BALANCING service to customers, care of employees and efficient finances is achieved by few organisations, so it is a welcome experience to visit an organisation that does.
Registered social landlord North Devon Homes not only attracts a high landlord rating from tenants and keeps rents low but has also been recognised as one of the Sunday Times Top 100 not-for-profit UK employers.
To discover the secret behind NDH's success, Robert Zarywacz met chief executive Martyn Gimber and his team.
The first thing Martyn makes clear is that North Devon Homes' success is due to a team effort: Team NDH. NDH's placing as 42nd in the Sunday Times Top 100 not-for-profit UK employers confirms this approach.
"We were up against national organisations and are very proud of it," said Martyn. "It marks us out as an outstanding employer.
"We have worked really hard to engender Team NDH. We're all part of the same team."
This was the first time NDH had entered the Sunday Times scheme and this has brought it into contact with more Top 100 companies, generating a flow of useful ideas.
"We've used it to challenge the way we do things. It's been a phenomenal achievement."
Initiatives being taken include working with customer service specialist Mary Gober International to provide high quality customer service training for employees. This has resulted in an increase in landlord satisfaction from 91 per cent to 94 per cent, measured against the UK average of 85 per cent.
Another initiative is the Great Game of Business, which consists of 30-day projects to make a real difference to business issues.
"The great game gives a short burst of activity which creates a lot of energy. We got together to identify a lot of areas where we could get additional value out of business, such as garages. We set up clear objectives and assessed the risks."
The initiative brought together teams of people from all areas of the organisation and enabled them to step out of their usual roles to think how things could be done differently. It produced savings of £150,000.
Martyn emphasised how this team-centred approach has maintained a low staff turnover rate.
"We've worked hard to establish a culture where people feel they belong."
Communication plays a key role in this and NDH holds quarterly team briefings so everyone knows what is happening to the business.
A Bright Star scheme enables staff to nominate colleagues who deserve recognition and anyone can ask Martyn anything about any aspect of the business.
As well as looking after its employees, NDH aims to provide the best homes for the people of North Devon. This is a tough task after the housing slowdown which has created a need for 3,000 more affordable homes, requiring up to 300 to be built each year.
NDH has an existing housing stock of 3,000 homes and some 10,000 people, more than 10 per cent of the local population, live in an NDH home.
To increase its stock it has started its biggest programme ever of 355 new homes.
"We want to build the right home in the right places for tomorrow's community. We are knocking down concrete homes and replacing them with energy efficient code three and four houses."
The Forches in Barnstaple is an example of how the opportunity for regeneration has enabled NDH to remodel roads, improve drains and make public spaces more usable by the community. The first phase of 67 homes has been completed and work has started on the second phase of 80 units.
NDH's community support includes working with children, community gardens, environmental improvements, intergenerational work, healthy lifestyles and self-improvement projects.
Martyn mentioned that NDH aims to "create communities where people want to live" and it seems to me that it has also created an organisation where people want to work. Visit www.yourlocallandlord.com.