Effective communication for an affordable homes specialist

How policy management technology is enabling The Aspire Group to pass on essential employee updates with maximum efficiency


Communicating new guidelines and company policies effectively is important for businesses of all types and sizes. For public-facing organisations in particular, dealing with essential services on a day-to-day basis it is key – a fact that the Newcastle-under-Lyme-based affordable homes and social housing specialist The Aspire Group knows well.

To help it improve the efficiency with which policies were distributed along with its overall policy management framework, 18 months ago the firm piloted a new NETconsent policy management platform.

Prior to this, policies were saved to the company intranet, which was problematic for a number of reasons, as Aspire Group governance manager Rachel Challinor explains: “When people left or changed jobs, policies didn’t always get updated when they should and would often refer to printed copies which could be out of date,” she says.

“There was also no way of tracking who had actually read the policies, which meant that they may have missed an important update and we could not prove that they had seen them, should we ever need to for legal reasons.”

Having successfully deployed the policy management technology, the Aspire Group began using the NETconsent platform to send out new policy communications across the whole group, including Aspire Housing, Enterprising Futures and The Realise Foundation.

In all, around 500 employees now receive the latest policies and procedures relating to the organisation and their individual remit. This may include, for instance, standard policies relating to areas such as IT, data protection and probity as well as more bespoke communications, such as the use of motor scooters within estates.

For Aspire, the fact that the software combines automation and real-time company-wide messaging capabilities has proved extremely valuable. Similarly, it also enables the organisation to store material in a centralised document repository, which in turn can help overcome the risk of employees referring to old documents, or essential policy updates being missed.

“One of the main priorities for the technology was to improve version control,” says Challinor. “When policies are presented as printed paper documents, this often goes out of the window. Using the automated NETconsent system, we have been able to address this and create greater policy ownership.

“Policies are now refreshed more frequently because they are actually owned by someone. When it’s time to renew the policy, the person with responsibility is automatically sent a notification saying that this policy is now due.”

When a new policy is communicated, the user must tick a box to accept that they have read and understood it, making them far more likely to come forward if and when they do have any queries. For the governance team, this is an effective way to ensure essential communications are getting through and being read by all those who need to see them, as well as providing an opportunity for employees to give feedback on the finer details.

“Everyone now has access to the most up-to-date policies and procedures, so there can be no confusion and no risk that a customer will complain because they’ve been misinformed due to out-of-date information,” adds Challinor.

“In some cases, someone may query certain aspects of a policy or procedure, which generates valuable feedback for the policy holder and enables employees from across the business to get involved and highlight any aspects that may have been overlooked.”

Other features inherent in the system include the ability to send specific updates to individual groups, which The Aspire Group has also welcomed: “You can select which areas of the business receive which policy, so users aren’t bombarded with policies that are not relevant to them,” says Challinor.

Now that they are familiar with the technology, employees have been actively approaching the governance team with their communications requirements: “I’ve had a lot of people email me from across the business regarding policies they want to get out, so it’s clear that business users are encouraged by the system and actively want to use it,” says Challinor.

“Now that the business has seen how well it works for communicating policies and procedures, we’ve also discussed using it for other things, such as distributing training materials.

“Employees in a housing association need to be up-to-date with what’s going on at a local, national and internal level. In enabling us to improve the way internal policies and procedures are structured and communicated, the NETconsent policy management system has proved itself to be an extremely useful tool.”