and a status that we want to keep".

What about before the candidate starts their new role? We believe that Newport City Homes recently made a change to their pre-job offering?

"We did indeed! We now make sure that a Hiring Manager meets all candidates before their actual start date. This means that there can be a proper handover process and that they aren’t thrown in at the deep end from day one.

If and when people can work from the office, this would include an office tour and meeting other team members. Even something as simple as knowing where the tea and coffee is kept, or what the parking situation is, can make a huge difference to someone’s nerves on their first day."


You’ve got to know where the tea and biscuits are! Not to get negative, but we wanted to ask you about any challenges that you have either seen or can picture happening, around attracting talent?

"Well, COVID has obviously had a huge impact on talent attraction. We always want to make sure Newport City Homes reflects the Newport community. There are so many amazingly talented and passionate people right on our doorstep, and so we try to employ people from our actual community.

One way that we used to kickstart this process was by visiting schools and colleges. We’d go in - usually with an employment advisor - and talk to students about different types of roles. And it worked so well. The students would get really excited, and it meant we could deliberately highlight (and challenge!) stereotypes. For example, women in trades - we now have two females in our trades team as apprentices. This is something that we are very keen to push, but where we cannot currently visit the students in person, it’s far trickier.

Also, digital interviews just don’t work for everyone. People may not have the technology, or they may find the process more difficult… And we don’t want that to be a barrier to them applying for a role. It’s difficult and something we’ve really had to adapt to".


That’s interesting that you mentioned your focus on women in trades because something we’ve noticed is how diverse your workforce is. Why do you think that diversifying the workforce is so important?


"Because Newport is so diverse! Like I said before, we want our workforce to reflect the community that we serve, and so we absolutely need to be diverse. This is a city bursting with different cultures and ethnicities, and we need to have a clear, appropriate and meaningful understanding of all members of our community.

For example, our staff will regularly visit people in their home. Some people are unable to have a man in the house, and in a male-heavy industry we need to be aware of that. It’s all about looking at what our customers want (and don’t want!) and adhering to that.

It sounds like listening to your community really is at the heart of everything you do. How do your future branding and outreach ideas tie in with this?

Last year there was a really great marketing campaign in the lead up to International Women’s Day where railway operators encouraged more women to apply for jobs in rail, particularly as train drivers. The campaign was so interesting and thoughtfully done, and this is something that we would love to explore for ourselves this year.

We also want to use our branding and marketing campaigns to address the unemployment issues in Newport. So, it’s looking at how we get our opportunities out there. Not everyone will see our vacancies advertised online, so we use the time when we’re out in the community to talk about them and tap into any engagement opportunities possible. It’s a tight-knit community, and our staff build strong relationships with our tenants. If a job comes up that a member of the team knows is perfectly suited to Jean down the road, then he’ll tell her.

Essentially, everything we do is about opening doors and ideas for people. We want to cover all the bases and make sure that our means of communication never alienates anyone. The more people we can connect with on a regular basis, the better.


Yes - we are so on board with that. Now as you’re new to the Newport City Homes family, we couldn’t resist asking if you’ve got any ideas bubbling away for the organisation?

Honestly, just expanding on what’s already been done! I want to make sure that our values are always followed, no matter what, and that we continue being 100% clear and transparent with our vacancies. Favouritism isn’t a word that exists here, and this needs to be evident to everyone in our community.

I’ve actually been using myself as a bit of a guinea pig, reflecting on my own process as a ‘new starter’ and how we could make that even better. So, watch this space - I’ll report back on that one!

Summary

We know that nailing your employer branding in the housing sector is an epic way to lead the pack - when you say goodbye to the painting by numbers approach, you can really start to differentiate yourself in a crowded market. But, how many people actually live by their brand and practice its values on a daily basis?

Clearly, Newport City Homes do. The thing that stood out the most to us is how much their brand values underpin everything they do - from the recruitment process right on through to developing future ideas and processes. And it works. This is why Newport City Homes holds such a positive and powerful reputation in the Newport community.

We’re so grateful to Jenny for taking the time to talk to us. As a housing recruitment agency, we love to learn from other organisations and it’s pretty inspiring to hear firsthand what goes into that level of success.

We’ll be showcasing more impactful brands in the coming months, so keep an eye out for them. In the meantime, why not head over to our Employer Branding for the Housing Sector blog to pick up a few nifty ideas for yourself?