Southern Housing Group introduced internal coaching in 2013 and was stunned by the positive knock on effects, many of them unexpected. During the first year, 10% of staff experienced coaching – with remarkable outcomes. As a result, the business:Southern Housing Group

  • Saved a total of £37,000 in excess of £100,000 if external coaching had been used
  • Decreased the average number of sick days from seven to four
  • Increased successful internal promotions from 4% to 24%

Sarah Wilks, Head of HR Operations at Southern Housing, hoped that introducing internal coaching would increase self problem solving, responsibility & ownership. “We were astounded at the great feedback we received and how the project had an impact on vision, stress, ownership and confidence,” she said.

It was a super scrimping project – maximising existing resources for training in-house coaches by using existing Charity Learning Consortium eLearning modules, buying reference library books for sharing, and asking that assignments be completed in staff’s own time. Judges of the Charity Learning Awards 2014 were impressed by the imaginative approach, working with existing resources to get the project off the ground.

Southern Housing – one of southern England’s largest housing associations – also used its own venue for training, kept consultant use to a bare minimum and negotiated a ‘bulk’ discount for training 29 in-house coaches. As a result, the organisation now relies solely on internal coaching, and is now using its own ‘coaches’ to coach their newer coaches.

“Story telling of the difference coaching has made has meant we now have a waiting list of potential coaches for the next round of courses.” said Sarah.

Before the project started, the L&D team knew they needed to address any barriers. So they developed coaching awareness briefings during Learning at Work Week, setting clear expectations of what coaching could achieve. Whilst they looked for volunteers they continued promotion via key stakeholders and their on line weekly newsletter. They were particularly careful to clarify the confidentiality aspect of coaching. As the project has progressed they’ve used testimonials from volunteers to show the benefits.

“Overall we made people see why it was important and how it impacted them and the business, with the difference coaching makes and its benefits,” said Sarah. “Our project has changed the way people get the best from others, broken down silo working and promoted joined up solutions. People are thinking differently as a result.”

A celebration, held at Southern Housing Group offices to mark the coaching qualifications achieved by the first cohort, was attended by the Chief Executive and senior key stakeholders. This event in itself has stimulated plans for an annual coaching conference, as well as future celebrations for newly qualified professional coaches.

The project was an outstanding winner of the Charity Learning Award 2014 for Best Use of Resources. The housing association was also the runner up in the category for Organisational buy-in: Raising the L&D profile.

Martin Baker, founder and Chief Executive of the Charity Learning Consortium, was impressed with the innovative approach: “Using technology as part of a blended, cost effective training solution, Sarah and her team have achieved amazing results, and have established a successful internal coaching culture on a shoestring. It’s a great example for others to follow, regardless of what sector they’re working in, and proves just what you can achieve when you start working with what you have – rather than what you think you need – in order to achieve results.”

Sarah Wilks, Head of HR Operations at Southern Housing, shares her three tips for embedding internal coaching:

  • Promote coaching to all from the start and all the time so all understand what it is
  • With each of our cohorts we listened to feedback, learnt from this and made changes and resulted in an improved experienced for the next group
  • Make policies and procedures simple and easy to follow and find

About Southern Housing Group:

Over the last 110 years, Southern Housing Group has become one of the largest housing associations in the south of England, housing 66,000 residents, managing more than 25,500 homes, employing almost 800 people and working with more than 70 local authorities across the South East, including the Isle of Wight.

Our vision, ‘A business with social objectives’, draws on our history and traditions while recognising the need to change with changes in the housing sector.

Our social and economic regeneration work is undertaken to improve the lives of residents in the communities and neighbourhoods where we build and manage homes. It provides tangible evidence of our commitment to building sustainable communities.

Southern Housing Group is a member of the g15, which represents London’s 15 largest housing associations. The g15 houses one in ten Londoners and builds a quarter of London’s new homes. We are working to solve the housing crisis by delivering good quality, affordable homes of all types.

About the Charity Learning Consortium:

Consortium members save twice as much money on L&D compared to non-members in the sector; are twice as likely to report positive changes in staff behaviour and almost three times more likely to report that using learning technologies has improved their organisation’s productivity.

More than 120 charities, housing associations and not for profits already benefit from collaborating with our unique organisation. To find out more please join us on 4 March 2015 – or connect with us on twitter @charitylearning. We also love to chat, so do please give us a call on 08451 707 702.