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Introduction

Leeds Federated is a housing association with around 4,000 properties across Leeds, Wakefield and North Yorkshire. They provide high-quality housing and work with local communities with the aim of making neighbourhoods places people want to live and others want to move to. They pride themselves on promoting equality of access for all illustrated by their vision:

‘To enable the maximum number of people to access and live sustainably in good value, affordable housing.’

Leeds Federated are also focused on providing the best value to their tenants and other customers and are keen to promote innovation in a range of ways, including the use of technology to improve the range and value of services they provide beyond just housing.

Starting out with Actus – A five-year relationship

This approach of innovation through technology spans the whole organisation including HR and the relationship between Leeds Federated and Actus dates right back to 2013 when Megan Henderson, HR Manager introduced Actus Performance Management Software. At the time they wanted to move paper-based appraisal online and were really keen to embed a culture of regular 1:1’s – again demonstrating vision as this was before the concept of continuous performance conversations was commonplace.

They also used the system to embed a detailed competency framework within their appraisal and were very keen to utilise 360 functionality and feedback in the future. The culture of regular 1:1’s supported by Actus is well-established now 5 years on and with attrition in the region of 4% in 2017/18 they are definitely doing something right!

Evolving together

One of the reasons that Megan continues to advocate Actus is the flexibility and people-focused approach of both the system and the company. She has always found the accessibility and responsiveness of the Support Team hugely valuable, particularly the personal approach when dealing with requests or issues.

Recently, Megan took advantage of one of the free Organisational Development Reviews with a senior Actus Consultant. This enabled her to reflect on the effectiveness of their current appraisal form and revise it proactively, with the help of Actus. This subtle switch of the appraisal form changed the focus from being retrospective to more future-focused and rebranding appraisals as ‘Achievement Conversations’.

As an organisation, Leeds Federated needs to ensure it is providing value and operating efficiently. Megan feels able to justify the investment in Actus compared to other HR modules, when challenged for a number of reasons:

Configurability and Flexibility – As outlined above, it is far more cost-effective to tweak an already established technology like Actus to support cultural goals than it is to start again.
Built-in People Focus – Actus is designed by people with a HR background and this shows in many places, which means the system can be adapted to support hot topics like wellbeing, mental health and resilience, as well as longer term goals like career aspirations.
Visibility and Alignment – For a future-focused organisation like Leeds Federated, it is important for the Leadership Team to be able to easily visualise top-level performance which Actus supports through the alignment of individual objectives with top-level goals.

“Working with Actus to think about what we needed from appraisal going forwards and adapting it accordingly meant that we had already defined how to tweak the Actus system to support the changing requirements of the organisation.
This meant that when managers came to talk to us, we already had a solution for them that was ready to go which they loved!”

– Megan Henderson, Leeds Federated

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Results

The appraisal system has been refreshed with the new ‘Achievement Conversation’ focus and 121’s continue to work well as do other aspects of Actus such as career conversations, objectives and milestones. The new Recognition and Enquire Module has also been launched, helping to bring the values to life.
“All teams use it a little differently to meet their needs but are aligned to the same overall process, that is part of the value of Actus” said Megan.
Actus and Leeds Federated are about to run some skills training together and focus on how the Development and 360 Feedback modules can support the organisation in 2018 and beyond.