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Success of NHS Property Services will rely on culture change

Success of NHS Property Services will rely on culture change

08 April 2013

Telereal Trillium’s commercial director, Chris Rodger, says that since 1 April, NHS Property Services has had new priorities.

Last week, the new NHS Property Services (NHS PS) joined the ranks of the UK’s largest real estate firms as it took on formal responsibility for 4,000 properties worth more than £4bn, and became the employer of more than 3,000 people.

The scale of the task facing NHS PS is huge. For a start, it must make sure that all the buildings it has acquired are open and ready for business, with working heating systems and no immediate health and safety problems. For mature property companies experienced in managing large estates this would be a demanding task – for a brand new organisation it will be a real test.

Once NHS PS has navigated the immediate hurdle of “go-live”, it will need time to bed-down and develop into a high performing property company. One of the main challenges will be to create a corporate property culture. Most staff will have come from NHS organisations that were clinically focused and where property was, understandably, a low priority. However, in joining NHS PS they are part of an organisation where property is the core business, and they need to start thinking and behaving like real estate professionals.

Staff must adjust to a shift from sitting within NHS trusts to being an external provider. Their former colleagues will now be clients and must be treated differently. Relationships will now be governed by contracts and leases, and substantial amounts of real money will be at stake.

Telereal Trillium is familiar with this journey – in 2001 BT’s internal property team transferred to Telereal as part of a wider, 30-year property deal. Staff that transferred moved from working for a phone company, where buildings were not a core activity, to a company whose sole focus was those buildings. Telereal did a number of key things early on to create a property culture, including:

  1. Putting in place accommodation-related, as opposed to telecoms-related, performance measures
  2. Managing the business, and rewarding staff, using those accommodation measures
  3. Bringing in external hires from the property and services industries
  4. Developing  branding, a website and communications material that consistently positioned Telereal as a property and services company
  5. Running a programme of events that celebrated property-related achievements and successes

As Telereal Trillium found, achieving the right culture will take NHS PS some time, but it is vital to start the change early and ensure management remain resolutely focussed on it.

Chris’s thoughts were covered in Property Week (5 April 13). Click here to read the article (subscription required)>>