So, the world has definitely become ‘smart’ – smart phones, smart homes – but are we, those who work within social housing, moving in time to capitalise on the changes? Are we working smart enough to make the most of the undoubted benefits?
Many of us who have worked in social housing throughout the past 20-30 years will no doubt be amazed at the pace at which technology now affects how we operate today.
It feels as if every decade brings with it a new level of technological advancement – in the eighties there was the digitisation of paper ledger and spreadsheets, and in the nineties we moved onto desktops and within a short hop from that mobile tech saw the move of managers being plugged directly into IT systems.
But nothing has changed the way a workforce really operated in the sector until the advent of truly mobile technology. This could be a problem for many as housing is still a fairly conventional business – and it could even be said that, while delivery has changed, the actual management of housing stock has remained fairly static.
From a recruitment perspective, this now adds a layer of future gazing. What kinds of skills will be needed to run a truly flexible and diverse workforce – how will we attract the raw talents of Gen Y and Millennials into the fold?
After all, the underpinning principles of technology are now taking route in social housing. They are becoming increasingly central to the design and delivery and providing important, real-time data about the tenants who live there.
I feel that there is still time for us to think about these questions – but not much. And there is no doubt that the changes in terms of cultural adaptation and uptake of the true innovations and abilities of these technologies must come from leadership.
Many are now arguing for a new way of investing in and valuing technology and data and we will need a clear vision and skill set to adopt these systems and methods of working in ways that are truly fit for purpose.
This could even structurally change the boardroom setting as IT-specific skills and talent will increasingly be needed at that level to ensure efficiency and implementation is being driven from a strategic place, and not just dependent on teams on the ground to make the best of things.
It seems that the time is now to get our head round these big questions before the next decade and the next wave of technology hits us or there is potential for the social housing sector to feel not very smart at all.