Scottish Housing Regulator - good practice in planning and publicity - 2017

Key learning outcomes

  • Identifying the key skills and experience required that reflect the body’s corporate plans and current board membership
  • Aligning board needs to the body’s strategy and operational context when planning to fill roles
  • Running open outreach events to attract a wider more diverse pool of applicants 
  • Creating opportunities for potential candidates to talk informally with existing board members
  • Using social media to reach younger people

Background

The Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) was established in 2011 under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010. It has one overarching statutory objective: to ‘safeguard and promote the interests of current and future tenants of social landlords, people who are or may become homeless, and people who use housing services provided by registered social landlords (RSLs) and local authorities. 

SHR, its sponsor team and the Public Appointments Team (PAT) began discussing the needs of the body in May 2016. SHR conducted an audit of the skills, knowledge, experience and personal qualities of its current board members. This identified two key attributes that new members should have: experience of audit and finance and experience of regulation. 

In November 2016, the panel agreed to run an appointment round to find a new Chair and up to three new board members. The Ethical Standards Commissioner allocated a Public Appointments Adviser (PAA) to act as a full panel member, providing advice and support throughout the process. The other panel members were the Scottish Government’s Deputy Director for better homes, the vice chair of the body and an independent panel member with a proven background in regulation

Planning

The panel further reviewed the SHR’s corporate plans. 

  1. As a regulator, it was moving from a role of inspection and establishing the initial benchmarking indices across social landlords, towards a new phase of creating investment confidence across regulated providers targeted with building 50,000 new houses. 
  2. The Office for National Statistics was re-classifying social housing from public to private creating a strategic challenge.

During early planning discussions, the selection panel recognised that the term ‘regulator’ had strengths but could be a barrier to attracting candidates, as only some board members needed knowledge or experience of regulation. The panel recognised that only some of the board members needed to already have knowledge or experience of regulation for the board to fulfil its role successfully. This also reflected the good practice in governance advice that the body provides to RSLs themselves. This was reflected in the publicity for the round. 
The PAA gave the panel information on bias mitigation techniques that could be used to make the process accessible to people from all backgrounds. This informed the appointment plan and publicity as well as how assessment of applications, interviews and simulations would be conducted. 

Publicity and Attraction Strategy

The panel agreed that outreach events would be a good opportunity to

  • attract a broader pool of applicants than the usual publicity channels
  • highlight the broad pool that new members would be drawn from
  • be part of the board’s wider community engagement work. 

Two events were planned and publicised over six weeks using an accessible and searchable event platform (Eventbrite). The events took place outside working hours in Glasgow and Edinburgh at prominent third sector hub venues that were already familiar to potential attendees.  The events were targeted at people unfamiliar with the work of the board (and public appointments in general).

Time was left for potential applicants to have informal conversations with the SHR’s current chair, the vice chair, board members and the body’s corporate governance manager, as well as representatives from the Scottish Government’s sponsor team and public appointments team. The chair, vice chair and members spoke informally about their personal experience of being a board member and about the work of the board. They explained why they enjoyed and valued being part of the board. This approach demonstrated the board’s commitment to attracting new members. The transparent and public nature of the board’s engagement with people from diverse communities sent a positive message about the board itself. 

Twitter was used to attract younger applicants (an under-represented group on public body boards) and attracted around 60 phone enquiries in the first month.

Conclusion

The overall approach to publicity worked well and attracted a significant number of applicants, of whom around a quarter had attended one of the events. Of the 20 people invited to interview, seven had attended an event – suggesting that the events had attracted and informed more suitable candidates than more passive publicity channels. 

The enhanced processes used to plan and design the selection process and in particular the welcoming publicity and outreach events helped attract a good pool of applicants and led to a successful outcome. 

More information

More detailed information on any of the materials referred to in this report is available from Ian Bruce, Public Appointments Manager, Ethical Standards Commissioner.
Tel: 0131 347 3897 
Email: i.bruce@ethicalstandards.org.uk

You can find out who was appointed by following this link to the press release.