North Star Housing Group - Stronger Together through Shared Leadership

The Bupa Wellbeing at Work Award, Winner (Small Company), 2016

North Star Housing Group dramatically increased employee wellbeing, engagement and business surplus by introducing new ways of working and giving staff a greater say in how the company is run.

What the judges said

  • This entry embodied a courageous approach to re-structuring the organisation in a fundamental way, where wellbeing was positioned as key to developing strong trust, engagement and performance in every aspect of their work.
  • The engaging personal stories of the human impact of the programme are compelling, and evidenced how they are improving the mental wellbeing of both their people and their clients.
  • This initiative has strong metrics based on the KPIs achieved, including significant reductions in sickness absence, and the inspiring impact made by reinvesting direct savings made into the community they serve.

Good for society and for business

  • Through improved employee engagement North Star Housing Group increased their business surplus by 83% and used it to invest an extra £500k into their communities over two years.
  • Over 30% of the company's staff have contributed to the community through new volunteering opportunities.
  • North Star Housing Group have increased staff engagement levels to around 90%, resulting in innovation and new efficiencies.
  • Absence rates have also dropped from 4.85% to 1.5% and associated costs have fallen by £70,000 over four years.

North Star Housing Group logo

Overview

In 2011 North Star Housing Group (NSHG) undertook a Wellbeing survey that showed low employee engagement levels, high staff turnover, increasing levels of absenteeism and stress accounting for 30% of absence (which rose to 38% in 2012).

NSHG made the link between employee wellbeing, engagement and how the organisation was run. It became clear that staff needed to feel more involved with running the company. NSHG developed the Stronger Together through Shared Leadership (STTSL) development and inclusion programme to equip staff with the skills to manage and influence change, to develop leaders across the organisation, and involve more people in decision making. Now a question regularly asked of staff is, “If you were CEO for the day what would you change?”

Peformance of the initative is closely monitored, to ensure it is delivering, and that it is underpinned by strong engagement mechanisms. The Stronger Together staff champions group leads on all social events and the staff magazine, and works with teams across the business. It has significant authority, a budget, and direct contact with senior managers. New ways of working have been introduced and over 30% of the company are taking part in new employee volunteering opportunities.

Since the start of the STTSL programme staff engagement levels have risen to around 90% and absence rates have dropped from 12.22% to 3.42%. Associated costs of absence have fallen by £70,000 over four years.

Understanding the problem

When NSHG became aware of rising levels of sickness and work related stress among its staff, the company took steps to understand the situation. 

It engaged an external consultant who surveyed 81% of staff. The consultant's research showed that if employees were more engaged and felt more involved with the running of the organisation it would improve their wellbeing. NSHG used these findings as the starting point for the SSTSL programme. 

Through the programme the company has introduced more flexible working options, new management tools, peer and self-assessments, training and staff development, with the aim of building trust, autonomy, and authority at every level of the business.

Involving everyone 

The company recognised that all employees would benefit from the programme, and that it was important that everyone felt part of the process. For these reasons the STTSL programme encompasses all NSHG staff, including CEO and Directors, and is included in inductions for all new staff.

The company invests around 1% of its income in  training and development, allowing it to reduce their reliance on external consultancy. This has saved approximately £60k over the lifetime of the programme. 

Encouraging engagement

Employees are encouraged to influence the company's approach and culture through internal communications including posters and magazines, social media and email, and the company intranet. Regular team meetings and supervisions help the company to share successes, identify problems early, and celebrate progress. 

North Star Housing Group believes that empowering its team has resulted in an innovative and collaborative approach to business challenges which is ultimately making the business stronger.

What the Chair of the Judging panel said:

“North Star Housing Group presented a brave and aspirational approach to health and wellbeing by anchoring the topic at the heart of their business strategy. By making wellbeing a priority in everything they do, the culture shift in the organisation significantly reduced absence levels and boosted people engagement. Equally important, it had a positive social impact externally by reinvesting direct savings they made into the communities they serve.” - Beth Robotham,  Head of Business Development, Bupa
 

What North Star Housing Group's CEO said:

“The cultural change programme that supports STTSL is one of the most challenging processes I have ever been involved in, as the change starts at the most senior level, and it’s essential that the CEO leads the way. If you want to truly be a workplace of tomorrow, believe that current organisational models are limited, you care about the health and wellbeing of people in a fast changing environment and traditional methods are simply not delivering, then this is the way forward. The outcomes and successes speak for themselves.” - Angela Lockwood, CEO North Star Housing Group.