11 December 2020

How Flagship's response to Covid-19 will shape the future of work

With the biggest health crisis seen in our lifetime and an uncertain landscape ahead, Flagship Group, is planning its short- and long-term recovery to help ensure people and communities in the east of England emerge stronger than ever before.

The resurgence project was underpinned by extensive research and insight from different stakeholder groups - with a key focus on customers, employees, systems and leadership. By capturing the learning, and understanding the implications, Flagship has an opportunity to accelerate through a period of recovery and retool for a new world.

Lorna Blackmore, Director of Communication and Integration, who led the project said: “The ongoing impact of the pandemic continues to affect so many in different ways, and there are challenges that must still be overcome every day. Being agile and adapting quickly will help us meet these challenges.”

The Group’s priority has been to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its customers and staff. The journey through the pandemic began with almost all Flagship staff working remotely within 24 hours, an emergency repair only service established and the redeployment of staff to assist other business areas.

1,189 of Flagship’s customers fed back on its immediate response. The effects on mental health and financial stability were clear to see, with rising concerns about the affordability of rent and bills.

The research has found that above all, the crisis revealed a strong sense of humanity and purpose in the work the Group does.

Flagship provides homes for over 71,000 people in East Anglia, and throughout the pandemic staff have worked with empathy at the forefront – by supporting people, working in partnership to provide shelter for rough sleepers and offering direct financial support through the Group’s new charity – Hopestead - to ease pressure and ensure no one lost their home.

Over 85% of customers who gave their views, validated Flagship’s approach towards suspending repairs and maintenance and 57% of respondents requested additional support from the housing teams, which were quickly met with over 6,900 welfare calls made to date. The Group adapted to new methods of engagement and staff, board members and senior leaders felt reassured and informed, scoring communication 90% on average when surveyed.

 

Blackmore said: “Throughout the turmoil and uncertainty, our culture has really come to the rescue - as a Group we are customer focused, eager to continuously improve and genuinely care for our staff. This has helped our response to the pandemic to be rapid, agile and innovative.

“Our leaders have been praised for giving confidence, reassurance and a sense of calm in truly difficult circumstances. Our staff have felt empowered to do the right thing and there has been an overwhelming sense of togetherness and achievement.

“In the short term we must continue to harness the positive and ensure we do not slip back into the old ways of working” Blackmore continued.

Over the past decade Flagship has made great progress in becoming an employer which meets the needs of both its people and customers. Despite leading initiatives to become future ready, Covid-19 has accelerated years of technological change in the space of a few weeks and the housing provider is now contemplating - what is the future of work?

Digital Director, Claire Wright added: “We must refresh, reset and accelerate our digital and technological agenda to meet the raised expectations of our customers. Automation and the use of AI can help to create the capacity our people need to continue to add human value – focused on personalisation, kindness and compassion.

“Our single focus to respond and recover from Covid has led to true business transformation. We made quick and decisive actions to create meaningful change. By mobilising the business in these extreme circumstances, we now have the skills and opportunity to be more intentional about delivering change. We need to be brave and act now for a sustainable future.”

As Flagship prepares for the future, there is a realisation that the path to recovery may be long, and perhaps not straightforward. The Group will continue to develop a robust resurgence plan which adopts its learning and exploits opportunities in its new operating environment.

“For now, the goal must be to emerge from the crisis having done the right thing, as a reputable business. We must now build on the customer and employee trust we gained to continue to meet our purpose to provide homes for people in need and deliver an outstanding customer service. If we can do this, we will return a stronger, more resilient and progressive organisation” Blackmore concluded.