2020’s best employee engagement strategy: Livv Housing Group

Leadership challenges, the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and major fire safety concerns leading to a severe downgrading by the social housing industry regulator, have all been the catalyst for a seismic turnaround of 14,000-home Livv Housing Group, a social landlord based in the North West.

In April 2020, Livv was introduced as a rebrand of the organisation formerly known as First Ark, which was placed under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in August 2018 when it became the UK’s first non-compliant housing association (on fire safety grounds) by the Regulator of Social Housing, with its governance downgraded to a G3 rating.

With a long journey ahead to reclaim its G1 rating for governance, Livv Housing Group has been created to facilitate simplified and efficient decision-making, ensuring that customers, communities and employees are placed back at the forefront of all operations.

A new employee engagement strategy was developed and has been rolled out over the last 18 months. At the heart of the strategy is an open and honest culture which encourages employee feedback and interaction at all levels.

Prior to this, wider employee input hadn’t been sought on a regular basis, and engaging employees was critical to the overall response to deregulation and assuring Livv’s future success.

The need for more engagement led to the creation of a forum that would empower all employees to drive business change and improvement. The forum comprises 22 employees who represent different areas of the group, allowing every business unit to have its voice heard on a range of issues.

The Employee Forum meets once a month to discuss issues raised by its members and colleagues, as well as helping to plan events and conferences, workshops and social arrangements for staff.

The strategy’s rollout also marked the culmination of major changes to leadership and a significant group restructure which has reduced the organisation from seven companies (under an unregulated parent: First Ark) to just one over-arching, regulated parent company.

When Livv’s new CEO, Léann Hearne, joined in November 2018, staff turnover at a senior level had been especially high at almost 50% over 12 months. This was amplified by the structural complexities of having seven company boards.

Hearne was brought in to turn this around and immediately began the process of creating a single skills-based common purpose board, comprising 10 new board members. The new singular board began operations in April 2019 and was well received by staff leading to greater stability and a reduction of senior staff turnover.

The forum was instrumental in driving the reorganisation of operations and preparing employees for the new brand launch of Livv. For this reason, the judges felt the strategy made for a real transformational case study.

By working with and through its people, the judges thought the group had turned a significant corner and its efforts in creating a single, positive culture and pride are already beginning to show.


Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)

London Stock Exchange Group

Lloyds Banking Group

The Engagement Coach

Smart DCC

Find the full list of the 2020 HR Excellence awards winners here. You can also watch the event on demand and register your interest in the 2021 event here.