Housing leaders to harness accountability to drive future

Sarah Stevenson | 26 June 2024

The social housing industry presents a unique set of challenges for its leaders, particularly given the role they play in people’s lives – four million households live in social housing in England. Furthermore, in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy and amid growing concerns around the  safety of homes in recent years, along with the cost-of-living crisis impacting many families, leaders find themselves under growing scrutiny in a time when conflicting priorities mean they must do a whole lot more, with less. With sector leaders holding their hands up in the face of some very public failings, it is no wonder that the sector struggles to stand up for itself collectively.


As the great and good of the industry gather for Housing 2024, Sarah Stevenson, Director and Social Housing Lead at NSCG, suggests one  key to a more positive future is for leaders to instil and facilitate accountability within their organisations.

We can all agree that there’s no shortage of challenges for social housing leaders – compounded by the fact that, in many cases, the root cause can feel like it lies beyond the c-suite’s control and influence. However, there is plenty that leaders can do to effect real change within their own organisations and across the sector. It goes far beyond the leadership team, but it is over to leaders to take charge and ensure there is a culture of ownership in their organisations.

A leader is ultimately responsible for a team’s results. If leaders fail to address performance, it can lead to lower quality and weak organisational culture and importantly, poor outcomes for customers There are a range of reasons that prevent employees taking full responsibility. Whether that’s for customer complaints or delivery of service improvements, a number of things can get in the way of end-to-end follow through. From poor organisational design resulting silos and grey areas which elude team accountability , or a lack of customer centric design, or perhaps down to low employee engagement, which means that staff are less likely to exhibit discretionary effort and go the extra mile which is sometimes needed in an environment where time and resources are stretched.

Vision and purpose  has a powerful impact and is sometimes the only guiding light that encourages employees to keep going, when the chips are down. It should be used to best effect not only within their own organisation, but for the industry as a whole. There’s some positive collaboration and lobbying through membership bodies, such as the CIH and NHF, and at events like Housing 2024 to create a brighter future. Whilst there is no doubt that leaders need to shoulder the blame for some of the systematic sector failings, that is a small part of the story, as we know. The sector is in need of a confidence boost after the very public spotlight from Government on improving standards and delivery.

Creating a culture of accountability is necessary for progress and transforming organisations. Engagement and performance will be boosted when there is a sense of mutual responsibility at every level in the team. A culture of accountability also brings the benefit of garnering more positive professional satisfaction ratings, having improved the overall work environment.

Leading a social housing organisation is a demanding yet hugely rewarding role. However, with a focus on improving accountability, leaders have the chance to engender a greater employee connection with organisation purpose, which in turn will encourage that golden discretionary effort. Having a workforce that is not constricted by poor morale, silos or perceived job boundaries are more likely to deliver positive change within their organisations. In turn, this will create an industry with the confidence to take a fresh approach to its many challenges and a collective voice to stand up for itself.

To discuss this in more detail or hear about how we can support leaders in the housing sector, contact Sarah Stevenson.

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