Thursday, 18 February 2016

Goodbye Housing, Hello Further Education (again)


So next week I finally leave my current job and, on 29 February, take up the role of HR Director at Trafford College. It's been a long, long exit and in this blog I'm going to take the opportunity to summarise my feelings at leaving the housing sector after 12 years and starting again in the Further Education sector.

I do feel sad to be leaving the housing sector in general. After 12 years in one sector, it gets into your blood in a way. I feel I've been able to make some great contributions to housing, at GGHT mainly but also working with and for organisations like CIH, HDN and the NHF.

It's not a total goodbye as I hope to carry on some of my work with the CIH in particular, working with their Education teams to help to train a new generation of housing professionals. But that's not a substantial time demand and more often than not is remote working, so my main day to day contact with housing professionals and housing organisations will certainly cease.

It has been a very long exit since it was agreed back in August I would leave my current role early in 2016.  I didn't think this would mean leaving housing per se, so that's the bit that has taken me by surprise, but that's what happens sometimes and I've got a good place to go to.

I often compare working relationships to personal relationships, and I will blog in more detail about the parallels between employee engagement and falling out of love with someone. But I don't think I have fallen out of love with the sector itself.

Housing is facing many issues which I wanted to be part of tackling, however I’m not sure how I can now.  The summer budget last year had a devastating impact, financially, across the sector – its resulted in many organisations facing severe financial difficulties and challenges, and many having to let talented staff go (often out of the sector entirely).  The new mergers code is a contentious topic but one which will increasingly become a reality facing many housing organisations, and as conglomerations of housing organisations develop and the sector thins out, there will be significant challenges faced at Board and Executive level to maintain strong and effective governance and leadership, especially with the scrutiny they now face through the In Depth Assessment process from the regulator.  And the issues raised by the Homes for Britain campaign haven’t gone away, even if the government has a different solution in mind – the country has a gap between the supply of and demand for social housing.  And I’ve only listed a handful of big issues here, there are lots more.

These are all issues that I’d been looking forward to helping to tackle, and each has its own implications for HR, leadership and employee engagement.

In my time working in housing I’ve helped to tackle lots of similar issues.  I’ve played a leading role in Stock Transfers, housing inspections, restructures, changes to terms and conditions, head office moves, and group structures – and probably more besides.  There’s always been something happening – and to be honest that’s why I’ve so enjoyed working in housing, and why I’ll miss it.  The people are so friendly, so committed and so enthusiastic – the organisations are, for the most part, welcoming, flexible, sociable and productive places to be.

I thought I’d stay in housing for just 3 years, in line with my career plan as it was all those years ago.  And here I am leaving after 12 years, having had a great time for 90% of the intervening time and, up until last year, not ever imagining working in a different sector again.

So Goodbye, Housing.  Thanks for everything.

And hello again to Further Education.

I say hello again because I worked, full time, in the FE sector from 2001-2004 and part time (one evening a week) from 2004 – 2010, so I go back a long way with the sector, but this will be my first time back full time in the sector for 12 years and my first time in the sector in a senior HR role.  But I enjoyed working in FE previously and will do again.
I’m looking forward to it.  I know I’m going to a great place, and will be working with a great and talented team.  Many of the things that attracted me to working in housing appear to be present in my new organisation in terms of its culture and people.

Now, FE has its own range of issues and challenges, some of which I’m only just beginning to learn about but which are already racing around my mind as I think about the implications for me in an HRD role.  FE is currently subject to a round of Area Reviews, and funding changes, as the government decides what role the sector needs to play in tackling the skills challenges that the UK faces, and how FE needs to be organised at a local level.  FE has challenges in attracting a high number of talented individuals to work there, and in developing a culture of strong leadership and performance.  Within the Greater Manchester area, there is obviously the impending arrival of DevoManc and all the changes that will bring.

So I’m clear that I’m leaping out of the frying pan and very much into the fire.

I can see how I can get involved in tackling these issues and I’m very much looking forward to doing so.

The next few years promise to be very interesting for FE, and for me.

I’m ready…I think.

I’ll keep you posted how I get on.

Till next time…

Gary

PS in other news, wedding planning getting serious now – menu choices made, colour schemes being chosen, wedding dress shopping taking place (minus me obviously)!