It’s all about the people
How one Irish housing provider is reframing itself as a people organisation and changing its approach to housing management
INNOVATION & IMPROVEMENT
Head of Housing, Respond
Issue 66 | June 2023
Over the years, I started numerous presentations with “we are more than bricks and mortar”, reflecting the values and ambitions of our housing sector. I probably borrowed/stole the line over 15 years ago. Surely, by now this is an accepted, unifying feature of our sector as a whole, and it is time to retire the phrase.
Maybe we should be reframing ourselves as people organisations first. Our business is people, run by people, for people, driven by a strong purpose to make a positive difference in people’s lives through all that we do. So, how might we go about this?
Respond is no different to other social housing providers in trying to ensure that people remain our true focus. There is no standard playbook for how any of us might achieve that, and it is important that approaches are developed that best meet the needs of the individual communities we serve.
We are unique in an Irish context in that as well as being a social housing provider, we also provide a range of services including:
- homelessness services;
- early learning and school age care services;
- day care services for older people;
- family support and refugee resettlement programmes.
Rather than seeing these services in silos, we recognise the richness of these additional skills and experience available to us, and the value they bring.
“We also provide a range of services including early learning and school age care services.”
Reimagined housing management
We believe the traditional ‘plug and play’ approach to housing management is no longer fit for purpose and we need to tailor adaptive services to meet the changing needs of communities. So, we have reimagined our housing management model, recognising that all our communities are different, each with its own unique DNA.
By utilising the skills and insights of our local staff, we are empowering teams, encouraging collaboration and local decision making in response to an increasingly complex world.
As a learning organisation, we encourage experimentation within safe operating parameters developed by our staff, enabling them to think differently, experiment and even embrace failure as learning opportunities.
Manager as coach
We are applying the concept of psychological safety in how we work together and re-orientating the role of the manager to that of a coach, available to support the team, but not to make the decisions for them. They can unblock blockages, stretch the thinking, invest in ongoing learning and development, but ultimately their role is to support their teams to deliver the best outcomes for individuals, families and communities.
Among this complexity, policies and procedures help to create certainty, but as all ‘people practitioners’ know, you never eliminate the grey areas. Giving staff the skills and confidence to safely navigate the grey is more important than ever.
Our recent commitment to becoming a ‘trauma-informed’ organisation is also adding a new dimension to our work. It recognises the possible impact our work can have, challenging us to rethink our approach, tailoring conversations and enabling us to better work with our tenants and service users (as well as each other) to achieve the best outcomes for them. The new perspective the trauma-informed approach brings to our frontline staff can be life-changing for tenants, service users and staff alike.
We are also developing the first ‘brain health village’ in Ireland, in an exciting partnership with Global Brain Health Ireland (GBHI), recognising the importance of good brain health for people of all ages.
At Respond, we are at an early stage of an exciting new journey. We have much more to learn, and many miles to go, but that’s okay as long as our focus remains on keeping people at the heart of all that we do.
“The new perspective the trauma-informed approach brings to our frontline staff can be life-changing for tenants, service users and staff alike.”
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