Social Media: A Trust Thing

I’m lucky. I’m part of an organisation where everyone has access to social media.

Anyone can set up a Facebook or Twitter account. Anyone can blog. Without restriction.

No Policy.

One Rule – “If you wouldn’t say it out loud in the cafe area – don’t put it on social media.”

So it’s shocking to read that 50% of the IT Directors in Europe think banning the use of Social Media in the workplace is a good idea.  At least according to this survey.

And , according to another survey , by 2015 , 60% of companies will be attempting to monitor employees use of Social Media.

What are we to make of this? And what does it say about the modern employer?

Let’s face it – Social Media can no longer be regarded as something new and dangerous. Pretty much every news bulletin will refer to a comment on Twitter.

So why do some employers still , in 2012 , think it’s something to be frightened of. Let’s ask the audience:

Ignorance, Short-Sightedness. Social Media as a benchmark of a companies transparency.

This actually isn’t about Social Media. It’s not about IT.

It’s about Leadership and Culture.  

And it’s about Trust and Empowerment.

  • Why would an employer think that the people they employ would prefer to sit all day on Facebook rather than do their jobs? Unless of course the jobs are so rubbish , and the leadership so poor , that this is the preferable option
  • Why would an employer think people would use 140 characters to destroy the reputation of their organisation? And if you have people like that – you could , rather than banning things , choose to do something about them
  • Why would an employer think anyone , anywhere , would want someone to monitor what they are saying?  Like a suspicious spouse checking through your text messages

If you are working to introduce more social media openness in your business – good for you.

But if you are in a relationship where either party does not trust the other – you would surely reconsider your position?

60% of employers will monitor social media usage.  50% will ban it altogether.

Want to have a relationship based on trust?

Leave them.

Find someone else.

Disrupt your Industry. Or be Disrupted.

A customer called us recently. His call was answered really quickly. A repair was needed to his home. His problem was diagnosed with just a couple of questions. He was given a time and date for the repair. He was told it would be in two weeks time  – a part was needed that wasn’t in stock. He thanked the Advisor for the call and went away happy.

Pretty much textbook service.

Except – he called back 10 minutes later.

He had looked for the part on his smartphone and it was available at a local store, 5 minutes from his home. So he wanted to know – why will it take 2 weeks?

This is the just the beginning of the end of 20th Century customer service.

The 21st Century customer is smarter.

  • They can find things out quicker than we can.
  • They can install an app on their phones that can solve their problem in seconds.
  • They can draw all their data and applications into one place in the time it takes for us to say the words “Customer Relationship Management”.

And if they can do it. And you can’t. Then what if someone else comes along who can?

“We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.” – R.D Laing

This quote – and the context in which it is used – has made me re-evaluate everything I’m working on.

It’s used in Smart Customers , Stupid Companies , a book that I’m ever so slightly in love with.

The scenario it describes is pretty simple. Disruption is coming to the way we work. Massive disruption. And it’s all going to be caused by customers who are smarter than us.

The only question is – are you going to be one of the disruptors? Innovating and implementing change at a pace that the rest of your sector just can’t keep up with.

Or are you destined to be disrupted?  Losing ground and competitive advantage. Your customers regarding you as a dinosaur. Inching ever closer to redundancy and eventual oblivion.

The sector in which I work is ripe for disruption. Not because it’s bad. Not at all.

But it has loads of interactions with customers that could be made easier through smart technology and the removal of “pain points”.

A typical applicant for housing will speak to multiple people , multiple organisations and answer a thousand questions – before they even get the keys to a door.

The technology is here to reduce all of that to a single interaction with just one person focussed on the applicant. Or – if we wanted – we could remove the human element completely.

So if the technology exists, and it saves money , and it leads to better customer experience – why hasn’t anyone done it?

  • Because it’s difficult. ( Yes – very , very difficult)
  • Because no-one can disrupt the legal contract between landlord and tenant. (At the moment yes. But they should be able to. And they will be able to. )
  • And because we – in this speeded up moment of history – cannot see the present until it has begun to disappear.

But it’s a stark choice.  Disrupt your industry. Or face being disrupted.

I know where I want to be.

Young People are not the problem. But Employers often are.

The other day I was sitting with my colleague , James Walsh , and a Recruitment Consultant – talking about the difficulties of employing young people.  And how employers , and outdated recruitment practices,  are all too often part of the problem.

Unintelligible jobs descriptions. Never giving candidates any feedback. Lack of mentoring.

The insistence on applying 20th Century recruitment and management approaches to a generation who were texting before they could write.

Rather than talk about what we have done to adapt to this , I thought I would hand over to a guest blogger, Sarah , to describe her experience of entering work. For me – it shows how we have changed, and also the things we need to improve upon.

“I remember when I heard that Bromford was recruiting. My mom was going crazy telling me to apply, I kept putting it off because I felt 100% there’s no chance of me getting picked. After DAYS of nagging from the mother I eventually filled in the online application, even though I knew deep down there is no chance. I did it to keep my mother happy.  After a while I received a phone call.. I’d been invited to an assessment centre.  I will never forget the feeling I had when I received that phone call..

When I attended the assessment day, I met loads of people who were at the same stage as me. Looking round I felt a bit threatened, everybody else seemed much more confident than I was. I didn’t have much interview experience so I was very nervous. There were loads of members of staff all from different teams explaining what they do or what service they provide for Bromford customers. I sat and listened to every position which was available and remembered a little tip my dad told me  – ‘ ask questions! ‘ 

We then had a phone call role play, I found this really easy and I felt I did well on this..  Also we were asked to complete a group activity! Build a shoe rack from string and bamboo sticks. This enabled them to see how well each individual works as a team. I must admit I was well into building this shoe rack.

A few days had passed and I didn’t hear anything.. which was what I expected. Then to my surprise I had the phone call  ‘ We would like you to come in for a four hour work experience’. This was a shock to my system . My mom and dad encouraged me to remain positive. I was so worried.

During my work experience I was asked to think of a short but sweet paragraph to introduce a new brochure which was being distributed to customers.  The four hours were finished in no time. And it was back to the waiting game.

To my surprise I had the phone call.  I was starting an Opportunities 4 Employment Placement. Whooooop!

I started at Bromford on the 3rd of January. Everyone was so welcoming and I felt at ease straight away.  I remember logging on for the first time, and setting up my phone! I’ve never had my own desk or my own personal phone in a job before so this was a big change for me! I was really excited!. 

I remember having my first telephone call. It took me 10 minutes to record my voice mail as I kept making mistakes I was so nervous. I stuttered on my first phone call which was disappointing but lucky it was a voicemail so I just hung up ha-ha.

As time passed and the more phone calls I was asked to make I became a lot more confident. And now I can phone anyone about anything! And my phone manner has improved by 100% I’d say. Also my computer skills. The whole aspect of the job is completely different to what I would normally do so it has opened a lot of doors for me. It really has been a confidence and knowledge builder! Even though my placement will end I feel a lot more balanced when it comes to work. Almost  I’m learning to ride a bike.

You taught me to ride, now you’ve taken off my stabilizers and watch me go! “

Is expecting a contribution to community such a bad thing?

Yesterday ,on the  Guardian Housing Network , I asked whether it’s right that a Housing Association should expect a resident to make some sort of contribution to the community they move into.

That we expect , as the default position , that everyone makes 5% extra effort to help their new community be the best it can be.

Is setting out this expectation inherently unreasonable?

Stating explicitly that there is a “something for something” around here. That the community expects a code to be followed.

Is that unfair? Or just common sense?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” he describes a study of a small town, which for some unknown reason started bucking the health trends occuring in the rest of the country.

Basically people had stopped dying. They just kept going until they died of old age. No-one could find any explanation.

Then one day two doctors doing a study finally figured it out. They found that the things that contributed to this phenomena were:

  • Families looked after each other
  • Different generations mixed
  • There were lots of social organisations – people were very engaged and volunteered time to help others
  • And people looked after the poorer members of society with encouragement and support

And this had resulted in people living longer and stopping dying.

That sounds like a pretty cool deal to me.

I’d live there. Imagine the Mission Statement.

“We create communities so good that our customers refuse to die”

It’s obvious that any community that cares about its other members is going to be happier and healthier. That’s not rocket science.

It’s why we worked with our customers to make it part of the Bromford Deal. We expect people to contribute to the community.

So why is it that every time that I’ve mentioned this over the past few weeks that some people have taken a sharp intake of breath? Saying it sounds like Big Brother. A Social Housing Stasi.

What’s the problem in overtly saying you expect a contribution to the community? Surely most people would agree?

It’s early days but we are finding that most tenants do agree. They don’t want to be passive recipients of a service. They actually get a kick out of the fact someone is interested in them.

People we are speaking to are not trying to avoid contribution – they actually like it that someone asks them what skills they have.

Examples of what people are doing? Setting up a community Facebook page, helping out at a mother and toddler group, learning how to get online. Every little helps.

As one of our customers said to me last week:

“ I wish I’d have had the Bromford Deal. I’d have welcomed someone asking me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life”

I don’t think we will ever be able to claim that we helped people stopped dying.

But I reckon we will be able to tell some pretty good stories about what people did with the rest of their lives.

Listen to customers. But don’t feel you have to do what they say…..

“Do your customers agree with what you are proposing?” was one of the questions our Board asked me this week.

My response went something like this:

“I don’t know. We’ve listened to what they have told us. We’ve observed how they find things difficult to use. And then we’ve tried to create something they will like better”

I had just admitted that we’d come up with a proposition based upon what we thought customers would like rather than what they said they actually wanted.

Only a few years ago – saying that you ignored what customers said they wanted could have seen you tried as a Witch. A Heretic.

“He said what? Customers don’t always have the answers? Clearly we have before us a man of unsound mind.”

Fact is – listening to customers can lead to you delivering more of the same. Rather than creating something different.

The darkest days of the Audit Commission, and the dreaded Key Lines of Enquiry, nearly killed any innovation in the sector in which I work.

Hours were spent justifying how customers had played a part in every level of decision making.

Days on end were spent filling in a 50 page Gap Analysis, and poring over a 150 page booklet on supposed Best Practice.

Centuries from now our descendants will study the indecipherable jargon in these papers, imagining them to hold untold secrets of life in the early 21st Century.

In reality it will tell them nothing – except we were all a bit stupid really.

I remember one of my colleagues literally locking themselves away in an office for 8 hours – desperately writing a 40 page continuous improvement action plan. That’s the UK Housing equivalent of waterboarding .

Equally ridiculous was a conversation I once had with a housing “expert” :

Expert: Why have you chosen not to compare your performance to other housing providers?

Me: Well – very few of our tenants have experienced services from another housing association. So its better we compare our performance with other companies they might use – like Sky or Tesco.

Expert: And your customers told you they wanted this done?

Me: Well, not directly.

Expert: Then you don’t really act on what customers have said at all. And there is no clear link back to your strategic plan. I can’t see that this activity is planned or that a proper risk assessment has taken place.

Me: Oh, just [expletives deleted]…… (NB: this bit appeared as a thought rather than in the conversation itself)

Customers don’t always know what they want. They sometimes need to be shown a better alternative to what they currently have.

Technology and Social media gives us previously unimaginable opportunities to collaborate with customers in the gestation of these alternatives.

So let’s use the new tools we now have.

Let us be bold and use it to make changes for the people we let down by wasting time and money.

Let us move on from the people who told us we had to serve up more of the same. That we had to document, action plan and risk assess every idea we had.

But let us not forget.

It was a dark period in our history.

We must never let it happen again. Our customers deserve much better.

It’s all about people…….

Yesterday I blogged on the dangers of just talking about what you do ,rather than what you actually change.

Today I saw a lovely poem – on our internal social network. It’s written by one of our “Opportunities 4 Employment” customers. O4E is a 6-month paid placement aimed at offering people an apprenticeship and a career.

It’s really powerful and I ask you to read it. But there is one thing wrong with it. I’ll tell you what it is later.

Here it is:

Bromfords done so much for me
a tenancy – an O4E
they took a chance and set me free

I knew that i would stand my ground
work so hard make them proud
kept on going, stand out from the crowd

Challenged myself with every turn
confidence growing as i learn
be everything that they need and more
from 9am straight through till 4!!

To think that a few years ago
I was homeless, alone no place to go
no job, no home, no life, no me

The one thing wrong? The opening line.

It’s not about Bromford.

It’s about people like Charley.

What do you do again?

“What did you say you do for a living?”

I work for a Housing Association. We build homes and we house people.

And I dread people asking me what I do for a living.

If you work in the same profession, or any other that doesn’t instantly ignite animated conversation , you will know The Tumbleweed Moment.

That moment , those uncomfortable seconds of silence , when you can see in people’s eyes that they are desperately trying to comprehend what you actually DO.

They begin searching around in the filing cabinets of their minds, knowing they have heard the phrase somewhere.

If they find it  – its likely to be right at the back of the brain , along with other discarded items – like “Credit Control Supervisor” and “Biomolecular Engineering Assistant “.

If you are lucky – they will locate it , associate it with the context in which they last heard it used and , in the case of Housing Associations, come up with “Ah yes – Council Housing!”

If you are unlucky  – it will be “Ah yes – Jeremy Kyle!”

In most cases they will simply look blank and confused.  You will attempt a couple of lines to explain further, and then you move on – swiftly – to talk about anything other than housing associations.

I’m incredibly proud to work in Housing. Passionate even. But the world won’t listen. Why is that?

Well, let’s skip past blaming the media for stereotyping.

And let’s leave the Politicians out of this as well.

Let’s take a look at ourselves – the people who make up UK Housing,  and the stories we tell about what we do.

As part of some incredibly scientific research, I set Google Alerts up over the past two weeks to search the web for stories written by us, about us.

By the way – If you don’t know what a Google Alert is – it’s a search parameter that trawls the web for relevent content and generates an email with the best results. Kind of like a 21st Century version of fishing. You usually get a load of crap in your net , but be patient and there are some real keepers.

Here’s what we generated – based on 120 search results. Statistics fresh from the back of a fag packet:

  • 25% of items were about about income and funding
  • 22% were about welfare reform
  • 18% were about new builds and site development
  • 15% were “Look how good we are stories”  – Typical example: “We’ve ensured 100% of our homes meet gas safety requirements”  – That’s like British Airways issuing a press release saying all their planes have landed safely and their pilots failed to kill anybody.
  • 12% were about Anti-Social behaviour or complaints
  • Just under 8% were about the people living in our homes and communities.
So lets look at why the world won’t listen.
Less than 8% of the stories we tell were directly about the very people that we were set up to help in the first place. 

This seems completely at odds with the Social Media output of the various Twitter Feeds in UK Housing – which do a pretty good job of celebrating the difference made to customers lives.

But we need to do more than just circulate the good news to each other.

We need to get our stories into the mainstream news feeds.

We need to promote what we do and the difference we make. In the new world. Not the world of print media.

And each and everyone of us needs to look at our output to see whether it celebrates OUR successes , the things important to US.

Or whether it celebrates the achievements of those we are here to help.

The things the real world might be interested in.

It’s not about us.

I work for a Social Business.  I try to help people change their lives.

It’s our Birthday – Top Learnings of Bromford Social Media Year One

Last night – at our Board – the Chair opened the meeting with a question that I was utterly unprepared for.

“Does anyone have an objection to people tweeting during this meeting? As long as they keep the comments relevant to the items being discussed?”.

A couple of eyebrows were raised. But nobody objected.

This is our journey so far.

12 months ago – nobody had access to social media at Bromford. Today everybody does. Unrestricted.

My hybrid work/personal twitter account @paulbromford was created exactly 1 year ago. Our Facebook pages opened 1 year ago. Our 1st blog appeared 1 year ago.

We still have no policy as such. There is no big list of rules. It’s a system run on trust and common sense rather than rules and procedure.

This has been Bromford Social Media Year 1 and these are my personal takeaways.
1 – Get your key leaders on board.  If you do that – things will catch fire. There is no need to get everyone on side with you. Just a few. The enthusiasts. If you get your CEO on board , you get a gold star.  Your CEO will legitimise it for everyone else and will be the fastest route to mass acceptance.

2 – Trust people. We have had unrestricted access to social media and one of our most productive years ever. People don’t come to work to sit on facebook all day. They come to do a good job. Believe in that. If you have disengaged employees just do your job and deal with it. Don’t be lazy and blame social media.

3 – Don’t listen to people who want policies, procedures and return on investment. Look – I struggle to be constructive here .  I’m not being unkind but they just don’t get it. You concentrate on being the innovator and they will catch up eventually. When they see the party going on they will want to join. Just get on and organize the party.

4 – Give people a playground. For us it was Yammer. Our internal social network. For many of our customers and colleagues their first experience of social networking has been on Yammer. It’s a very short step for colleagues to take from sharing what they are up to at work with other colleagues – and then moving that activity to Twitter , Facebook and our current growth area – blogging.

5 – Trust customers. They don’t get out of bed in the morning with the intent to bring us down. Really!  You will be surprised. Most people like you and appreciate your transparency. Start from that point and don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. And customers don’t really expect a response when they do criticize you on Facebook. Surprise them. Talk to them. They like it.

6 – Learn from others. Twitter is such a friendly and sharing community. Nobody wants to see anyone fail. If you are stuck just ask someone. We still do on a daily basis and I’m sure we will still be doing in 3 years time. Trust the community – not consultants.

So its our Birthday.

Year Two starts today.

Two things you can’t say on Twitter…..

There are two opinions that are definite no-go zones amongst the liberal left twitterati.

Opinions that , if you were to express them openly , could see you banished to the most remote, uninhabited and hostile parts of the social media planet.(Linkedin…..or even worse, Google+)

What are they?

1 – Saying you think the NHS is a bit wasteful really and maybe reform isn’t a totally bad idea


2 – Saying that despite the economy being tough –  you think that there are jobs out there

Well , I feel like starting the week with a bang. So I’m going to say that , I , Paul Taylor , believe that there are jobs out there.

OK – before you press “unfollow” let me explain:

  • There are millions of jobs that have yet to be invented. I’m not going to expand that point here. You can read my previous blog on this. In fact if anyone knows a window cleaner who also cleans the house/irons clothes/and cuts hair please pass on my details.I’m recruiting.
  • There are jobs – but often people don’t feel they have any skills , or feel terrified at the prospect of even applying.
  • There are jobs – but people get fed up of applying when they get zero feedback and never hear anything about their application.
  • And even in the area’s where jobs are very few -there are loads of volunteering and training opportunities that provide people with confidence , and improve their skills.

Very very few people don’t want to work – just sometimes it looks like it’s too much of a challenge. It feels like they will never make it.

Today see’s the launch of a new project that I am proud to be part of.

Connect , as we call it , opens it doors today as a private beta site. It’s a Social Network for Jobs, Skills and Opportunities. A virtual marketplace for the user to share their skills and develop their confidence , and get access to priority work opportunities. And it will also offer loads of volunteering positions, and give access to innovators who might just help people develop the next big idea. The jobs of the future.

We want it to be a supportive community which is about hope rather than despair. It’s about helping everyone be the very best they can be.

Initially all new Bromford tenants and their families will be given access to Connect. Additionally they can access a Skills Coach, whose job it is to inspire them to do the things that they thought they couldn’t. Whether its getting online for the first time , or preparing for an interview – we are hoping we can remove some of the many barriers that people face as they enter or return to work.

We’ll be letting you know how its going here and on the Connect Blog.

If you haven’t unfollowed me, of course.

Job Descriptions are rubbish…..My Top 5 new rules

The Worlds Worst Job Description. Ever
The Worlds Worst Job Description. Ever

Did some work on some JD’s this week. I’ve been messing around them for some time – really struggling to articulate what I wanted.

On Wednesday morning at 9:40am it struck me. Somebody , somewhere , about 50 or 60 years ago – decided what a JD should look and feel like. A lot of words (management words, not real words) describing a lot of tasks and job accountability. I’ve never questioned it.

Need to recruit someone? Yeah! Lets make their eyes bleed with 3 pages of total bollocks.

Most of the work we are now doing , and the work the economy desperately needs, requires people to have creativity , a sense of autonomy and certainly a high degree of purpose.

So why on earth would we put things like this in a JD?

“The post holder will also perform any additional duties at the request of the Manager” (Which means – you need to do as I tell you – I don’t  trust you)

“You will be responsible for completing a daily report at 9:30am that should outline the tasks you and your team achieved in the previous day” (Which means – I don’t trust you or anyone else who works for me)

“Postholder will be required to attend in a punctual manner and be well-presented at all times” (Which means – I don’t trust you to get out of bed. Or even to have a wash)

I didn’t make these up by the way – just did a quick search.

I think at Bromford we have shown a fair degree of innovation. But there is much to be done. Here’s my (personal) new rules for JD’s:

1: 140 Character Job Purpose – If you can’t sum it up in that you are waffling. Plus – you can advertise it on Twitter

2: 1 Page Total – Anything more than that means we are in 20th Century Management mode and being over prescriptive – squeezing creativity out of someone before they have even applied.

3: Use a picture or graphic. A picture that describes the purpose. If you can’t think of a really bold , emotive image to accompany the job then you probably don’t need to even recruit someone. You can probably get a spreadsheet to do it.

4: Passionate language. If you really want someone to get out bed in the morning knowing EXACTLY what they are here to do there is nothing wrong with including words like “inspiring” “brave” or even “sexy”. I’ve gone a step further this week and included lyrics from George Benson’s “The Greatest Love Of All” (or Whitney if you prefer ) and Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power”. Ridiculous? Maybe. No problem , don’t apply!

5: Stick to how you want the person to make a difference. Describe how you want the successful applicant to make people FEEL rather than a list of things you want them to do. I’ve amended one JD to say to I want them “to inspire people each and every day”. That’s their purpose. How they do that it is entirely up to them.

I’m not saying this is right. But let’s all try something different. There has to be a better way.

I’m with our HR team on Monday finishing them off. Wonder if Public Enemy will make the final cut?

12 Weeks To Change Your Online Life (or hand your iPad back…)

I’ve had a breakthrough that I want to share.

Last Week  I threw down a special challenge to some of our Board Members and Customer Stakeholders who we had struggled to get engaged in Online collaboration and Social Media.

3 Rules

  1. I’ll loan you an iPad for 12 Weeks.
  2. If it doesn’t change your life I will have it back. I will never mention Social Media to you again.
  3. But if you admit it changes your life and you prove you are tweeting , yammering and engaging with others online you get to keep it.

An hour before I gave this challenge we had debated every single reason NOT to engage in Social Media.  The usual reasons were given: Viruses; Personal Data Privacy; Abusive Language; Louise Mensch; Piers Morgan. All valid reasons that I certainly couldn’t dispute.

Instead of presenting a counter-argument – we produced the iPads. And the challenge. Accept it – and you get to play with one. Immediately

Instantly – a room full of hardened cynics are transformed as they touch , poke and turn the iPads around in their hands. Apple understand design and they understand how we first learned to play as children. When we didn’t have any cynicism towards anything or anyone.

I’ll let you know how the challenge goes.

By the way , less than 24 hours later I had  an email. From someone who just a few weeks ago told me they would NEVER engage in Social Media.

This is a bit of what it said:

Just wanted to say I’m a convert. It’s amazing. I’ve registered for Yammer. Can you send me that Beginners Guide to Twitter that you mentioned? P.S You won’t be getting your iPad back

The Amazon Test – #CustomerExperience Blog Post

The Kindle Touch

I ordered a Kindle Touch yesterday – expecting a delay as you usually get with new product launches.

It was ordered online at 15.38pm.


It arrived at my door at 7:35am this morning.

It arrives charged.

It knows my name.

By 7:45am it is up and running and has my entire library on it.

When you go into work on Monday morning – use that as a benchmark against any of your interactions with your customers.

Speak to a customer and ask them how it was when they last ordered something from you.

How easy was it.? How quickly was it dealt with? Did it exceed expectations?

I’m pretty much certain we will all fail The Amazon Test

Highlights from Facebook for the Public Sector – Guest Post

It’s great when a colleague comes back really enthused from a conference. The following is a guest post originally published on our internal Yammer. Take it away @Helenatbromford :

Attended a brilliant conference/’unconference’  in Birmingham which left me buzzing with ideas and excitement for social media and the possibilities of the ever changing world we’re all working in. It was called Facebook for the Public Sector and if any of you are on twitter you can view the tweets from the event using #fbps12 but i wanted to share with you some of the thoughts that came from the day.
The focus of the morning sessions were around using social media in the public sector and trying to dispel some of the fears that a lot of organisations have on the use of social media. I would like to point out that Bromford were one of just two organisations (the other had a speaking slot) in a room where over 40 organisations were represented that have opened up social media to all colleagues who want to have a go, people on my table were amazed by this! They were asking all sorts of questions of like ‘how did you get everyone to buy into it?’, ‘Weren’t you scared?’, ‘What if someone says the wrong thing?’ – All of which are valid questions… and this probably was on someone’s mind here at Bromford at some point in our social media journey, but for me… I’d be more worried if no one from Bromford said anything at all! Where would we be then? I think it’s fair to say we are way ahead in the social media journey than most organisations and this is definitely something to celebrate!
But just a few of my top take away’s from the morning are:
It’s no longer possible to control the message, but if you think about it was it ever?
• You don’t have to be a comms person to be good at comms
• Manage customer expectations – if you don’t want to write Facebook updates at the weekend – tell your customers on a Friday that you’ll be back on Monday – they’ll understand!
• Share your objectives and outcomes with your customers and stakeholders – tell them where you want to be and be honest about how you’re getting there
• Keep innovating and evolving
• Don’t write a social media strategy – it’ll be out of date before its finished
• Be human and tell your story
• Know what you and your organisation want to be famous for
• Be community minded – share and RT information from people in your area – it’ll increase your fans!
• Share your Facebook insights and weekly reach with your colleagues so they know its working – I’ll be sharing this in our feedback centre here on yammer to keep you all updated.

The afternoon was an ‘unconference’ – this was my first experience of this… for those of you who don’t know what an ‘unconference’ is – its basically that there’s no set agenda and people in the room can pitch to host a session… I don’t think I heard the word ‘host’ as I hastily jumped on the microphone to pitch for a session about ‘Hyperlocal websites and online communities!’ – it turned out my session was quite popular and I was saved when Steph Jennings who set up the hyperlocal website in the session! We shared some ideas around this and the key message was ‘we need to go where people are’ i.e. be on social media and be community minded and ‘help people to have the tools to do it themselves’.

That’s just a quick summary of the day, but thought I’d leave you with my favourite quote of the day which was from a colleague from the Police when talking about the trust needed for allowing colleagues on to social media, he said “I trust my team enough to go out on to the streets with a truncheon, why would I not let them have a twitter account?” 

Thoughts from #nhcsocmed…….

By waving you consented to the use of your image

Loved yesterday at the Northern Housing Consortium “Social Media Unconference”.

As one of the presenters it is probably inappropriate that I enthuse too much. But for me it was a much needed firecracker amid the general tedium of UK Housing events. (Bet that’s the last time I get a speaking slot anywhere!)

Why was it? Here’s a few highlights:

1: Use of Yammer – before and after event. Connects participants and attendees before the day – shapes content , introduces new idea’s.

2: Opening wake-up call from @NickAtkin_HHT – “Generation Z will be UK housing customers in 4 years. Are we ready?”. Generally? No. Not at all.

3: Criticise him all you like – but @grantshapps probably has a better handle on 21st Century consumer engagement than the majority of UK Housing professionals – “most tenants will not attend meetings-socialmedia gives landlords a way to engage and save money”. I think you mean “re-invest” money though , eh Grant?

4: ” Opinions are formed at pubs,clubs and bus stops. Social media can help you listen ” said @TeamTHT. Matthew is that rare thing – a CEO who talks about socialmedia as if its a not a new thing to be frightened of. It’s just a natural evolution of the conversations we have been having through the ages.

5: Best quote for me came from @HelReynolds – host of a workshop looking at Return on Investment in Social Media. “this is a terrible workshop , sorry,  – because I don’t believe in ROI in socialmedia”.  Helen – who has that uncanny ability to only speak common sense – did a superb job of rubbishing the calls to evaluate professional time spent online. ” They only want it measured because they don’t understand it”

6: Can Linkedin be interesting? @lizcable made it look that way. I’m following her tip. Switch off all those annoying email updates and spend 30 minutes a week making Linkedin work for you.  She seems to know everything there is to know and pushes out quality content. Follow.

There were loads more I could throw at you. But you can read them by following the thread #nhcsocmed on Twitter

P.S Our SlideShare “Everyone. Everywhere. Publishes” can be accessed here….

Feeling like a somebody rather than a nobody…..

The other day I blogged about the negative press surrounding work experience. And about how employers have to think differently to create a positive experience that unlocks potential in people. Especially the people who are the future of work and will expect very different career paths than my generation.

Quite by chance , Marie – one of our newest Opportunities 4 Employment placements – asked me for a quote about how I thought she was getting on. She wanted to use this in her Learning Log . This details her experience of Bromford – and will be used when she (hopefully) makes the transition to an Apprentice.

I agreed , of course , but asked her what the experience so far had felt like for her.

This is what she said – unedited:

Being an O4E is a title in itself, your given an opportunity to do something.

That something, means more to me than I could ever imagine. Its turned my life around in so many positive ways.

Rather than being held in a category that I wasn’t working because I was lazy and just wanted to reap in benefits, was totally untrue and I wanted to break that mould.

Being an O4E has made me a somebody, rather than a nobody.

That’s what we have to create for young people.

On this work experience thing……..

Designing The Experience of Work
I hated my work experience. Two weeks spent making cup’s of tea and doing the filing for embittered old men. It instilled in me a fear of offices, old men and filing that took 6 years to get over.
Then I found a manager who helped me find what I liked doing.
There is surely nothing wrong with the concept of “work experience”. The concept of giving people a chance – any chance – to prove what they can do has to be applauded.
But there is a problem with work experience. And it’s not just that businesses may be using unpaid help to subsitute the work of establishment posts. ( I’ve not seen any evidence to be fair)
The problem is the concept of work experience hasn’t changed fundamentally since the late 1980’s. It’s still about herding people into experiences that they might hate rather than unlocking potential.
Bromford have gone some way to re-designing this. Over 200 people applied for our last Opportunities 4 Employment placements. Paid placements that give 6 months work experience in a variety of roles and experiences. Giving the young person the opportunity to try us out as much as we are trying them. And if they like it they can have an Apprenticeship in the area of the business they are most interested in.
There is room for further innovation. Work Experience needs re-designing for the 21st Century.
It needs to be about helping people find out what they love doing and how they can get paid for it.

The UK doesn’t trust young people – New Blog

When I was on holiday I sent the following  couple of tweets:

“Talking guy from neighbouring maharashtra. Trad fishing family now working in #mobile. State is as populous as Mexico and India’s richest”

 “Massive number of #geny and enterprising – doing 2,3,4 different jobs. We better stop doom and gloom in UK or these guys will eat us alive”
I’ve been in the UK less than a week and I’m already sooooo bored with the political bickering about how we solve this problem.
Lets be clear – No politician or political party will get us out of this.
The best quote I’ve heard came on the Andrew Marr show – not from Nick Clegg – but from Jeremy Irons who said (and I’m paraphrasing)  “We need to look to the creativity from young people  to reach a solution , not look to those who created the mess in the first place”
We have a problem that’s cultural not political – we don’t trust young people. We think that someone who is 40+ in a suit is qualified to advise them on how they should live their lives and the jobs they be should be doing. Rather than freeing them up to develop and exploit the idea’s that they have.
We live in a world where young people genuinely know more about the mobile economy – the new world – than their elders . And they could be doing jobs that don’t even exist yet.
Here’s four young(ish) people I have come across in the past week:
  • Someone who works selling mobile SIM cards. His employer has agreed he takes time off to do an additional (unpaid) job as a Lifeguard as he has spotted tourists moaning about SMS charges when texting home. So he sells them domestic SIM cards so they can text cheaply whilst away. He’s a Lifeguard who sells mobiles.
  • A young man who makes clothes and has a small shop next to a restaurant. He waits and helps out in the restaurant for free . But he uses the opportunity to advertise his shop to every customer. And the restaurant owner pays him in meals and stops other people advertising to his customers to ensure maximum cross selling. His is a Waiter who makes and sells clothing.
  • A young mother who has been told that because of her child it is “highly unlikely” anyone would want to employ her. She has A level results that put mine to shame.
  • A guy with a treatable back problem who has been told he “will never work again” and should give up looking. He just cleared his 30th birthday.
The first two examples are from India. The second two from Great Britain.
One country has  faith its next generation and is on the way up. The other is …. Well , we will see….

The 2011 Top 10 Social Media Moments @bromfordgroup – My Pick

2011 has a been a pivotal year for the customers and colleagues of Bromford Group. They have embraced social media and used it in new ways to communicate about their work , lives , interests and idea’s.

Here’s my personal Top Ten:

1 – Losing the Fear Factor. Deciding to allow all colleagues unlimited access to Twitter and Facebook was a watershed moment in creating social media freedom in the workplace

2 – Engaging in New Ways. Our Customer Influence Group took transparency to new levels by opening up meetings to social media – blending the physical world with online debates in real time

3 – Leading from the Top. Having social media as a valued form of communication is a leadership behaviour. So getting our CEO to encourage colleagues to get online was a key moment. Join him on Twitter @mickkent2

4 – Getting Down With The Kids. Cirencester based young peoples initiative – The Ozone – developed their own website and Facebook page – and have done such a great job attracting people to activities, advice , education and employment opportunities

5 – Getting better at Communications. Using Yammer as our internal social network has allowed people who have never tried social media to dip a toe into warm and friendly waters. But it has also developed an easy way for colleagues to get to know each other.  And keep in touch with what Leaders are working on

6 – Giving people an opportunity. Burntwood Job Club has used social media to attract 100 members – getting 14 people back into work, 9 people onto volunteer placements and 18 people into training

7 – Social Media Training. Not by using expensive and out of touch consultants , but by using local youth radio station Kic FM to provide our managers and executive with awareness sessions , practical advice and help on setting up social media accounts

8 – Standing Up To Gangs. NO POSTCODES used YouTube to get their anti gangs , guns and knives message to the world. Watch it again. And again.

9 – Sharing experiences. Not every colleague can get an invite to No.10 Downing St. But they can get to be a part of the experience by having it recorded on flip camera’s and shared immediately via social media

10 – Making New Friends. By losing the fear factor we’ve made some great new friends and expanded our network – not just in the Housing sector – but in Web Development, Communications, Social Innovation, Enterprise , Health , not just in the UK but worldwide. From all of us at Bromford – Have a wonderful Christmas and an amazing 2012

Relationships that work – Customer Deal Blog

One of our main aims is to have customers who would recommend us to their friends. We put this in place over 7 years ago – as a big unifying key performance indicator aimed at getting the whole organisation behind delivering great customer experiences.

But this can’t be delivered on our own. Relationships are a two way thing.

The landlord / tenant relationship in UK social housing is a curious one. It has no break clause and is subject to no review or even dialogue to see how either party feels.

It has no equivalent in the consumer world, where the concept of walk away points mean service relationships can have an inherent dynamism about them. You satisfy the customer or you are at risk.

What we aim to do with the Customer Deal is to introduce that dynamic quality into the relationship.

So a customer won’t just be handed the keys.

We will get to know them before they even move in.
We will have a welcome visit where we see how they are settling down and what they think of the service so far.
We will arrange relationship reviews , typically every year or two years, where will talk about how things are going for both of us.

And based upon that we will look to tweak our service proposition to the individual customer. This could be incentives and benefits for keeping to the Deal.

I get a better deal out of O2 for being a loyal customer who doesn’t rip them off. Why shouldn’t a customer of social housing?

The end of lifetime tenancies has been painted as a terribly negative move within the housing sector. But , executed well , it brings with it the opportunity to introduce a totally different landlord / tenant relationship. One where the tenant is no longer a passive recipient.

Building Social Good – Customer Deal Blog

What would happen if your access to a product depended on you doing something good for society?

That you had agree to give something back. Would you agree? Would you walk away? Or would you lie?

Well that’s what we are testing as part of the new deal.

All customers will be asked what skills they have to share with their neighbours. And if they don’t feel they have any we will work with them to get them some.

This will involve a referral process – either to a community skills bank , a local Voluntary Service , or in the case of someone seeking work,  to a Skills Advisor.

This should have at least one of three outcomes:

  • We untap skills and opportunities that the neighbourhood might need
  • We support the struggling Voluntary Sector in a time of cuts that threaten their very existence
  • We put someone on the path to employment

I’ll be blogging the experiences of the first customers who go through this – and I’d be interested in hearing any thoughts!

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