Tamdown Managing Director Rob Kendal featured in this months Housebuilder Magazine Last Word feature discussing; Engagement during a pandemic. Here are his insights and reflections.

In my Last Word last year I wrote about “Engagement in action” including talking to customers, our employees and what would be next. What I did not predict next was Covid-19, and that the following 12 months and beyond would mean a whole new approach was needed for many of these engagements. The fundamentals I discussed were unchanged, but they needed to be adapted to fit into lockdowns, social distancing and other measures as they changed throughout the year.

We continued to reach out to our customers and suppliers, and this was even more crucial as we prepared to return to site after the initial lockdown and get our new operating and safety procedures in place and aligned.

video conference anyone?
I can hear many of you groaning at the thought of another Zoom or Teams video call, but I also wonder how we could have got through 2020 without them. Being able to meet “virtually face to face” with customers, our suppliers and my teams was invaluable. I can think of many meetings which would have been a lot less effective with just a phone call.

Video conferencing allowed me and my team to ask those important questions and still see and respond to the reactions of those we were engaging with. This kind of technology has been around for a while of course, but never adopted in the same way it is being now, we also saw virtual home tours becoming more commonplace to support developer sales.

Reaching out to an entire workforce is vitally important for any business, at any time. But it can also be challenging. Layer on uncharted territory – a pandemic no one had ever encountered – and we saw both the challenge and importance increase tenfold. At the point of the initial March lockdown, we kept our workforce up to date at least weekly with the changes. We did this as quickly as we knew them and how the business needed to react or respond to them, such as confirming home working for office staff and the initial closure of housebuilders’ sites.

From here we ensured constant communication and touchpoints with staff. Some weeks during the site closures we did not have that much to say – but we reached out anyway as the ongoing connection was so important to our people. As we started to return to work on site, we had to manage the ongoing messages carefully. Some of our people were returning to work, while others were waiting for updates on when their sites would reopen.

It was a stressful time for people across the housebuilding industry, with uncertainty and concerns for the future. We found that being authentic with our people and letting them know what was
happening as soon as we did was both vital and appreciated. Our leadership team supported the staggered return to work, often managing complex situations and different understandable responses. However, keeping people up to date and informed proved to be the key – remaining positive and patient of both the situation and each other as we chartered the
new territory we all found ourselves in.

Our communication with our teams needed to be easy to understand but comprehensive enough to ensure everyone knew what was going on in the business and what they needed to do to
keep themselves and each other safe. We made use of many tools including animated video to support getting the essential messages across and understood by our teams.

Another area we featured regularly, and continue our focus on, is mental health. We are all too aware of the frightening statistics in this area, particularly within our industry. Supporting people during the challenges of Covid-19 is more important than ever and we provided regular information and resources. Our wellbeing champions and everyone across the business supported each other too – which I am immensely proud of.

supporting our customers
Following the dedication of our NHS and all the key workers in essential shops, care facilities and more, by the early summer construction was also given key worker status which saw the return to sites.

The foundation we had laid in our engagement with our people helped them prepare for the return to site, and then support our customers to get back on site safely. This saw us helping customers in various ways, including widening walkways to allow social distancing, building additional parking areas for more solo travellers, and installing hard-standing areas for outside eating and handwashing stations.

This came about by talking to our customers to really understand, then help deliver, what they needed – for me this is the foundation of real engagement rather than the buzz word it can become.
Overall, it feels that the engagement levels across our industry from developers and the whole supply chain is something we should all be proud of.

A great testament to the way we work together.