In today's dynamic working world, the topics of leadership, inclusion, and organisational development hold a pivotal role in shaping the very fabric of successful enterprises. In this interview, we delve into the world of leadership, organisational culture, and inclusion with Alexandra Hopkins, the Assistant Director of People at Paradigm Housing Group. She sat down with Co-host of The Interview, Luke James, to discuss her pivotal role in shaping the company's approach to Human Resources and fostering a culture of growth and learning.
I’m Alexandra Hopkins, the Assistant Director of People at Paradigm Housing Group. I’ve been here for nearly four and a half years, joining as the L&D manager in 2019, and I now lead the HR and People department. Paradigm is a housing association; we own and manage over 16,000 properties across the southeast.
The heart of our vision is to provide homes and services that our customers can rely on and help them live well in safe and sustainable homes. What we need to do is make sure our services are as good as possible, and we all know that there’s a greater need for affordable homes than ever, so we are committed to building new high-quality homes and acquiring homes to ensure that our customers can live somewhere they are proud of.
I started working in investment banking straight after university. It was the perfect place to pique my fascination with people and how they work, their motivation to work, and how people interact with one another.
After nearly a decade I returned to university and did a masters in HR. Once I finished that, I started over in recruitment, then learning and talent before stepping into senior HR leadership roles. I’ve been lucky enough that new opportunities have presented themselves throughout my career and with the support of a couple of exceptional managers along the way I’m now in a job which balances excitement, challenge and reward really well.
It’s about linking everything back to your core purpose. All learning programmes and people development must be linked and lead back to that core purpose. Driving forward in the same direction, ensuring everyone knows how they contribute to success and enabling them to do that drives employee and customer satisfaction and ultimately commercial success. That’s the benefit of working for an organisation like this, we have a very strong social purpose which means that as long as we keep revisiting that and helping people to understand it while recognising people’s contributions, it’s a really rewarding place to do this work.
We know when our employees are at their best, they deliver excellent services to our customers. But the correlation goes beyond this. We want our employees to feel valued, included and recognised because of their differences, just as our customers do.
We’re so lucky to have such a strong core purpose because our commercial success is (for one) measured by providing more homes to people, and for us to ensure that we have a healthy, happy, and motivated workforce means that we will all be able to do that work better and help more people.
It’s important to listen. We survey once a year, but we never stop listening to our employees. That's what shifts the dial internally. Following our annual survey results being published, each line manager delivers the results and co-develop a plan for the next year. When employees take the time to tell us how they feel, we take those messages seriously. We can’t always do everything, but we’ll take the time to explain why. Overall the ambition isn't about having an award, it's about creating an organisation that we all enjoy working for — having fun and being well is very important.
Everyone has pressure coming from different aspects of their lives, so when we want people to engage, it’s about finding out what matters to people — both our employees and our customers. Understanding what matters helps us focus resource and effort into activities, events or campaigns that are relevant to people, and it encourages people to really listen and care. It also demonstrates that we are an organisation where everyone can find their place and be themselves. This is a virtuous cycle because by asking and listening it encourages more people to talk to us.
There are three things I can think of. The first is being confident in yourself. This means having the confidence to be whoever they want at work and displaying belonging that way. Good leaders can articulate that while we want everyone to bring their whole selves to work, we all have the choice about how much of our private life we want to bring into work, and finding your own balance, well that’s okay.
The second thing is about people development. The best leaders I've worked with are the ones who almost do themselves out of a job by developing their teams — they invest time and coach people until they can progress, and never worry about their own position. That’s a very strong managerial trait.
The final part of this is always having time. Some of the best leaders and CEOs I’ve met are never too busy for their people. Whether it’s to stop and chat or be available when their people need them, no matter what’s on their schedule.
You don’t have to be an expert in everything but know where to get that expertise. Surround yourself with a team that complements your skills and bridges gaps and you can collectively be an expert on everything. You don’t have to have it all.