Peabody has helped people make the most of their lives for almost 160 years by providing safe and affordable housing. Today it is responsible for over 67,000 homes in London and the South East and has 17,500 care and support customers. The organisation's People Team has 57 employees spread across six specialisms.
We're really pleased to become a CIPD People Development Partner. We have a new People Strategy to deliver and want to make sure everybody's at the top of their game.
Director of People, Peabody
I’ve been an HR professional for many years but due to family commitments have struggled to commit to a “college” based learning experience. This opportunity helped me to better understand the use of data to inform our actions.
People Business Partner, Care and Support
From Peabody’s perspective I think it will help to achieve our goals, especially at this time when we are launching a new people strategy. It will make sure as a team we stay up to date with the latest legislation.
People Business Partner, Care and Support
Securing PDP status is a clear commitment by Peabody to growing the next generation of people professionals and supporting the development of existing talent within the function. Peabody Group's People function employs approximately 57 people across six teams: two business partnering teams, one specifically focusing on the Care and Support function; Learning & Organisational Development, Equality Diversity and Inclusion; Resourcing and a Shared Services/Operations team.
Challenges and objectives
In December 2019, senior HR practitioners at Peabody began thinking about achieving PDP in conjunction with the development of a new three-year people strategy spanning performance, health and wellbeing, people development, resourcing and onboarding. When the COVID-19 whirlwind struck, some of the plans had to take a back seat as the organisation reacted to the immediate crisis. But in summer 2020 the drive towards PDP resumed amid work on developing the new people strategy to reflect the wide-ranging impact of the pandemic.
'The new people strategy', explains Andrea Gordon, Director of People, Peabody, 'is very ambitious and a lot more creative and innovative. To help deliver that we really need a strong team.'
Key objectives are to boost capability across the team and increase opportunities for progression. Peabody began by gathering evidence of its people development activities and thinking about it ambitions as a function. CIPD provided guidance throughout the process.
Building capability through PDP
A key pillar of Peabody's people strategy is the People Team Career Framework which outlines what each team does, provides details of all the roles within it and shows the levels of those roles to provide clarity on what's required for progression. It was developed to align with new CIPD Profession Map. 'It gives you an idea of the things you might need to do to make your next step, whether that's upwards or across and upwards,' says Liz Meineck, Head of Learning and Organisational Development, Peabody.
Alongside this there has been a big drive towards professionalisation. Five team members are currently going through qualifications at Level 3 and Level 5 and four have passed Experience Assessment (EA), including Angelique Halbach, People Business Partner, Care and Support.
Another five people are currently completing the Experience Assessment route – and interestingly Liz is among them. She explains that the preceding cohort have acted as advocates for the process, making it seem less daunting. 'Just being able to pick somebody's brains about what to expect makes it feel a bit more doable.'
There has also been a lot of peer support from fellow team heads which has proved very helpful. Moreover, bringing colleagues from different functions in the People team together for the accreditation process has led to more collaboration on other matters.
Secondments to different teams have been encouraged to broaden knowledge and open up new career opportunities. CIPD has also run insightful learning sessions for Peabody, including one on the changing world of work.
A strong commitment to CPD
Although Peabody has long been committed to CPD, Andrea concedes the People function was 'probably a little bit guilty, as most HR people are' of focusing so much on everybody else in the organisation that it forgot about itself. That has all changed, with a major focus now placed on CPD within and across the teams that adds greater personal development to the mix alongside the standard technical aspects of learning, such as employment law updates. On top of CPD relating specifically to each team's specialism, there have been 'learn at lunches' on subjects like neurodiversity, an upskilling programme for coaching and more of an onus on reflective practice to help People Business Partners sharpen their strategic skills.
'The fact that we have put a big focus on CPD even throughout the pandemic has made people feel valued and stable in an uncertain world,' says Liz. 'It shows we are investing in them.'
Knowledge sharing and future plans
There are plans for more knowledge sharing to provide even greater detail on the nature of the different roles in the People team at Peabody. Andrea holds monthly meetings with the team Heads of Service to discuss PDP matters and other issues related to Learning & Development and the Career Framework, and every quarter there's a whole team update session on everything CIPD related. A longstanding development philosophy is being further cemented in the organisation with a view to giving people greater opportunities to progress internally, either in their current team or by moving to a different one.
In line with its new people strategy, Peabody is supporting CIPD's #FlexFrom1st campaign to support flexible working for all and the right to request flexible working from day one of employment. More information about the campaign can be found here. Andrea has joined the CIPD Guild for HR leaders and taken part in several roundtables, while overall the team is open to participating in future CIPD initiatives as they arise.
'Given the challenges that we've had as a profession generally over the last 12-15 months in having to respond and deal with COVID, we are really pleased that we have received the accreditation,' says Andrea. 'We're also very excited to be the first in the housing sector to get it.'