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Social Housing, gameplay battlefront 2015 - the planets rise

11 January 2016

Social housing win themes for 2016

Social Housing was attacked on all fronts in 2015 through government pledges that were set to rock the sector and change it forever.

A combination of strikes made social housing the favourite political punch bag.

But as Star Wars Battlefront was getting ready for its big launch later in the year, social housing gameplay, showed that it does have resilience, making its political manoeuvre, coming out fighting. Despite inevitable change that will take place across the sector, there is still plenty to get excited about.  

So how will the force awaken in 2016? Here is Morgan Hunt’s compendium of 8 social housing win themes for 2016:

Extension of Right-to-buy
A watershed moment for the social housing sector but what the politicians didn’t dwell on is that RTB isn’t a new initiative, a vote winner maybe, but not a new innovation. RTB was introduced in the 1980’s yet turned out to be one of the biggest housing debates of 2015.

Last year the Government made homeownership its priority, shifting all government, affordable housing, capital funding, into products such as Starter Homes and shared ownership, yet many thought this not the slam dunk expected. Concerns still prevail around market distortion and of allowing the poorest to buy.

The heroes of the day, the National Housing Federation (NHF), helped broker an agreement that made RTB look a bit more manageable than originally perceived, to give housing associations more leeway to manage their stock and their responsibilities. We accept that not everyone sees NHF as knights in shining armour, but if the deal allows housing associations to be in more control of their futures, protect jobs and housing for the vulnerable, which it does, then this has to be seen as a good thing. This is why we’ve flipped RTB into a win theme for 2016.

Rebuilding the sector
In the midst of the political firepower, social housing base command was getting on with the job and last year, despite a fall in their housing association grants, they managed to increase the level of completions which rose by 53% in 2015 over the previous year.

New housing stock gives the chance for housing association’s to own and manage more cost efficient homes, to generate their own money, which they did by investing 84 pence in every pound from their own finances.

Breaking news just one week into the New Year the Government announced that 100 of the country’s most run-down, sink housing estates will be replaced with government and private sector money.

Old housing stock is costly to maintain but new development, funded from RTB, at housing association discretion has to be a win theme for the sector longer term.

Welfare reform
Removal of housing support for 18-21 year olds and lowering of the benefit cap is no doubt a tricky business for all housing associations.

The National Living Wage also impacts the cost of delivering care contracts on behalf of local authorities and contracts will need to be renegotiated. Welfare Reform represents an uncomfortable set of hard choices for social institutions to make.

The burning platform for change forces going back to basics, re writing the rule book and thinking outside the box in terms products delivered. Housing associations are in the unenviable position of determining who gets and who doesn’t and Welform Reform has exacerbated the decision criteria. None-the-less there is much misconception about social housing tenants and people on housing benefit, and the impact of reform is felt more keenly with housing associations than with any other social care agency.

But in the end we believe that social housing will garner its creativity for this to be a win theme long term, albeit that it will need to think hard about delivering services under different models.

Rent cuts
Housing associations will have to cut social housing rents by 1 per cent each year for the next four years from April 2016 to help reduce the country’s housing benefit bill. The reversal of the rental formula, which currently allows housing associations to raise rents in line with the consumer prices index (CPI) plus 1 per cent, forms a significant part of the investment profile. This impacts long term loans which may need review and overhaul.

Rent cuts a win theme, are we serious?

Yes we are.  Interest rates are still at an all-time low and investors are still keen to invest. More affordable rents will mean less arrears and more certainty on income and are thus more prudent. Also under different housing provision models, the rent will be only part of the income generated. 

Efficiency is about getting more out of using less resource and we see this win theme from more than one perspective:

  • Devolution

Devolution as we’ve seen in Greater Manchester is giving local control of housing investment to get home building kick started from additional money. Although this could be a double edged sword as borrowing caps may need to be removed, efficiencies can be made from pooled local housing funds. Local control of knowing where and how to invest makes the Treasury a tad nervous but a total of 34 bids from England regions have already been submitted.

  • Building innovation

Efficiencies can also be gained through innovation in house building factories or from modular building schemes to churn out hundreds of homes. The Government through InnovateUK is currently investing in supply chain research to see how this could come to fruition.

Delivery models
This is our favourite win theme; there is more than one kind of housing provision model.

The deregulation package announced by Brandon Lewis which includes removing the constitutional consents regime could be the springboard that enables housing associations to be more flexible in their delivery models.  Under this proposal housing associations will no longer need permission from the regulator before they make certain kinds of changes including mergers, restructuring, winding up and dissolution.

The idea is to give more flexibility to housing associations to manage their own funds in order to build more affordable homes and help more people into ownership while ensuring that the historical grant is reinvested in housing.

Hybrid housing delivery, working with the private sector could bridge the housing gap. Private sector landlords have also been the brunt of political attack – housing associations could be a lifeline for them too. Global Institutional investors have promised and are being courted for millions in UK social housing equity funding – an exciting time for housing.

Asset management
More efficiently run DLO could make big contributions in managing and preserving stock. To insource or outsource can transform the cost of social housing's biggest expense. But like all decisions, it needs to be made in context of all other inputs yet this has great potential under our win themes.

Talent management
Last, but not least of our win themes - managing talent.

Talent is a construct that Morgan Hunt is passionate about. There is no single definition, it means different things to different organisations and is made up of skills, knowledge and ability. Since this amalgam is unique to each organisation there are many approaches to talent management and many contexts for the definition but managing your talent and ensuring that you recruit the best does matter.

It matters that housing associations can define what talents they are missing in order to reach their full potential, and it matters that they have a plan of how and where they might find and accommodate for the range of skills and knowledge required in a changing housing landscape.
In this article, ‘Social Housing, gameplay battlefront 2015’, Morgan Hunt has taken the ‘cup half full approach’ in its chosen win themes because change needs fresh thinking, doing things differently with helicopter insight, courage to do the right things and the talent to carry it out.

For more information on managing your social housing talent email us.


FE is in a 'fragile state' says minister - what does 'fragile' mean?

16 September 2015

We ask, is this war time code for a post 16 education funding crisis?

Fragile in this context is what a business would call cash flow. In other words the finances are in a fragile state.

To get this ‘fragile’ situation sorted the Government wants all colleges to take part in area-based reviews.  Post 16 reviews will be taking place throughout the country with the overall aim to get them into better shape or ‘more robust’, less ‘fragile’.

What that shape will look like is yet to be decided but what is clear is that the government sees this as a money saving exercise and not as a funding crisis; any further money will not, at this stage, be coming from Government coffers.

To be fair the Government is not looking to cut current funding, although there have been cuts already; what is clear is that they want funding better managed with better education outcomes; they want cake.

What has been acknowledged so far is that post 16 colleges, in general, are in a pickle and the ‘fragile’ talks and area reviews give an indication to the strategic mind-set behind recent activities.

On the table as an outcome of the reviews is curriculum rationalisation; restructuring is not ruled out and bubbling in policy background is talk of a specific strategy for technology, more local control and an education emphasis that leads to employment. All good you say, but, here’s the big one, there will no doubt be compromises.

Outcomes may lead to Government intervention and that could be significant for some colleges.

Furthermore the ‘fragile’ focus is in truth about money and Government is not envisaging any more, this is not the purpose of the exercise but they do want support from businesses through local partnerships.

An overall assumption from the area reviews is that colleges will be saving money and thus any change will be funded from future surplus from the savings, local business partnerships and local authorities.

Local authorities will be expected to provide money too from their skills budgets so colleges can make the changes.

What could this mean for post 16 colleges

The overwhelming message taken from recent talks and announcements is ‘change’. That change will depend on the catchment area that the college is in, their combined curriculum and their student population.

If it involves curriculum rationalisation then compromise will have to be made here.

Some courses cost more than others and the combined effect of a rise in total cost can dramatically change the marginal cost of a student and college finances so the cost accountants will no doubt move in to look at the marginal cost of all student courses and how economies can be made.

Whole area strategies will be under discussion looking at how collective colleges can achieve synergies. The emphasis on technology will see technology specific institutions set up where economies of scale can be gained thus saving other colleges the huge investment in IT.

Examples are already being made across the country; in North East Norfolk and North Suffolk five colleges are collaborating following a review earlier this summer. Between them they were facing a deficit of over £1.3m. The financial challenge was clear but when this was combined with a falling college age population in the area it became a ‘no brainer’ decision to merge.

The same with three colleges in east London that were facing £3m in cuts and accumulated annual losses of £4m they too decided to join forces.

Change is always unsettling; for staff, for students, for parents and for the local community who rely on their college. Often decisions are taken within a vacuum without taking into account the impact on travel, access, accommodation and recruitment. The latter as Morgan Hunt knows only too well, being a major consideration for any college.

As all reviews need to be in by March 2017 there is much to think about and debate on how the ‘fragile’ nature of colleges can be resolved and the compromises to be made. Collaboration is what is being sought and a vision on what the area needs as a whole, and as a review can be triggered by a proactive proposal it’s worth getting involved.


How to say 'no' at work in a constructive way

04 June 2015

Saying “no” to your superiors, peers and subordinates is one of the most challenging aspects of the modern workplace.

Everyone needs to say ‘no’ at some point but in doing so you could risk coming across as being disagreeable, disrespectful, or at worst dispensable to the people and the organisation. So learning to say ‘no’ in a constructive and assertive manner can help you in your career.

Declining to do what you’ve been asked to do needs some careful thought and planning, after all you still need to deliver on your own role and responsibilities and saying ‘no’ could affect these. Reasons for saying ‘no’ may be varied; either that the task risks your own performance, that you have very good reasons for disagreement, or for unethical or illegal reasons.

The key point is that you are very specific and clear about what the reasons are and that you get this across in a considered and professional manner.

Here are some guidelines that will help you say ‘no’ in a way that will not seem like an unreasonable refusal.

Build your good reputation
As an employee, you may have little say about the tasks being assigned by your superiors but don’t despair. You can prove your good work ethic, enthusiasm for the job, and willingness to learn by saying “yes” to as many jobs as you can handle, perhaps even a few more. You can, however, ask for guidance in the crucial aspects of the tasks and for assistance in workload prioritisation.

Basically, you must build your reputation as a reliable employee who will deliver. You will then have more leverage when you say “no” to certain tasks for valid reasons.

Ask before saying “no”
Before disagreeing to the tasks being offered by a superior or a peer, be sure to ask the right questions first. You have to completely understand what the tasks involve including the time frame, parameters of accomplishment, and impact of work, among others. You may even ask for a few hours or days to think about the tasks so that you can formulate valid reasons for your refusal, if and when you come to the decision.

Explain your reasons
If possible, you should avoid saying “no” without explaining your reasons for doing so. Your superior or colleague will likely appreciate your reasons for refusal and perhaps even provide assistance in your tasks. Your good communication skills will come in handy at this point.

For example, you can say that you are refusing the additional task because your quality of work will suffer in the process. You may also tell the other person about your future availability or your ability to provide partial assistance on the task.

Offer an alternative
Your ability to say “no” in a constructive manner also hinges on your ability to propose alternative solutions. In a way, you are still providing assistance for the other person without actually putting your entire physical energy and mental effort into the additional task. You are still being a team player, thus, contributing your share into the achievement of team goals.

For example, you can offer assistance on a job-related aspect. You will still be doing your main tasks yet also doing something for the team.

Personally say it
While emails, chats and calls may be convenient, you can soften the blow, so to speak, by saying it in a face-to-face manner. Your email or chat may have undertones that the receiver can misunderstand and having caused the wrong impression will be very difficult to get back on the level you want to be.

Your refusal at work for certain tasks will not be easy but when you can deal with it in a professional manner, it becomes easier.


What perks do you expect your employer to offer?

03 June 2015

The bar is being raised as employers compete to get the best people on board

Organisations and their suppliers are coming up with all kinds of benefits to entice candidates to join them and to encourage employees to stay. But since different benefits have different perceived values across diverse working groups, organisations now have to respond to their varying needs.

One such phenomenon is up to four generations of individuals now working together with varying roles and responsibilities in their management and operations. These employees will have uniquely different needs and wants in the workplace that employers should ideally address across the board.

So if the bar is being raised what then can employees expect from their employers. As recruiters we see quite a lot of different packages being offered and after a quick scoot around our different industry sectors we’ve gathered together some of the more standard and some non-standard benefits being offered. What’s clear to us is that across the sectors, industries have different norms so before you request any perk, make sure it is appropriate.


Standard Employee Benefits

At the basic level you should expect a workplace environment that rewards its workers for hard work and success and for this to be commensurate with the job, level and industry. You should have the opportunity to expand your personal and professional capabilities, advance in your career, and enjoy the resulting benefits of this.

In our standard group of benefits you should expect at least one or a number of these:

  • Insurance, health and wellness including private medical and dental insurance, vision insurance and eyesight testing, occupation accident insurance, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance, specs voucher;
  • Financial and retirement benefits, such as pension and retirement plan, performance bonus, equity incentive plan, profit share, and stock options;
  • Family and parenting including maternity or paternity leave, childcare vouchers and elder-care assistance, and reduced flexible hours;
  • Vacation and time off, such as paid holidays, sabbatical leave, and sick days;
  • Discounts, such as employee discounts, company car, and employee assistance program;
  • Professional support including diversity program, job training, and tuition assistance for graduate studies

Of course, each employer will have specific salary and benefits packages for its different groups of employees. You should consider the whole package being offered by the prospective employer before accepting a job and compare this with a similar company.

Tip: Look at jobs through recruiters like Morgan Hunt for the benefits packages offered by the employers.

Non-standard Employee Perks

Many organisations are also providing their employees, from senior executives and managers through to administrators, with workplace-specific perks. These non-standard perks are usually designed to address the unique workplace conditions, thus, providing the employer with the opportunity to increase its retention rate.

In Morgan Hunt’s non-standard group of benefits we came across these more than once:

  • Fresh fruit days
  • Birthday day holiday
  • Mortgage savings fund
  • Early release on Friday
  • Christmas party
  • Summer BBQ
  • Free beverage
  • Free breakfast
  • Final salary or above statutory contribution pension scheme
  • Charity fund raising days
  • In-service insurance, income protection, and death benefits
  • Gym membership
  • Travel loans

Some of our perks are law-mandated benefits which means that the employer must provide this and you are within your right to demand these benefits as part of your contract of employment i.e. pension. Some work-specific perks may be part of your employment package others will be discretionary.

Also remember that some perks are subject to P11D, which means you may need to pay tax on the value of the benefit so you need to think carefully on these before accepting the perk.

If you know what other organisations are offering you can lobby yours to consider offering these too but before going through this process it is always worth sparing some thought to the benefit that the employer would get from offering you the additional perk. That way it will be easier for them to justify the additional expenditure for example for reasons of; safety, productivity, and enjoyment factors.


If X+Y=10 and X+X=7 calculate the number of female accountants

05 May 2015

Women in accounting - top exam results, but still on the trial balance

From what was a male dominated profession there is no doubt, females are making quite a bit of a stir entering accountancy. This year women have scored the highest exam results in the latest ACA Professional Level exams that has resulted in an all women prize list of top scorers.

So not only are women proving themselves academically fit for purpose they are also not afraid to enter a profession once regarded as boys’ school territory.

But this is the start of the story and not the end so there has to be a big ‘but’ somewhere and here it comes:

Although women can prove themselves in the exam room they are yet to be given equal opportunity in the boardroom; even more surprising is that in some parts of the world women now represent the clear majority of accountants. Regions such as Asia Pacific; Singapore and the Philippines have some of the highest female accountant populations in the world estimated to be up to 75%, with the American labour bureau reporting female numerical dominance in accounting and tax positions.
There’s more of the ‘but’; in the UK a recent survey by ICAEW and Stott & May shows women earning on average 37% less than men explaining the gender pay gap partly due to seniority of role, sector bias and job type where pay is typically less.

So here’s the rub in the ‘but’; there are now more women entering into the profession, they represent majorities in some regions of the world, they excel in exams, yet they hold more junior positions, working in sectors that are not so highly paid that offer part time working, and they make slow progress when it comes to the boardroom, a natural path for accountants to take; women are struggling to reach 25% in the ftse 100 companies and only 18% in the top 250. 

On the worst interpretation; the data conspires a theory of discriminatory practice in accounting, the science has little form of testable explanations and the maths simply doesn’t make sense. On the best, it is a decision that women make to be more flexible to their life’s needs, with their choices favouring more worthy and satisfying sectors to work in.

Whatever the cause and we must remind ourselves that equal opportunity and diversity isn’t just about women; it follows along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or any other ideologies. It celebrates differences and balances opinion and decision. Global companies thrive on it.

However the effect of the appalling statistics on women in accounting is not, in the long term, good for commerce and business, and organisations must consider the consequences of continued male dominance at the top in accounting; lest we forget how far women have come in the last century.

For more information on accountancy jobs email


Whistleblowers in the NHS who expose the truth

25 March 2015

Great leadership and management skills within the NHS cannot exist devoid of compassion.

Just shy of 100 years ago you could have been shot for treason for telling the truth regardless of whether the truth was a justified ‘truth’ or not.

Everyone’s truth is different and so ‘truth’ as a yardstick is not necessarily an exact gauge on whether telling it is for good or for bad. Yet there have been recent instances where telling a perceived truth, perceived by the individual that is, or ‘whistleblowing’ has led to justice being done.

So when is it right to whistleblow and is the government’s crusade in favour of whistleblowing a knee jerk, politically populist, reaction to investigative journalism.

It is worth noting that NHS managers in general are highly trained individuals in public sector management. They are trained in management strategy where a lot of current practice evolves around strategic tools, theories, targets and measurement charts.

The NHS buzz phrases are; ‘patient first’, ‘waiting unacceptable’, ‘waste reduction’, ‘cost minimisation’ and ‘end to end process’.  Lean charts and critical success factors measure better value, value being determined by the customer (the patient is now the customer), and process should be consistent around a ‘core value stream’ that leaders must be able to quantify.

All this is fine but it will never change the culture of the NHS into an organisation with an overriding social mission that drives every NHS worker regardless of what they do or what level they work at. And the root cause of whistleblowing is about the lack of that social responsibility somewhere in the system.

NHS managers have dual roles in much greater quantities than managers in other sectors need to have.. They require skills in persuasion, negotiation and influence to achieve a balance in the ‘NHS the business’ role and ‘NHS the carer’ role.

The NHS business manager will use strategic management tools and techniques, and the lean six sigma strategies to plan, measure and manage what is a complex operation yet this cannot be done in isolation of the NHS ‘care manager’; two egg twins that share the womb but with different genes and different personas. Lean six sigma theories have their place and may have worked for Toyota and a plethora of other business types but the product of the NHS is distinctly different and a great deal less predictable than a car production line.

Great leadership and management skills within the NHS cannot exist devoid of compassion. Managers must have the emotional connection that stops them in their tracks if the ‘production line’ simply does not meet the social mission, no matter how challenging to change. They must not allow themselves to be anesthetised from the practices of others or from mandates coming down through a series of hierarchies. 

On balance no one can deny that whistleblowing has led to much progress.  Exactly what that progress is, in this context, is open for debate but the overriding social mission of the NHS must make it clear to leadership that doing their job is about taking social accountability as much as it is about crafting the core value stream, and that social accountability must be the main thread that runs through each and every one of their actions and decisions that they make. This is not rocket science or car aerodynamics.

Truth though has context too and the Doctor who was sacked by the mental health trust for raising concerns with her employer and the care worker who pushed the alarm about mistreatment both clearly spoke out against a deep belief that the system was not right.

But why did they have to whistleblow? - Because no-one was listening and the culture of fear stopped others from changing the system, or there was no system in place that allowed a voice to be heard and investigated. Of course trying to control whistleblowing is tantamount to ‘gagging’ but somehow the NHS must  have a robust process in place where front line staff in health and care roles are heard and taken seriously without fearing for their jobs and it’s only the managers who can do this.

At Morgan Hunt we strive to seek out candidates who can demonstrate leadership with a mission consistent with NHS values because we know that the future of the NHS is in the hands of the people that our clients employ. We’re all ‘customers’ of the NHS and if there is one thing that almost everyone agrees upon and that is we all want our NHS.

For more information on healthcare management jobs email