SGCH (formerly St George Community Housing) is an industry leading community housing provider with 35 years of experience providing safe and secure housing. They deliver tenancy services, place-making and community building and develop and manage sustainable and affordable homes for over 11,000 people across the Sydney metropolitan area. Their purpose is to collaboratively shape great places through sustainable, safe and affordable housing, and connect people to opportunity to improve quality of life. SGCH’s Strategic Plan outlines four strategic outcomes they aim to achieve, which are to improve outcomes for people, communities and places, to grow a quality, sustainable housing portfolio, to be a leading business and to cultivate and maintain a high performing culture.
Beyond the bricks and mortar, SGCH is committed to meaningfully shape places by connecting their tenants to opportunity. In the Sydney district SGCH work with 25 support partners to help their tenants in areas including mental health, domestic and family violence, financial counselling, and employment and training services, and assist them into pathways to other forms of secure housing where this is appropriate. They also offer a suite of Housing Plus services that link tenants to training, education, employment and community engagement opportunities. As an indicator of SGCH’s relative size in the housing sector, 1 in 460 people in Sydney are living in SGCH housing, representing 7.2% of all community housing dwellings in Australia. This makes SGCH the largest community housing provider in Sydney and one of the largest in Australia.
At SGCH, their vision is great places for everyone, and this includes a great place to work for their team. What makes SGCH’s culture so strong is their values of Innovation, Support, Accountability, Respect and Integrity. Innovation is a recent addition to the suite of SGCH values, and they consulted with all team members to workshop how it fits in the strategic plan for 2019 – 2024.
One of the strategic outcomes of the Strategic Plan 2019 -2024, is to have a high performing culture. This means operating with commercial acumen; and providing people with clear accountabilities and consistently aligned behaviours. To be able to effectively forecast, schedule, implement, report and evaluate, and accommodate growth they have a consistent way of working – “The SGCH Way”. This is guidelines for the whole organisation to regulate the way SGCH operate in teams, across teams and across divisions. As part of The SGCH Way, they have implemented tailored management practices and tools that help them plan and perform their work better and check their progress and performance. This is SGCH’s Management Operating System (MOS). This structure is for how they use these tools and practices to provide a recognisable and expected pattern for their teams and drive the right behaviours is known as their operating rhythm (OR). The MOS has given more visibility to everyone, which allows SGCH to support their teams as well as each individual.
SGCH recognise that their people and culture are their greatest strength. The Growing our Culture program was co-designed with all team members across the business. As a collective, SGCH agreed on standards and practices that would allow all employees to coordinate work across teams and deliver a consistent, quality customer experience, in line with their values. This is SGCH’s Promise – “My customer, My word, Our purpose”. In summary, ‘My Customer’ is a way of seeing each person you serve, as a customer, someone who deserves respect and empathy. ‘My Word’ is how SGCH demonstrate accountability and integrity to follow up and see things through to an outcome. And ‘Our Purpose’ is a reminder to keep the end goal at the front of their employee’s mind – to support the individuals, families and communities they serve.
Every one of their team members is either serving a customer directly or supporting someone who is. The ‘Growing our Culture’ program encouraged all team members to see every person they deal with as a customer, whether they are a colleague, a partner or a person living in SGCH housing. SGCH acknowledge that when talented people get together, great things happen. With this customer-centric approach, team members have the satisfaction of knowing they positively impact people’s lives every day.
In line with their Statement of Commitment to Aboriginal People, and in response to requests from customers and staff, SGCH have developed a pilot Aboriginal Customer Competency training, called Byala. They partnered with Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) and the SGCH Aboriginal Reference Group to customise a course for SGCH operational staff to better understand Aboriginal history and experience and gain insights into contemporary Aboriginal urban culture so that they can offer their First Nations customers the best possible care. Byala training is mandatory for all people in customer-facing roles. In 2018, SGCH collaborated with the Central Australian Affordable Housing Company (CAAHC) to design the Exchange Partnership program, with the goal of improving cultural awareness in the services delivered to both of their organisations’ customers and communities.
Early last year SGCH launched a new Learning Management System (LMS), Apollo, to empower and embed a more dynamic and modern learning culture. The LMS enables team members to manage their own learning journey through flexible eLearning options. The LMS also has a Rewards and Recognition feature that allows SGCH to show appreciation for their colleagues. The on-demand nature of the training allows SGCH to equip team members with the relevant knowledge and skill mix when it is needed, whether it is for induction, promotion or changes in roles. The autonomy that team members have in selecting and completing the training, with avenues to provide feedback, has a positive impact on SGCH’s employee retention and engagement.
SGCH’s Leadership Journey is their investment in the ongoing development of leadership capability within the organisation. They have been implementing cultural change through the Growing our Culture program. SGCH are committed to continue our leadership journey to create the space and conditions for their teams to thrive. SGCH offers a Launch Into Leadership development program for first time leaders and those interested in a leadership career. Analysis of the development areas identified in team members Annual Development Plans (ADPs) showed people wanted the chance to explore how other teams work and consider other roles for potential career development opportunities. To enable this SGCH have developed a Job Shadowing process, for people to spend time with other teams, observing and growing their understanding of workflow between different teams and roles. This offering helps build a culture of collaboration and fosters the conversations that lead to innovation.
SGCH recognises employee contribution and job performance through their annual performance review cycle, annual remuneration/increment review and team bonuses. SGCH regards employee recognition as an effective method of promoting positive engagement and retention. The structure for issuing awards is not solely focussed on performance, it is equally aimed at promoting our values and motivating team members to adhere to the behaviours. SGCH places importance on holistic wellness, that of team members’ mind, bodies and souls. They show care for their team members so SGCH can provide the best care for their customers. SGCH have a number of initiatives to make it easy for their team members to balance what is important and to feel good about coming into work.
These range from the small, but important things, like nutrition and exercise, to company support for life-work balance. They offer working from home arrangements and flexitime to all permanent and contract team members, including those who work part time. SGCH also offers three bonus days of paid leave per year.
In addition to the initiatives SGCH have in place, their business aims to understand all of their team members individually, in order to support each person to achieve personal job satisfaction. SGCH adopts a leading approach to foster the potential of our team members, using the Gallup CliftonStrengths tool as a personal and team development activity. Based on positive psychology, the tool helps identify an individuals’ natural talent areas. It explains the unique ways you accomplish your goals by building relationships, thinking strategically, executing plans and influencing others. Playing to their strengths consciously enables employees to be more effective and ensure that SGCH collaborate well as a team.