Richard Branson once famously stated that “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with this – at Grand Union we value customers and colleagues alike – I do agree with the sentiment. That’s why, at Grand Union, we know that investment in our people is an investment in the communities they serve. In the 12 years I’ve worked here, I’ve seen the way our business invests in its people evolve, looking outside of the housing sector to find new ideas and ways of doing things. This mindset of trying to do the best by our colleagues has led us to where we are today, and the launch of our new centre of excellence – the K2 Academy. Named after our head office, the Academy will provide colleagues with engaging and exciting opportunities to learn, develop and progress their career. From our apprentices, right through to senior leaders, the K2 Academy will help us grow and nurture our talent, supporting colleagues to reach their full potential and thrive in the future world of work.
“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone flourish and thrive as a result of learning about themselves…”A first for our sector? We think we are one of just a handful of housing associations to roll out an academy of this nature, and I’m so pleased we’ve been able to launch it in what has been a challenging 12 months for us all. Setting up the Academy allows us to invest in the development of colleagues at all levels, both for now and beyond their existing roles. For those just starting off their careers in housing, we have a number of apprenticeships throughout Grand Union and also offer a mentoring scheme, where those new to housing or the workplace can develop their skills, knowledge and career ambitions with the support of more experienced colleagues. We’re also introducing a multi-staged leadership elevator programme to support leaders and managers to gain the skills, experience and qualifications to move to the next level of leadership. This will allow colleagues to naturally progress through the business. Empowerment The K2 Academy empowers colleagues to take personal responsibility for their learning and professional development, allowing them to reach their full potential. I have trained as a coach and mentor whilst at Grand Union and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone flourish and thrive as a result of learning about themselves and how they can develop, through an intervention such as coaching or mentoring. I am sure all our coaches and mentors would agree! By providing colleagues with tools and approaches that make collaborative learning engaging and exciting, collectively we reach quicker, better outcomes for our customers and one another. All colleagues have access to our online learning system, that takes them from induction through to ongoing personal and professional development. On top of this, we have also invested in Virtual Ashridge – an online education resource for senior managers in the business, providing a personalised development journey which focuses on individual learning needs. Focussing on the future One of the aims in our new three-year corporate plan – Further together – is to use technology intelligently to benefit our customers. In order to do that, we need to ensure that we’re all prepared for the future world of work and technology. If you think back five or ten years, the working world has changed drastically, with so much new technology being introduced and opening up numerous opportunities. Even just in the lifespan of Further together, technology will move on in leaps and bounds, and we must ensure that we keep up with it so we can continue to provide a great customer experience every day. The K2 Academy will allow this too, with one eye always focused on the future and changes that may affect how we work.