Workplace Leaders
Broadacres Housing Association
Head of People and Organisational Development

Rosanna James

Behind every successful organisation is a team of thriving employees who understand how their efforts have played a role in that success. And to foster a culture in which all employees can reach their true potential, there must be a coherent people strategy with learning, inclusion, and empathy at its heart. This understanding is central to the work done by Rosanna James, Head of People and Organisational Development at Broadacres Housing Association. 

Rosanna sat down with Luke James, Co-Host of The Interview, to talk over topics ranging from the traits needed for people leadership to the relationship between an organisation’s culture and strategic goals.

Rosanna's Journey

Luke: Let’s kick off with a quick introduction to yourself and your organisation. 

I’m Rosanna James, and I’m Head of People and Organisational Development at Broadacres. We’re a social housing organisation based in beautiful North Yorkshire. We have 6,500 properties all across the county. As well as providing housing, we also offer our tenants outreach mental health services and care schemes, and we manage a women’s refuge and a young person’s homelessness centre. 

Luke: I’d like to hear more about your journey. How did you arrive at Broadacres?

I’m originally from Yorkshire, which is something that drew me to this position. I’d spent a lot of time working up and down the country, but I came to a point in my life where I decided I wanted to move closer to home. I started my career in retail management, back in the day of video rental shops. I soon realised that I was motivated by developing my team rather than profit for the sake of profit. So I soon moved into the third sector, working for Sue Ryder Care and the British Heart Foundation. That really helped me find a sense of purpose in my work. From there, I moved into learning and development, and I gradually transitioned into organisational development. Above all, people have been at the heart of my work, and it’s my ambition to create a great place to work. Here at Broadacres, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to bring positive systemic change to communities in North Yorkshire.

Luke: You are responsible for developing and delivering the people strategy of your organisation. How do you ensure collective buy-in from all employees?

There are a few key things. First, you need sponsorship: you need to make sure that the leadership team is driving change. Second, you need colleague involvement: people have to understand that the organisation is theirs. When developing our people strategy, we adopt both formal and informal approaches. For example, we put up posters around the building to let people write down what changes they would like to see. You need to seize every opportunity to involve people if you want to make sure that people strategy is lived and breathed across the organisation. 

Luke: What are the key measures needed to embed a sense of belonging and inclusion at the heart of an organisation? 

It’s about creating a listening organisation and making it the heart of who you are. The easy part is creating the channels — survey platforms, colleague forums, and things like that — but the more difficult part is normalising that culture. People should know that you care about their opinions and contributions. For example, our colleagues let us know that they wanted a compressed four-day week, and we delivered on that and made it happen. When people feel like they’ve been consulted, they are more invested in making solutions work. 

Luke: What are the most important traits and habits you need to be a successful people leader?

I’ve been managing teams and delivering leadership programs for many years now. For me, it’s about investing time in your teams to bring them together. Those team-building days aren’t an extra: they’re absolutely essential. It doesn’t just happen overnight, and it takes a lot of hard work. I often think back to John Adair’s model of “Task, Team, Individual” — having teams which know what they need to deliver, understanding the strengths of individuals in a team, and investing time in pulling that team together. Planning and organising are highly underrated skills: you need to understand how your team members are going to interact and work with one another.

Luke: In the era of hybrid work, it can be hard to bring people together. How do you find the time to engage everyone in issues such as inclusion and well-being? 

You can’t force it. As Head of OD, I could use my position to mandate things, but I know deep down that isn’t going to work. You need willing people who are deeply invested in these issues and empower them to act. People are more likely to listen to someone who is a colleague and a friend. Find those individuals who have a real passion, and point them in the right direction. Then, the enthusiasm will be infectious. 

Luke: How do you articulate the link between a positive culture and the higher-level strategic goals of your organisation?

There’s a debate about whether or not you can measure culture. But I believe that the benefits of culture show through in the data. For example, I’ve been reading across our data to find a correlation between colleague engagement and customer engagement. If I can deliver that link to our directors, then they will sit up and listen. There’s an old saying that “Happy people make happy customers,” and I think that the data backs that up. 

Luke: What steps can we take to foster a culture of learning and growth among colleagues?

You need to give people two things: time and permission. Being in and out of L&D for many years, I’ve realised that giving time to learning is a necessity. It’s a part of your job description. The speed of change means that standing still is going backwards. If you don’t keep growing, you’re going to get left behind. Helping our colleagues to develop gives a huge benefit to the business and to people’s careers.

Luke: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received during your career?

As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Earlier in my career, it was something I really struggled with, and I felt that I had to change myself to fit in. But I discovered it’s important to accept yourself and appreciate what makes you different. Finally, remember that you are part of a team, and you don’t need to do everything on your own.

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Luke James
Luke works hand-in-hand with leaders and changemakers in our professional services markets. If you want to join the next series of The Interview, or just learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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