Our perspective on housing recruitment

We interviewed our MD, Andrew James, to discuss our housing recruitment capabilities. Read the full interview to find out how we can help your recruitment process.

How has PageGroup grown their footprint in the housing sector over the last six months?

One of the major projects we have been working on within PageGroup has been our vertical housing sector recruitment which unites all divisions of PageGroup under one united roof. Housing is one of the most successful sectors we have within PageGroup and creating a housing specific model that will meet on a regular basis to discuss market changes, market challenges, client and candidate feedback, conference sponsorship and account management will help improve our client and candidate experience. We have over 100 consultants, managers and directors working with housing specific clients on a day-by-day basis and driving a more co-ordinated approach will ensure a much more consistent service across the UK.
We have also created a housing specific LinkedIn group, which we hope to significantly grow over the next 12 months. This will be used to discuss specific housing subjects, ask and answer questions related to housing recruitment or used as a discussion board for sharing best practice.

What do you see as the main challenges within the housing sector over the next 12 months?

Across the board there has been a constant message from our clients that they need to improve efficiencies despite the financial crisis. This has been driven by constrained public spending, decline in homeownership, the welfare reform, public funding cuts, planning reform and localism. There has also been a drive to improve the ‘tenant and landlord relationship’ by measuring customer satisfaction; however, there does appear to be a lack of internal resource to provide the services that the market demands.
The Welfare Reform appears to be the biggest policy change in decades and the Spare Room Subsidy (Bedroom Tax), the Benefit Cap and Universal Credit have brought a huge amount of attention to the sector. Undoubtedly, there are fears around a rise in rent arrears and the need for emergency financial assistance. In some areas, the influx of people seeking help has been so great councils are hiring extra staff to cope with applications and advise tenants. In Birmingham, which saw the number of DHP claimants jump from 496 in April last year to 2,601 last month, the city council reported that many of those hit by the welfare reforms were turning to “last-resort services” such as food banks (cf. Independent).
The complexities around the ECO/Green Deal with regards to funding, scheme processes and the policies underpinning it. The government will also need to share the data to allow businesses to target certain Housing Associations with specific requirements and ensure this is marketed well externally to increase public uptake.
There has been an obvious decrease in the number of sizeable repairs and maintenance contractors leaving half a dozen after Morrison was acquired by Mears. The next 12 months will be an interesting period to see how some of the competitively priced bids play through and the expectations from the housing associations in terms of quality of service vs. price.
Six of the top 10 housing associations (by units) now have a DLO in place to increase in-house delivery capability and provide cost savings, customer/tenant satisfaction and control. While this could be seen as cyclical, the results over the next 12 months are definitely worth monitoring.
Inside Housing’s annual ranking of the top 50 developing housing associations reveals that even those delivering the most new homes across England completed just 25,634 homes in the last financial year. This is down by a startling 25% on this time last year. The impact of private sector renting, joint ventures between public and private sector and developing public sector land is clearly having a marled effect.

Are there any exciting emerging developments you have seen in the housing sector in the last six months?

It will be exciting to see the development in alternative local authority housing management models with some councils retaking control, ALMOs going back in-house and others opting for transformational contracts where both housing management and repairs contracts are either let at the same time (i.e. Hammersmith and Fulham) or combined (i.e. Woking).
The Empty Homes Funding programme will bring 6000 empty homes and commercial premises in England back into use thanks to £91m of government funds. The government has unveiled its plans for ‘the biggest public housing programme for over 20 years’ by offering £3bn to deliver 165,000 new affordable homes from 2015. The deal has been made possible by £3.5bn government guarantees scheme.
£3.8bn is being made available to reduce dependency on acute hospital care among older and disabled people. Home, Family Mosaic and One Housing Group are at the vanguard of social landlords hoping to work with clinical commissioning groups to deliver care before and after hospital admissions to cut NHS costs.

What type of candidates are still in high demand and why?

  • Housing/tenant focused individuals within housing associations
  • Top quartile financially astute commercial managers and directors in both housing associations and in housing contractors
  • Strong bid managers within housing contractors
  • A strong developmental background in both housing associations and housing contractors.
  • Operations managers (for DLOs) with commercial acumen
  • Energy specialists for ECO/Green Deal

How is PageGroup continuing to deliver top quartile candidates to our clients?

By increasing the number of consultants, managers and directors we have within PageGroup specifically focused on housing as a sector, we will naturally increase our footprint and network UK wide. Our communication internally will improve, thus ensuring a better candidate and client experience across the board. We still attract the highest calibre candidates through repeat business and candidate referrals and many of the candidates we look after are exclusively registered as they wish to keep their job search passive, confidential and controlled.
We have been recruiting into the housing sector for decades and in this time we have naturally built up a number of trusted long-standing relationships with candidates who return to us time after time for new opportunities.
Outside of the PageGroup websites we have invested in a number of external job boards specific to housing candidates, e.g. Inside Housing.

What are potential candidates looking for in their new employers?

Candidates more than ever before are now valuing their benefits package alongside their basic salary… after all the economy is still tight and basic salaries remain competitive. There is still a demand for car allowances, bonuses, private healthcare and a competitive pension. However, other benefits that don’t attract a monetary value are also key; flexi-time, home working, holiday allowance, childcare schemes, mentoring, management training and development, paid memberships and sponsorship for further education courses.

Is there a demand for temporary/interim candidates within the housing sector?

Yes definitely more than ever. The economy remains challenging and within housing associations getting headcount signed off is difficult. In addition to this, recruitment processes are taking longer as hiring managers remain cautious. We have therefore seen a significant increase in demand for candidates who are able to cover permanent recruitment processes or notice periods for between three and six months. In addition to this, there is the usual demand for temps/interims for long-term sick or to cover maternity leave as well as those with specialist skills for restructuring, projects and cost savings initiatives.
Within the housing contractors there is still a demand for certain skill sets for specific contractors over a defined time period. There is a reluctance to add permanent heads when a contract will only last another seven months and there is a degree of uncertainty as to the longevity beyond this.

What was your feedback on the recent housing conference in Manchester?

Overall feedback was very positive. Fantastic turnout and very well organised. However, the general feeling was a return to Harrogate as a more intimate location!
To find out more about our housing recruitment capabilities, please get in touch with Andrew James, managing director.
T: 020 7269 2573