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How investing in digital enabled CIPHE to #ComeBackStronger

The ever-evolving government guidelines are impacting the way businesses operate but, as we all continue to navigate the pandemic, here at Refresh we’ve been connecting with our industry contacts to find out what they’ve been doing to #ComeBackStronger.

For our latest instalment of the series, we spoke with Tim Sainty, membership director at CIPHE (Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering), the professional and voluntary regulatory body for the plumbing and heating engineering industry. We delved into what he’s been working on in recent months, what the future holds for the organisation and what’s keeping him optimistic. This is what he had to say…

How are you accelerating company growth in the current climate?

Some of the changes we have made in response to COVID-19 will be long-lasting rather than merely to get through this difficult period. We have increased our investment in digital, developing a strategy for its use in growing our membership reach and increasing our engagement with existing members and stakeholders. Investment in digital to communicate with our national audience has also enabled us to rollout communications with members in other markets, resulting in a significant increase in international interest.

Where do you see your future opportunities lying?

It’s incredibly important for us to get the message right about why looking after consumers’ interests is also looking after those at the professional end of the trade too. However, getting this right is also a huge opportunity for everyone involved in the relationship. This includes colleges and training centres, as well as the manufacturers, merchants, plumbers and heating engineers, plus of course the customers.

Beyond this, we are a Professional Engineering Institute (PEI) with a license to assess candidates for professional registration as chartered and incorporated engineers and engineering technicians. This year has seen increased activity and awareness nationally and internationally, as professionals look for ways to distinguish themselves from the market.

What are you most optimistic about?

Like most other organisations, we were extremely concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on our revenue and membership levels, but we have thankfully been able to maintain both in a good place. As the year has progressed, we have also been able to repeatedly modify our reworked expectations upwards.

The CIPHE is not only a professional body for members of the plumbing and heating industry, but also an educational charity focused on the safety, health and wellbeing of consumers. The importance of these purposes has been highlighted rather than lost over the last six months and we believe will have a longer lasting impact on members of the plumbing and heating industry. Messages on professionalism, standards and behaviours have renewed cut-through and the CIPHE, along with our members, can provide the quality and assurance required.

What are you looking forward to implementing/changing?

Our digital platforms have been in the works for some time and, once they’re live, we’re anticipating will have a transformative effect on the way we work as a business. This includes the back office systems and, more excitingly, the front-end customer facing platforms that will cultivate opportunities for members to increase their involvement with the institute’s activities.

What opportunities have arisen?

As the membership director I was initially worried about the year however, our membership applications in categories across-the-board are up 120% against the same point 12-months ago.

If trying not to be so parochial, the government’s legally set net-zero carbon emissions agenda presents a huge opportunity for the CIPHE and the wider plumbing and heating industry to drive positive change on a highly important strategic issue. Solidified by the fact that environmental issues featured as high as the economy on voters’ priorities, during the last general election. Net-zero doesn’t happen without domestic heat and water supply being changed for the better, and delivering this is an opportunity to be welcomed and grasped.  

How are you remaining positive?

Because it beats all the alternatives. Of course, there are tough moments and challenges but it is rare that unprecedented is actually an accurate description of the circumstances we find ourselves in. This year, that description really did fit the bill and we have been able to navigate our way through it, supporting members and staff when required and are already delivering improvements to some of our working practices. Why not be positive off the back of that?

How are you maintaining a work/life balance and ensuring family time?

Oh no, what a question! I could say that an increase in working from home meant I was there much more than before. I can rarely imagine the driving 500 miles-in-a-day approach to meetings that were a too regular feature of pre-lockdown work life. However, the truth is that it has been, and remains, hard. With children aged 10 and 12 who have only just returned to school for the first time since March, home schooling activities also meant extended hours for working the job too.

We did however get a much-needed holiday recently that broke all our usual holiday rules and the days were filled with energetic activities. Having been homebound for quite so long, a sun lounger all day didn’t really feel appropriate or necessary. 

What have been your key learnings from the last few months?

Activity filled holidays are great (and tiring)! On a professional level, that we are incredibly adaptable. It’s amazing how quickly we came to terms with a new situation and introduced ways of working that still, well, worked.

We also realised that some longer-term operational planning was necessary. Being caught out with a shortage of devices and SOPs because of a pandemic once is understandable, but twice would be poor planning. The events of recent months have led to real cultural developments too. We were probably quite conservative in our approach to where staff should be based when working, but finding out that things can continue successfully without everyone being office-based or working between 9am-5pm, five-days a week, will have lasting impact. 

What else are you doing to prepare for the future?

What does a 21st century, agile, responsive and attractive membership body look like? Big questions over whether that needs to be in the type of building we currently inhabit.

If you’re looking for support on navigating the current climate or for tips on how to communicate through this period - or if you'd like to have your story told as part of this series, contact us now.

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