Attracting and developing talent – how does our sector shape up?

Great leaders and great organisations go together. It’s difficult to find examples of one without the other.

Alan Lewin, Board Member at Hundred Houses Society

Alan Lewin, Board Member at Hundred Houses Society

13 May 2019

Traditionally, an organisation’s leader is the CEO, the figurehead. But increasingly, the expectation is that boards provide the strategic direction of the organisation. In both cases the need to attract, develop and retain the right people for the business has never been more important, but is this something we are really giving sufficient priority to?

The introduction of fixed-term contracts for board members has marked a change in the approach to recruiting and developing talent at board level. Board members are now assessed for their skills and contribution and subject to annual appraisal reviews. There is no doubt that boards are far better resourced and professional in their approach compared to a decade ago, but have we now stopped improving?

When was the last time your board compared itself to the governance of another successful business? Do we use our community networks to understand the perception and positioning of our organisation beyond the housing sector? These questions are increasingly important in an environment where housing providers are often seen as ‘lazy, self-congratulatory or out-of-touch’, and therefore present a strategic risk to the organisation. Self-awareness is one of the key attributes of a great leader, so surely our boards should ensure that is a collective skill and something we're challenged on.

In response to such challenges, housing organisations have increasingly sought out executive leaders with a range of skills and experience, particularly in the ‘commercial’ sector. How we define the right ‘commercial’ fit for our organisation is crucial when seeking to answer that question.

Recruiting an innovative and entrepreneurial leader may not be the best fit if your organisation is focused on addressing issues around regulation and compliance, but as systems and structures evolve there may be a need to review that fit on a regular basis.

The introduction of fixed terms for board members has enabled the evolution of boards to take place through that mechanism. Assessing the appropriate skills mix for the executive to meet the future demands of the business should also be a key consideration for the board and part of your annual strategic review.

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