The integration of automation and behavioural science offers housing providers a potentially transformative advantage for staff retention, argues Voicescape’s Gary Haynes
The social housing sector is no stranger to staff retention challenges.
Housing associations and local authorities are grappling with rising labour costs, budget constraints, and the prolonged impact of the cost-of-living crisis on employees and customers, making it imperative to find innovative solutions.
Research revealed during last year’s CIH Housing Conference highlighted the fact that 56% of employees in the housing sector expect to move on from the sector, and 77% of employers are currently seeing skills shortages – making it clear to us that staff retention has become a major issue.
The retention challenge
Increasing staff retention levels is not only more cost-effective than hiring and training new staff, but also vital for maintaining continuity and quality of services.
The big question facing many providers is how to keep their teams motivated and engaged during challenging economic times. Increasingly, the answer may lie in the synergy between automation and behavioural science.
Automation has the potential to transform the social housing landscape by streamlining inefficient manual processes, allowing valuable team members to concentrate on doing the things they love, and which add the most value.
When routine tasks are automated, employees can focus on meaningful one-on-one interactions that build relationships, and lead to positive outcomes for both housing providers and their customers.
Combining automation and behavioural science
Of course, change often comes with uncertainty, and the same is true with automation.
However, when employees understand that automation is complementary and supportive of their roles, they are more likely to embrace it and harness its benefits.
Indeed, innovative new automation technologies have become truly intelligent and can be used as collaborative tools that add real value to the roles of human workers. This is particularly true when it comes to the integration of automation with behavioural science principles.
Behavioural science studies how people make decisions and behave within complex environments. It provides a framework for understanding human behaviour, and focuses on decision-making, information processing, and behaviour patterns.
By incorporating behavioural science principles into automation, the technology empowers highly skilled staff rather than replacing them.
Trust-building through engagement
Trust between social housing providers and their customers develops over time through various engagement methods such as phone calls, text messages, and emails.
Increased human involvement generally leads to greater trust, but it also limits scalability and increases costs.
This is where automation, united with behavioural science principles, thrives.
It strikes a balance between trust-building and practicality by automating some elements in the process, but allowing customers to speak directly to a human at the most critical and beneficial moments.
Determining the most suitable way to engage with each customer can be challenging, but behavioural science provides valuable insights to make it possible. And when the process becomes automated with intelligent decision making, organisations can tailor communications (including the right message, the right channel, and even the right time) to individual customer needs.
In turn, this more personalised communication increases the likelihood of prompt responses and desired actions.
The benefits for employees
Human-centric services are paramount in the social housing sector, with many roles revolving around assisting and supporting customers.
Combining automation and behavioural science not only aids customer support but also enhances employee motivation by relieving staff of repetitive manual tasks.
This newfound freedom allows employees to dedicate more time to engaging with customers requiring personalised support.
As a result, employees find their jobs more fulfilling, boosting productivity while preserving their psychological well-being.
Intelligent automation in action
Voicescape’s Caseload Manager is an income analytics and engagement solution that enables the intelligent automation of arrears caseload for social housing providers.
Harnessing artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and behavioural insights, it is a prime example of a solution that fuses automation with behavioural sciences to deliver better results for employees and customers alike.
We recently carried out research across income teams from a range of registered social housing providers to understand the impact of Caseload Manager on employees’ satisfaction and effectiveness when compared to non-users. The results were striking.
- Streamlining workload management: One in three employees in income teams that don’t use Caseload Manager felt their ability to manage their weekly workload was below average or poor. However, in organisations using Caseload Manager, the majority (two thirds) rated their ability to manage weekly workloads as above average or exemplary
- Efficiency enhancement: All employees working with Caseload Manager consistently rated their efficiency as above average or exemplary. Conversely, employees in organisations without Caseload Manager more frequently rated their current efficiency as below average or poor
- Improved collections: In organisations not using Caseload Manager, three-quarters of employees felt their organisation was currently below average or poor in having valuable individual tenant-level insights. In comparison, three in four employees in organisations that have implemented Caseload Manager scored their organisation as above average or exemplary in having access to individual tenant-level insights
- Tenant engagement and job satisfaction: Achieving tenant engagement is a key objective in the social housing sector. In organisations utilising Caseload Manager, employees consistently rated their performance as above average in achieving tenant engagement. This positive sentiment extends to job satisfaction and personal well-being. Three-quarters of employees in organisations using Caseload Manager rated their current personal job satisfaction and well-being as above average
A transformative potential
The synergy of automation and behavioural science offers a transformative advantage for staff retention and satisfaction in the social housing sector by enhancing staff efficiency, improving communication, and providing valuable insights.
These are insights that can, in turn, empower organisations to retain valuable employees, improve tenant engagement, and deliver better outcomes for all stakeholders.
Main image: Gary Haynes is managing director at social housing management software provider, Voicescape
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