Photo of a group of people looking at blueprints for building a house

Developing a high performing executive team to drive engagement and sustainability

Roffey Park 8th July 2014
Photo of the 'RADIAN' logo

In a sector experiencing increasing social, economic, funding and regulatory pressures, Radian sought to strengthen executive team effectiveness and strategic thinking as key enablers to enhance employee engagement and business performance.

The challenge

Radian is an award-winning housing association. Employing over 1,000 staff, it provides nearly 21,000 affordable homes and delivers care and support services to over 450 people across the South East of England.

Radian strives to be different; a diverse and vibrant social business, with a strong sense of commercial reality. As a not-for-profit organisation with a turnover in excess of £100m, Radian is committed to investing in the communities it serves and creating conditions ‘where people flourish’.

To achieve this vision and, at the same time, integrate the business following a series of mergers, business leaders needed to create ‘One Radian’, to ensure people across the organisation shared a common purpose and values.

Isabelle Simon-Evans, Director of Corporate Services, explains, “To embark on our journey, we introduced a staff engagement survey and initial findings were cause for concern. Overall staff engagement was 58 percent and the survey identified perceived weaknesses around strategic direction, internal communication, confidence in leadership capability, managing change and operational delivery. Something had to change”.

Business leaders recognised that change had to begin with the executive team itself. Improving leadership would, in turn, lead to improved employee engagement and business performance. Introducing an executive development programme was therefore critical.

“Improving leadership would, in turn, lead to improved employee engagement and business performance.”

The solution

After a rigorous selection process, Radian chose Roffey Park to partner with them. “Roffey Park’s approach stood out from the crowd”, explains Simon-Evans. “Roffey Park is the leading business school for selfmanaged learning and they also use an Appreciative Inquiry approach to coaching, focusing on strengths and what we do well rather than merely plugging weaknesses”.

“In addition, Roffey Park excels in behaviourally-led facilitation. The Radian vision and strapline is to create a place ‘where people flourish’, by demonstrating our values of choice, opportunity and trust across the organisation. We specifically wanted to improve the behaviours of our executive team and staff, therefore a behaviourally-led approach resonated with us”.

“The Roffey Park philosophy is to work ‘in the moment’, on real business situations and issues to ensure successful transfer of learning. Roffey Park offered a grounded approach that was aligned to our values, needs and audience.”

Simon-Evans adds, “Although pricing wasn’t the determining factor, Radian is regulated by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and therefore needs to demonstrate ‘value for money’ and ‘social value’ in all purchasing decisions. Roffey Park felt right; the right approach, credentials and values, at the right price”.

“Roffey Park felt right; the right approach, credentials and values, at the right price.”

The approach

Roffey Park worked with Radian to design an executive development programme with two main objectives: to develop executive directors as individuals and collectively as a high-performing leadership team; and to improve strategic thinking.

The resulting executive development programme comprised a blend of elements:

  • Initial diagnostic phase, including stakeholder interviews and a tailored 360° appraisal survey, to identify areas for individual and executive team development.
  • Psychometric assessment to enhance individual self-awareness and team effectiveness.
  • Individual executive coaching to address specific areas for personal development.
  • Group coaching to change executive team dynamics and behaviours, improve situational leadership skills and enhance team collaboration and effectiveness.
  • Business coaching to enhance strategic leadership and drive the corporate plan, ensuring a focus on social purpose and customer value.

Roffey Park consulted individuals in advance of each module to tailor programme content and, as a result, the programme naturally evolved in line with business priorities.

“We specifically wanted to determine the link between leadership behaviour and employee engagement as key drivers for improving business performance”, explains Simon-Evans. “In addition, the programme focused on strategic direction and innovation, helping to inform our strategic agenda”.

Simon-Evans adds, “Roffey Park continues to deliver the main executive leadership programme, executives meeting quarterly to further enhance effectiveness and address strategic priorities. Roffey Park has also developed a bespoke senior leaders programme to cascade learning to direct reports of the executive team and they are working with us on a programme to drive cultural development and change”.

The results

The executive leadership programme delivered by Roffey Park, alongside other related business initiatives, has made a clear impact on employee engagement and business performance. Annual engagement survey findings in 2013 reveal a clear uplift in performance:

  • Overall employee engagement has increased by 22 percent to 80%
  • Confidence in the executive (senior managers) has increased by 26 percent to 66%
  • Percentage of staff that perceive the executive to be open and honest has increased by 21 percent to 58%
  • Percentage of staff that perceive the executive to be open and honest has increased by 21 percent to 58%
  • The majority of responses now outperform the industry sector benchmark for housing associations by at least 5 percent

Simon-Evans explains, “It was important that we could evaluate programme impact against clearly defined success criteria and provide a demonstrable return on investment. As a result, we’ve been able to commercially demonstrate the impact of improved leadership team performance on staff engagement and other key business performance measures”.

Improved leadership capability has had a wider impact on the business, for example, on financial performance. “In a difficult climate for housing associations, with reduced grants for social housing and decreasing benefits for residents, financial pressures have increased, yet we are financially solid”, comments Simon-Evans.

“We’ve been able to commercially demonstrate the impact of improved leadership team performance on staff engagement and other key performance measures.”

“In addition, we’ve become more commercial and entrepreneurial, finding innovative ways to address market pressures, such as filling the funding gap with corporate bonds, private sector rentals and even developing and selling houses privately to fund social housing”.

Radian’s success is recognised in the industry awards it has recently achieved, including:

  • Sunday Times British Homes Awards – Innovation Award for Building Technology: Stoneham Green, Southampton.
  • Investors in people – progressed from Standard to Gold then Champions in 2013.
  • Inside Housing Top 50 Housing Developments of the Year: Copnor Green, Portsmouth.
  • Benefits Excellence Awards – Best Voluntary Integrated Benefits Communication Strategy (Larger Organisations): My Radian rewards.
  • The Government Standard – Customer Service Excellence.
  • National Housing Awards – Best Marketing Campaign: Homes In Hants website.

Improving employee engagement was an objective of the programme from the outset and Radian’s engagement performance has seen a 22 percent increase in three years to 80 percent.

Peter Wakefield, Head of Organisational Development at Radian, explains, “We focus on staff engagement because we know it delivers business improvement. We’ve embedded engagement at the heart of our business. We’ve also created Radian Engage, a full employee engagement consultancy and coaching service, to help smaller organisations harness employee engagement to improve business performance”.