Connells Group tells EYE their crisis strategy and how they are facilitating the return to work

Connells Group reports the market springing back to life in the immediate aftermath of ‘lockdown’, with portal enquiries at pre-lockdown levels for both sales and lettings, and 80% of buyers and sellers in the ‘pre-lockdown’ SSTC pipeline indicating they are still intending upon proceeding with their house move as soon as possible.

Connells Group say that their branches have been quick off the mark to capitalise on pent-up demand as soon as the announcement was made that the property market could reopen in England.

Its estate agency and lettings branch management teams swiftly and safely returned to branches, albeit initially behind closed doors, to implement their ‘Covid-19 Secure’ safe working plans to ensure readiness and safe working environments to protect colleagues’ return to work and in order to welcome customers from this coming Monday.

There followed the immediate unfurloughing of an initial 2,000+ staff across sales, lettings and mortgage services, the roll out of comprehensive health, safety and welfare training to communicate the new ways of working, expectations for a ‘Covid-19 Secure’ workplace, to give confidence at this challenging time and provide an opportunity for colleagues to raise any concerns, the delivery of an initial £500k worth of PPE to enable safe appointments including screens, facemasks for all colleagues, overshoes, signage, floor graphics highlighting the 2m rule throughout buildings and branches, and safe waiting areas:

“Whilst the Government announcement was sudden, we were already well advanced with our planning for the return from lockdown,” says Connells Group Estate Agency Chief Executive David Plumtree.

“There can sometimes be a misconception that ‘corporates’ are slow moving, less agile, but we have leapt straight into action following weeks of meticulous planning by our business continuity team”.

“Every step of our planning for our new working norms has been guided by doing what is right for our colleagues, right for our customers and right for society,” continues Plumtree.

“Our business continuity team has ‘met’ daily ensuring our return to work plans are aligned with the Government’s guidelines on being ‘Covid-19 Secure’ and all health and safety advice available, and our locations confirm to social distancing measures.

“The team has produced a ‘toolkit’ for colleagues covering everything from our new ‘workplace rules’ to guidance on how to use any PPE equipment and safe appointments as well as producing, from scratch, our ‘blueprint’ on our new ways of working together.

This is essentially a collection of over 50 scenarios covering everything from how we conduct market appraisals and mortgage appointments, carry out surveys and viewings, to manning new homes marketing suites, training and key handling, and with a joined-up approach so that all support and Head Office functions are choreographed in step with our front end businesses.

This sets out our ‘gold standards’ in the workplace, step by step safe working practices and our approach to be the safe agent of choice for customers and leaders in the industry,” added Plumtree.

Through lockdown, communication has been key to keeping all colleagues – whether furloughed or not – connected, receiving consistent communications from across the business to keep them fully engaged and in the loop on developments.

Connells Group’s monthly internal newsletter ‘In House’ was adapted to a weekly bulletin called ‘In YOUR House’ where colleagues received market insights, planning updates, government announcements as well as providing a way to keep sociable while social distancing.

Colleagues also have access to a 24 hour confidential employee assistance helpline offering specialist support if needed during this challenging time.

“Our people are our most important asset and their safety and wellbeing is of paramount importance.

We are incredibly grateful and proud of how they have adapted to and supported the new ways of working together and the sense of unity from everyone to get through the challenge of the pandemic,” said David Plumtree.

“Naturally, we very much want everyone back to work, but many colleagues remain on temporary furlough as we gradually return to normal.

“They will return in phases and as business increases.

“During this period, we went above and beyond the Government support, committing to paying all of our 5000+ furloughed colleagues 100% of their full basic salary and their commission throughout April, May and June.

“This is a multi-million pound undertaking, but tangibly demonstrates our commitment to our people.

“In addition, we have not made any redundancies and not closed any branches.”

Customers will be greeted with very different looking branches from Monday – desk layouts will have changed to enable social distancing, clear signage will be in place, hand sanitiser available, in person appointments to take place behind screens – just some of the new measures set in place.

“Colleagues have welcomed all the efforts from the business to guarantee their health and safety but, of course, it’s only natural that there will be some anxieties as we all look to adapt.

“Although we are ready to act and there is lots of catching up to do, we are taking this slowly and steadily as we become accustomed to the updated processes and additional safety measures.”

“There is no doubting that we are well placed to survive and thrive in these conditions.

“I believe the way in which we have navigated ourselves through this crisis has been simply fantastic and an incredible team effort.”

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28 Comments

  1. KO

    Our company have been absolutely amazing with our return to work plan, making sure that our staff are safe returning to work in and out of the office and also making sure that our clients safety is also paramount and not putting any of us at risk, very proud to work for this group indeed.

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  2. J1

    Sounds excellent – well

    done and good luck

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  3. midsagent197772

    Goes against what I’ve heard about at least  1 of their branches, no PPE arrived and screens not yet put up.

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  4. MrEstateAgent

    ‘Our people are our most important asset‘ but yet they have taken a weeks annual leave off everyone whilst off because of covid. What a stab in the back

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    1. J1

      The government told firms paying 100% of salaries that it was a reasonable thing to do……..

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    2. 91

      What planet are you on MrEstateAgent? Up to 8 weeks and still counting for some at home on 100% of salaries. A fraction of that time to be counted as holiday…Sounds to me like an “arm round the shoulder” in support, not a “stab in the back”

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    3. chiponshoulder

      MrEstateAgent – A stab in the back!?!  Really??   13 weeks of furlough, all on full pay (100% full basic and commission), great support/communication and guidance; no redundancies; no branch closures; tremendous ‘back to work safely’ programme – purely a requirement to take 1 week of those 13 weeks (in this example) as annual holiday to avoid the business having too much holiday in second half of year as it recovers from Covid impact!   Do you really think that’s a stab in the back??  if so, I wouldn’t want you working for my business (take, take, take!)

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    4. pmj89

      Working for Connells myself I have to totally disagree with this. For one this is not a ‘ Stab In the back ‘ as we were told this was happening well in advance.

      Secondly myself and every other colleague I have spoken to have been more than happy to do this and totally understand the reason why. Corporates often get a bad name to work for however the group have totally looked after us during this crisis both financially , and keeping us in the loop at all times.

      For this to work going forward across all industries there has to be give and take on BOTH sides between employer and employee.

      For me I echo DW’s words that everything has been spot on. Now I just can’t wait to get back and be relieved from the wife !!

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    5. Lettingsagent123

      I work for Connells and can not be happier with the way myself and staff have been treated during this pandemic. What other agents should be doing MrEstateAgent is taking note on how a business has managed to retain, pay 100% wages and keep all of there staff in employment during a time where others are closing branches and laying staff off.

      I am sure people’s perception of Corporate agents not caring about there staff will now change, as I personally have not seen many if any other employees speaking so highly of there employer during this pandemic.

      Great work!

       

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    6. MatthewA79

      I think you should speak to anyone Who has been made redundant or had the wages cut/ comms not paid. Full pay and comms vs a week of AL after being off for seven plus weeks. Struth you are hard to please

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  5. DW

    Everything has been spot on.

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  6. Olive

    The In Your House Newsletter has been really helpful and ‘entertaining’ and being paid full pay and commission has avoided money worries, really appreciated. All trained up on how to operate safely in this new world and raring to go …..thank you!

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  7. PA

    The work that has gone into to make the return to work feel safe and secure has been outstanding. I am proud to say that I work for The Connells Group and I am sure many will join me in that sentiment.

     

     

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  8. Daremeister81

    All too common to hear empty phrases in our industry like “family” and “people business” until the going gets tough. Actions speak louder than words. The actions of the Connells Group board proves what a class act they are. Well done on putting people before profit during such a difficult period. I am sure there will be payback in loyalty and hard work from the guys on the front line.

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  9. Top Half

    The commitment from the Connells Group Stands out in the industry. Not only in the commitment to ensure staff have been protected financially but also at the way they seem to be leading the approach to a new way of operating in a safety first environment.

    I’m sure their workforce have taken vast confidence from this experience.

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  10. Joseph60

    There will be many other agents that must look on in envy at how well Connells Group have looked after their team during this unprecedented time.  100% pay, no redundancies, no branch closures, massive investment in planning a return to work that has happened quickly, PPE, customer and staff safety first.  There will always be those who will try to say something bad or controversial, and they are generally those who haven’t done all or any of the above.  Fantastic place to work, and be proud of.

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  11. majortom1

    On record here by their own staff-No redundancies and no branch closures.None/zero.   When we are about to possibly enter the worst  recession in our lifetimes.Remarkable really-so hats off to you Connells/Skipton.

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    1. chiponshoulder

      Any chance of you ever making a comment about your own business at Spicer Haart?   Perhaps a follow-up to this story, giving an insight as to how you’ve dealt with things in the ‘Haart family’??  No? Thought not!  Yet, your obsession with ‘all things Connells’ continues???   Nice to hear that you’re taking your hat off to Connells – albeit cynically, but I’d be keeping my hat on and my head down if I were you!

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    2. Joseph60

      The tone of congratulations is somewhat tarnished by the sarcastic tone.  How sad to remain so bitter, and unable to move on and celebrate the now.

       

       

       

       

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    3. LetsGo

      Have we all missed something here?

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  12. majortom1

    The purpose of this news site is to make comment and observations on the articles published. I read the story about Connells and was genuinely surprised about some of the content and, if factually correct, I genuinely take my hat of to your company David.Its a sad day when one cant say ” well done” without someone becoming so agressive. As an aside I take an avid interest in many things and many companies and post on numerous items. Free speech is a wonderful thing isnt it.

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    1. chiponshoulder

      Free speech can be a wonderful thing Tim, but not when it extends to you taking to social media to spread mistruths about Connells and creating anxiety at a time when there’s already enough of that anyway (i.e. your post that suggested we were only paying one month’s full basic salary to those furloughed …. you ‘turned up’ to retract that claim yet or just ‘curled up’?).

      I take an avid interest in other companies as well Tim .. so go on, do tell how many branches Haart have closed before/during lockdown?  Would be a refreshing change to hear your comments about your own business rather than others?

       

       

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      1. majortom1

        Please  read my post-mistruths-I am merely repeating  what your article says. Weird. And its TOM by the way!

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        1. Kyran

          Oh, so it is Tom, weirdly.

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          1. New Hinksey

            Ha ha ha. Not enough typo’s to be Tom Weirdly but maybe it’s Major Tim after all?

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  13. Bartlp1

    Ha ha….Tom Weirdly, very good.

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  14. Ansell1

    The group have gone above and beyond for all members of staff during these difficult and unprecedented time. Even during the period of time where my colleagues were furloughed and I worked from home it felt like a family and a business you are proud to work for. since returning to work my branch based staff have been really pleased with the way they were treated during the lockdown period and even happier with the plans in place to allow them to return to a business and career they love while remaining safe and secure. I am sure there will always be negative people who comment on this post but I doubt any work for the group, most will be competitors or ex-employees who could only wish to return to our business. Thank you Connells Group!

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  15. ptownsend

    In a difficult time, Connells group have gone above and beyond in every way possible – from planning and preparation of closing the branches to work remotely all the way to ensuring our staff and clients safety on our return (plus everything inbetween of course!). Both the feedback from colleagues and my personal view is that there isn’t an agent or company in any industry that would of looked after all its staff from the ground floor up in such a positive way. Of course 100% salary while furloughed is great but how many companies are returning from ‘lockdown’ with new and improved systems, new market leading offerings all which help our colleagues and clients with the ‘new normal’. Thank-you Connells Group

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