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Fairhive uncover opportunities for improvement in a Voids & Lettings Review

Understanding staff capacity and improving the Voids process

Groups of people around walls of post-it notes

Fairhive homes are a Community Benefit Society and a not-for-profit landlord with nearly 9,000 homes across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and South Northamptonshire. Back in 2014, Fairhive worked with Ad Esse Consulting to improve their voids & lettings process with Lean principles. The project was a great success, but over time, the overall solution had gradually degraded, and the organisation noticed a decline in void rent loss performance.

Things change over time

We originally introduced a physical voids tracker, a tool that enables staff to monitor process progress during daily stand-ups in the office. Unfortunately, Covid threw a spanner in the works. Fairhive rolled out hybrid working, leaving the physical voids tracker behind without a digital replacement. This is a common problem and things naturally change over time as organisations respond to new challenges, customer needs, and ways of working.

Increase in void demand

In recent years, Fairhive received an increase in void demand. This, mixed with a process that didn’t support a hybrid way of working, led to a large backlog of void properties. Emails flooding in, phones blaring out, tensions running high. I’m sure you can imagine the level of pressure the void properties team where under with a never-ending sea of work.

Fairhive’s aims for working with Ad Esse

That’s why Fairhive wanted to complete a comprehensive review of the end-to-end voids & lettings process. From this, they hoped to identify what improvements could be made to reduce void turnaround time. The void properties team would be able to breathe again, and customers would receive an improved experience. Fairhive wanted to understand what staff resource the team need to effectively meet void demand and improve the process. Here’s where Ad Esse stepped in.

Ad Esse led a diagnostic

Ad Esse Consultant, Stoffer Bruun conducted a diagnostic exercise to identify what the key factors and process issues were contributing towards the longer void turnaround times. Stoffer interviewed front-line staff individually to understand current ways of working, observed staff on-site to see how the process was being delivered live, and captured the detailed end-to-end process using a technique called value-stream mapping. Together, these exercises helped us build a comprehensive picture of the existing voids & lettings approach. Most importantly, it highlighted where there was room for improvement.

Opportunities for improvement based on diagnostic findings

The project team uncovered three key problems that Fairhive could focus on, and doing so would optimise their voids & lettings performance.

Finding #1 – Work couldn’t start immediately when properties became void

The process in the pre-void phase could be improved to reduce wasted time. We recommended bringing important works preparation steps forward to the termination period. E.g. completing asbestos surveys, organising major works, gas/electric checks, and mobilising utility provider changeovers.

By moving this activity earlier in the process, there’s an opportunity to reduce void re-let times by three weeks. Why wait until a property is void?

Finding #2 – Arbitrary targets dictated order of workload

The team were using a restrictive first-in first-out approach, dictated by arbitrary void work targets. This limits Fairhive’s potential to minimise void rent loss.

Instead, we recommended an optimised demand-led model for prioritising void works. A dynamic prioritisation model enables the lettings team to dictate where to complete voids works next based on the progress of their lettings process. To get started, management agreed to remove the arbitrary KPI targets and Ad Esse helped design a modernised digital voids tracker to support effective daily decision-making based on real-time void progress.

This approach minimises void rent loss on properties because nominees are lined up already.

Finding #3 – Over-complicated key management process

The end-to-end key management process had an excessive number of handovers and was prone to error with residents returning keys to the office incorrectly.

‘Keys should stay on site at all times’ was a principle that came out of the redesign. We recommended that key safes should be installed at termination inspections with all residents leaving their keys at the property.

This removed two handovers and error-proofed the process against receiving unlabelled keys. 

Assessing capacity requirements

To assess the team’s capacity requirements, Stoffer and the Fairhive team captured the total working time needed to deliver both the current AND redesigned process. This was then overlayed with existing demand levels to calculate the FTE requirements for each role. This demonstrated what impact the capacity-saving improvements would have and helped inform whether the team would be adequately resourced to deliver the new process moving forward.

“It’s been really well received by the team, and already seeing a shift in thinking! Highly recommend Ad Esse Consulting as always!”

(Liz Stockton, Operations Business Manager – Repairs & Voids at Fairhive Homes)

“There’s a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement around this project which is great to see. Our void days are continuously reducing, and we’re still only at the early stages of implementation. I think the Voids tracker will have a huge impact when it is up and running.”

(Lisa Mortimer, Allocations & Lettings Service Manager at Fairhive Homes)

Identify opportunities for improvement in your organisation with Ad Esse’s process / service review. We work with social purpose organisations, like social housing, charities, healthcare and local authorities. Let’s have a chat about how we can help you to improve performance at your organisation. Email hello@ad-esse.com.