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Trends in Workplace Engagement – Housing Associations

With Housing Associations continuing to provide vital services in councils across the UK, it’s encouraging to see so many organisations in the sector analysing their workplace engagement levels. Leading to greater productivity and cash flow, maintaining high engagement levels in not-for-profit organisations is crucial now more than ever as austerity measures and reduced budgets continue to challenge operations across the UK.

We surveyed over 10,000 employees from across all departments of the Housing Associations we worked with, enabling us to measure true workplace engagement levels across these organisations. With this data, we can glean insight into how these people genuinely feel, and what Executive Boards and HR teams can take away from these trends.

Key Trends in Housing Associations

The following graph shows the average engagement levels in Housing Associations over the past five years. For 2019, they scored an average Best Companies Index (BCI) score of 677/1000. This would result in a 1* Best Companies Accreditation, indicating that the sector, on average, achieved ‘Very Good’ levels of engagement.

Additionally, it’s great to see that Associations consistently score above other Not-for-Profit (NFP) companies.

Graph showing Housing Association engagement scores are consistently higher than average NFP scores over 2015-2019

It can be a struggle to get employees to participate in workplace engagement surveys, and Housing Associations are no exception. However, those we worked with averaged a response rate of 78%, demonstrating that employees value the opportunity to have their say in how they feel at work, and that we have an excellent pool of responses which can inform strategy and action plans moving forward.

As we can see from previous years, the sector in general has scored well in the Best Companies b-Heard survey. A great example is Stockport Homes.

As well as leading ‘The Best 25 Housing Associations’ list (as published by 24housing Magazine), they ranked 3rd in ‘The Sunday Times Best Not-for-Profit Companies to Work for List’. This is a remarkable achievement, and Stockport Homes were deservedly awarded the ‘Best Improver’ accolade at this year’s Best Companies Awards Ceremony.

Key Drivers of Workplace Engagement in Housing Associations

Our methodology is based on the eight factors of workplace engagement, and we have ranked these to show the most important aspects of engagement to employees in the sector.

All eight factors demonstrated a strong positive relationship with workplace engagement. What does this mean? Essentially, if any one of these factors were improved on, an organisation would very likely see an increase in engagement levels overall. The most highly correlated were; My Company, Leadership and Personal Growth.

Compared to results from 2018, there have been positive shifts in how respondents have answered statements in the My Company, My Manager and Wellbeing factors. To pin-point what is specifically more positive for this year, we’ve done further analysis of the data which suggests that year-on-year scores for the following statements have had the biggest impact:

Statement Factor Score 2018* Score 2019*
I am happy with the balance between my work and home life Wellbeing 66.97 70.15
I love working for this organisation My Company 71.89 75.81
My manager does a lot of listening, and not much telling My Manager 71.06 73.63

*% of Maximum Score


Job Grades

When we begin to look at the responses at different job grades in Housing Associations, we begin to see some gaps between those at the top and others across these organisations. Directors are feeling positive, however the majority of the rest of the workforce in Housing Associations are less engaged than they were in 2018, and the key trend seems to be that the higher the level of corporate responsibility, the less engaged the respondent.

Scores for the Leadership factor in particular have declined across nearly all jobs grades, with feelings about Personal Growth and Fair Deal likewise declining. However, perceptions about the My Company, Wellbeing and Giving Something Back factors have generally increased across the board.

What does this mean for you? As an initial takeaway, Housing Associations might grow their engagement levels through reviewing opportunities for training and career progression, as well as examining Leadership visibility.

Areas for Focus

Now that we’ve seen what the key trends are we can have a think about where HR and Executive teams should focus to grow their engagement levels, and review what some of the initiatives are that most-engaged Associations have in place.


As we have discussed, Leadership is a key factor which is not only highly important to employees, but is also a key area for improvement across the different job grades.

One interesting point that has come from the data is the difference in how Leadership is perceived in Housing Associations that made the 24housing list, and those that didn’t. Companies that made the list scored 10.58% higher in Leadership in comparison. This can be largely explained by the differences in scores for these statements:


  • Senior managers living the values of their organisation;
  • Senior managers listening more as opposed to telling;
  • The confidence respondents had in the leadership skills of the senior management team.

With Leadership identified as one of the most important factors in workplace engagement, ensuring that employees feel their ideas and concerns are heard by senior management, and that senior management openly contributes to the organisation’s values, will go a long way to increasing engagement levels across the company.

At Regenda Homes, Dr Michael Birkett (CEO) holds bi-annual briefings with all staff across the business. These updates are interactive, and the purpose of the briefings is to update staff on organisational performance in relation to their corporate plan. Michael also meets with all new starters on a one-on-one basis and chairs group meetings with new starters after 6 and 12 months to check how they have settled in and receive feedback on their experiences thus far.

Regenda have also previously enrolled all of their managers on a three-day 'Leading with Values and Purpose' workshop, designed specifically to fit with Regenda's culture and values.

Giving Something Back

The highest-scoring Housing Associations are perceived to have stronger social consciences, encourage more charitable activities, help more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and give back more to the local community. These points are collectively measured as part of the ‘Giving Something Back’ factor.

Another highly correlated factor for Housing Associations, how an employee feels about their organisation having a positive impact on social and environmental issues influences their feelings on every other factor of engagement. Creating meaningful CSR initiatives and encouraging staff to actively take part in these will bolster engagement levels, and offer another route to cultural cohesion.

All colleagues at Community Gateway Association undertake at least one activity annually. In 2018 every team signed up to one project, committing to supporting that venture over the year. The Association has their annual charity; St Catherine's Hospice in 2017-18 and NW Air Ambulance in 2018-19. Fundraising events have included silent auctions, the 100 club, cake sales, sponsored events, including their very own Iron Man triathlete who raised over £1000!

This year, they are running dedicated food hubs in their communities, working with the charity Foodshare. Their joiners made a Sweet Shop trolley as part of a tuck shop which raises money for the Association's charities. Additionally, they deliver Employment and Skills initiatives which help people back into employment, and offer additional support to tenants who apply for vacancies at the Association. They also provide rent free desk space for Preston Domestic Violence Services.

"All our colleagues are passionate about giving back in whatever way they can. We recognise that when colleagues are empowered to go the extra mile to make a real difference to our tenants and communities, this builds stronger engagement with all things Gateway!"

Click here to view Community Gateway Association's full engagement profile

Fair Deal

It would be rare to find an employee in any situation that would say no to more money! However, there is a notable gap in the perception of pay and benefits between Housing Associations that made the 24housing List, and those that didn’t.

With budgets being forever scrutinised, this can be a difficult area for Housing Associations to tackle. However, there are other methods to increasing scores than just increasing pay. Housing Associations can look into benefits such as flexible working and offering time for personal development during the work week. Additionally, if an employee is positive about opportunities for Personal Growth and sense of Wellbeing, our research indicates they are likely to be positive about their perception of receiving a Fair Deal.

Melin Homes have recently set up a new initiative called ‘Diolch’ (Thank You in Welsh) to encourage their staff to show appreciation to each other. These can be messages from managers, colleagues or even staff saying 'thanks a bunch' to their own manager! A dedicated email was set up for people to send in their messages and each month recipients are provided with certificates and given the choice of receiving chocolates, for Melin to plant a tree on their behalf or for Melin to make a donation to their nominated charity. Additionally, the organisation provides exciting prizes for staff to get involved in, such as activity based challenges to support health & wellbeing; recently, they sent a group of 10 staff to the Newport Velodrome to enjoy a cycling afternoon with qualified coaches on the cycle track.

What Actions Can We Take?

Though the above provides a grounding from which you might create engagement plans, it is definitely beneficial to survey your organisation individually. Not only will this give you the opportunity for recognition and aid your recruitment efforts, but with tailored data you can begin to create sustainable engagement, more cash flow and more productive employees.

Want to find out more? Please email [email protected] or contact us on 01978 856 222.

Ollie Stokes
by Ollie Stokes
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