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Returning to a position of strength at Valleys to Coast

People Puzzles supported the senior leadership team at Valleys to Coast Housing as it navigated some turbulent times

‘Alison’s support has been unfaltering’ – Jo Oak, CEO

‘Alison joined at a very tough time and leaves at a completely fantastic one’ – Paul Ryall-Friend, Chief Operating Officer

Why bring in a People Director?

In early 2019, Valleys to Coast Housing, a not-for-profit housing provider based in South Wales, was facing some tough challenges. Several people-related procedures and processes needed urgent review to comply with regulatory obligations and a restructure was on the horizon. Not only that, but there were also several employee relations cases that needed resolving. With key members of the HR team on long-term sick leave, some senior-level support and expertise was needed – fast.

Soon after approaching People Puzzles in late February 2019, Portfolio People Director Alison Cooper was appointed and immediately began working with the leadership team.

Over the past 18 months, Alison has been instrumental in:

  • Estimated recruitment saving of c£160k with 34 out of 38 positions filled via direct recruitment
  • Gaining renewed confidence in the organisation’s processes and procedures:
  • Reduction in the percentage of days lost from absence from 6.21% to 3.48% per month
  • Reduction in absence from 15.58% to 8.29% per month
  • Developing a strong and proactive HR service working in partnership with the business and carrying out a restructure; resolving ongoing employee relations
  • Putting in robust people processes for the 250-strong staff and re-building the HR department including recruitment of a new Director of People

Meeting obligations to the regulator

As a housing organisation, Valleys to Coast had performance standards to fulfil as part of its operational responsibility to the Welsh Government regulator. However, the Board and executive team had recognised that some of these, including some relating to people processes, were not being met and entered a ‘voluntary undertaking’ with the Welsh Government regulator. One of Alison’s first tasks was to address these shortfalls, take action and embed new ways of working, this was subject to a successful internal audit and report back to the regulator.

As CEO Jo Oak puts it, Alison was instrumental in ‘making sure we have the right policies, processes and systems in place… doing it the right way!’

Developing a new people plan and structure

It was clear that Valleys to Coast needed a complete overhaul of its people plan and approach to get the right people working in the right space. Alison helped the senior team identify who was needed where, redefining some key roles, identifying new roles and developed a plan to deliver future success. After obtaining board approval, she then worked with an interim CEO to carry out a restructure process. Alison’s input was key to ensuring that due process was followed in terms of consulting with individuals, wider staff groups and trade unions, on proposed changes, new structures, roles, and redundancies.

Resolving people issues

While this was all going on, Alison addressed and resolved several complex employee relations cases while minimising business risk.

Installing robust people processes

Alison worked closely with the organisation’s People and Remuneration Committee to gain their input on implementing sound people policies and procedures. She also led the overhaul of the organisation’s recruitment processes to speed them up and reduce costs and in developing an employee culture focused on strong values and high performance.

She then set about strengthening the HR team – developing and coaching them to successfully deliver these processes – and recruited a new Director of People to strengthen leadership and the team’s capabilities.

A ‘critical friend’

Alison’s extensive experience meant that she was able to be a ‘critical friend’ to the Directors, coaching where necessary and providing a sounding board for both people and business-related opportunities, proving sector experience is not a prerequisite for success. ‘Alison’s counsel and wisdom has been invaluable,’ says Paul Ryall-Friend, Chief Operating Officer. ‘I, for one, have learned so much working with her.’

‘Alison has been a real asset to myself both personally and professionally,’ adds Jo Oak. ‘Her depth of experience and expertise in challenging and demanding situations has been invaluable. I would highly recommend her – from expert HR support, to strategic organisational development visioning.’

If you think your business could benefit from a People Director like Alison – or you feel you need to review your people structure and processes to help support business grow in the right direction, find out what one of our experienced People Directors can do for your business by calling 0203 239 3307

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