Three years on since Ray Jones took the helm at Liberty, the property services business has gone from strength to strength, achieving 25% growth and transforming from a traditional gas company into a multi-divisional property services business that is ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities of a low carbon future. Here, Ray shares more about how the business has grown and developed since he took over in December 2018.
I have always been passionate about seizing opportunities for this dynamic organisation and building on the foundations we had in place in 2018, with an enhanced focus on technology and customer led outcomes. When I joined Liberty, the aim was always to expand our scale and service offering to meet all our clients’ needs whilst driving innovation to achieve excellence across quality, efficiency and customer care.
The whole business has engaged with this approach and together we have achieved a step change in culture and driving significant growth over the last three years. Pleasingly this growth hasn’t been at the expense of performance with improvements seen across all facets of the business including Health & Safety, customer experience, colleague satisfaction and profitability.
One of the biggest changes that our business has responded to over the last three years is the shift towards a low carbon economy and the challenging national targets that will see us moving away from gas and towards more efficient and green technologies for heating homes and buildings over the coming decades. Of course, gas will remain an important part of our business now and for some time to come, but we recognised early on that we needed to get ready for, and embrace, the opportunities that the low carbon agenda brings.
One of the key initiatives implemented by the team was the launch of the NetZero Collective as a subsidiary business. The Collective was set up to provide independent retrofit coordination advice to housing association and local authority clients nationwide, aligned to PAS2035 best practice guidance for domestic retrofit projects. It is a really innovative take on retrofit, utilising the skills and experience of the property services sector combined with data analytics and academic rigour of partners at the University of Southampton.
Training the next generation of engineers
Creating the skilled workforce the property services sector needs for the future continues to be a key priority for Liberty. This is why we joined the 5% club, a movement of employers working to create a shared prosperity across the UK by driving ‘earn and learn’ skills training opportunities by making a commitment to ensure that our workforces are made up of at least 5% apprenticeships.
I’m proud that we’re currently exceeding this commitment with nearly 7% of Liberty’s team working as apprentices. Not only is this key to our succession planning, helping us to train the next generation to work to our high standards, but it will also be vital to achieving our net zero ambitions. To deliver on low carbon targets it is important that we drive up skills and training in the new technologies that will deliver them as a sector.
In order to remain competitive and really add value for clients, we knew we needed to become more agile and efficient and be ready to respond to the changing needs of clients, whilst driving down costs where appropriate through more streamlined and efficient processes. We have done this through a significant change programme, which looks at every part of our business.
Work delivered by the teams as part of this programme has seen productivity in our heating and compliance division increase by 30% and attrition across the whole business reduce by a third. Job satisfaction has increased by 8%, and importantly, we have also reduced our median gender pay gap by over 45% over the last two years.
Without a doubt it was this programme and the increased agile focus of our business that helped us through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. It enabled us to support our clients clearing property repair backlogs ahead of schedule and maintaining gas compliance at a time when this took a dip in the wider sector, achieving compliance levels of 98%, nearly 10 percentage points above the industry average at the time.
Throughout all the changes introduced over the last three years, customer care has always remained at our heart, and we reaffirmed this through our values of trust, openness, passion and respect which are at the core of our business culture which we call Liberty Sense. This is all about being people focused, helpfully smart, innovative, and accountable to ensure that we don’t just get the job done, we get it done to the highest standards and delight our customers.
This focus on customer care has helped Liberty to achieve outstanding Net Promoter Scores, which currently stand at +61, and a sector beating Trustpilot Score of 4.2 against a sector average of just 2.
Looking to the future
Thanks to the changes that have been embedded over the last three years; we are set for a bright and exciting future. We are better aligned to the needs and values of our clients and their tenants, being a trusted partner across the full range of property services.
Having trust, openness and confidence in Liberty is vital for clients as we play our part in decarbonisation, the biggest challenge of our time.
We’re not only supporting our clients to achieve this, but we have set challenging low carbon targets for our own business which will see the rollout of zero emission vehicles over the next six years and 80% of our electricity requirements coming from renewable sources by 2030. Our ultimate aim is for the whole business to be net zero by 2035.
We’re also continuing our journey to become a great employer, and whilst we’ve made great improvements, there is still work to do. Liberty is now working towards the Investors in Diversity with the National Centre for Diversity.
Liberty Sense is all about our great people putting the client and customer first, continuing to deliver great services and innovate to bring new solutions forward to improve lives. It’s at the core of everything we have done to date and will continue as we look forward to an exciting future together.