Better-quality housing through the development of facility services
The Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region (Hoas) renewed its practice for the purchase of facility services alongside its new resident-driven strategy. The Caretaker (Talkkari) service developed in cooperation with L&T has been a success in terms of both residents and the team responsible. The quality of living has risen, complaints have reduced, and the motivated team is developing new operating methods at its own initiative.
Hoas was established in 1969, when a group of student organisations in the Helsinki region combined forces. Today, the foundation governs nearly 10,000 student apartments across the metropolitan area. In June 2015, Hoas adopted a new resident-driven strategy, which was crystallised into a promise: the most comfortable and convenient living for student years.
Since the operations-based property maintenance and cleaning agreements did not allow for the achievement of the new strategy’s quality objectives, the purchase of these services – so central to comfortable living – had to be rethought altogether.
Hoas’s Property Director Kim Lindholm recalls that the quality problems were visible in complaints and undone work.
“Caring and professional pride seemed to have disappeared. We came to the conclusion that getting notably better results with the same amount of money should be possible. We’ve been happy to note that everyone at L&T, including top management, has been eager to join in the development of a new operating model,” says Lindholm.
USE OF common sense allowed
The new operating model was developed in close cooperation between Hoas and L&T.
“We decided to buy the service as resources, rather than as predetermined tasks.”
The starting point for the service concept – named Talkkari, or Caretaker, in English – was that it is the outcome that counts. The service men no longer have separate task lists or job descriptions, instead of which they must themselves proactively think about how to take care of matters in such a way that the end result is a high-quality and homely residential environment.
“In other words, you have to be able to be your own manager. For this, we need people who want to do this kind of a job. When the working method is natural to you, the work is motivating, and the end result is good, too. What has been essential to success is the closest supervisors’ realisation as to what the new operating model requires from management,” says Lindholm.
What is also new is that the designated team works for Hoas alone. Even the cars used by the team are taped in Hoas’s colours. All this has also improved the team members’ commitment to their jobs. They now feel like they are serving the residents of Hoas alone, as opposed to how things used to be, when each had several customers.
“Even the old hands have started to shine in a completely new way,” says Lindholm, praising the team members.
no more strict divisions of labours
The model, which emphasises initiative and the use of common sense, has also managed to break the traditional, inflexible division of labour between cleaners and service men. The team is now composed of service managers and property managers. While the service managers are in charge of everything from lawnmowing to the tidiness of saunas and staircases and the changing of lamps both indoors and outdoors, the property managers are in charge of small repairs of various kinds and partly also for electrical and plumbing work.
One of the goals in the development work of the new operating model was the improved reconciliation of L&T’s performance management and Hoas’s quality thinking. With regard to pricing, the decision settled on an ‘open book’ model, which allows for a jointly agreed and entirely transparent earnings logic.
“We are of the opinion that there can be wage spread within the team. It is important that we give people the opportunity to do a good job, and it is right to be able to pay good workers well,” says Lindholm.
The rise in the general standard of housing in Finland is also reflected in the demands that students place on their living. The tuition fees applicable to students arriving from outside the EU and the EEA as of the autumn of 2017 will furthermore increase the share of European students with regard to foreign students in Finland, which is another factor likely to raise the level of requirements.
“By developing the quality of living, we are ensuring our apartments’ high capacity utilisation rate and doing our part in influencing what you get in exchange for your tuition fee,” says Lindholm.
According to Lindholm, Hoas’s staff is very happy with the Caretaker service’s success in meeting the set quality objectives.
“The model is now in use at approximately 50 of our sites in the metropolitan area, and the feedback from residents has been good. Notifications and complaints concerning small defects have also dropped drastically. The employees have a good team spirit and motivation level, and this is also visible. The facilities are now visibly cleaner and have an air of better caretaking than before.”
The motivated partner, which develops operations actively and at its own initiative in cooperation with Hoas, also receives praise.
“L&T, right up to the executive management, clearly stands behind this concept, and this is visible throughout the organisation.”
“One of the really cool things is that the team has held voluntary work sessions at our sites, during which they have trimmed yard arrangements and borders, for example. The fact that there is now time for work done in a neighbourly spirit when even the defined tasks were sometimes left undone before really does say something about the new operating method’s efficiency and functionality.”