Jenner Contractors - Prioritisation of employee engagement and safety

Ella Brocklebank, Head of Communications and Business Development, discusses Jenner’s approach to the pandemic.

The Payapps’ ‘From Surviving to Thriving’ initiative, aims to provide the sector with a vital platform to ‘knowledge share’. As part of this Anthony Puma from Payapps spoke to Ella Brocklebank of Jenner to understand how Jenner emerged stronger from the pandemic. 

Within the video we explore:

  • How they navigated the pandemic
  • Why Jenner decided to close their sites and what their focus was over this period
  • How they kept up moral and provided support for each other over this challenging time
  • The change in people's perception of digital uptake in the industry
  • How they have found the adoption of technology from a site build perceptive
  • The impact technology will have on-site builds and administration of projects over the next few years

Surviving to Thriving: Jenner Transcript 

The pandemic wreaked havoc on industries and individuals alike, with some still feeling the impact a few years later. Battling furlough, regulation and keeping staff safe, COVID marked difficult times for the construction industry.

We were delighted to be joined by Ella Brocklebank, Head of Communications and Business Development at Jenner, who provided insight into their work and how recent challenging times have impacted them.

Anthony Puma: The last few years have presented an unpredictable time for the construction industry, but how did Jenner navigate these challenging times?

Ella Brocklebank: Jenner, as main building contractors, made the decision to close. We took a temporary five-week break and shut down all our sites - which was a difficult decision and went against the government's advice at the time to keep building, but we just felt that how could you run building sites safely when there were factors such as social distancing, subcontractors needing to isolate or just not wanting to be on-site? Closing our sites just felt like the right thing to do, and allowed us time to take stock, plan and prepare appropriate safety measures for re-opening, keeping everyone safe while pushing forwards with our projects.

Anthony Puma: But, as many of us found during the extended lockdowns and isolations from society, it proved challenging to maintain morale and remain optimistic. So, how did Jenner - which can boast a tight-knit team - keep their staff upbeat and supported from a distance?

Ella Brocklebank: It was something we paid close attention to, as by closing our sites we furloughed 90% of our staff, so we're very fortunate to have been protected by that scheme. This lft staff to implement the right policies and procedures It was critical that communication - both internal and external - continued. We sent weekly emails, newsletters and communications to all our staff to retain morale and keep people upbeat. Open communication was key during what was quite an unnerving time. We engaged with staff to try to keep them active, for example organising activity-based fundraising events such as the NHS 1,000 miles challenge. We even did drawing competitions for children - we really tried to keep people engaged and made sure they knew they were part of the team.

Anthony Puma: Is there anything that, upon reflection, you would've done a bit differently if you had that time again?

Ella Brocklebank: I don't think we would actually - I think we absolutely made the right decision to close sites and our head office for that time. I think safety and our staff's wellbeing were everything, so we do believe we made the right decision that was thankfully made possible by the furlough scheme. Equally, if anything happens again, we're now a bit more prepared for it - for example, a lot of the enhanced safety measures continue today.

Anthony Puma: The last few years, through necessity, have certainly enhanced the adoption of digitalisation in construction. Have you found this has changed people's perception, and they're adapting to the digital ways of working?

Ella Brocklebank: I think so. We've had to in order to survive really, haven't we? It's now become the new norm. Where people would've once shied away from technology, they now realise it's there, and they've got to embrace it to move forwards. In that sense, it's been a positive move forwards for construction and allowed us to emerge as an innovative industry.

Anthony Puma: How have you found the adoption of technology from a site perspective, and what impact has this had?

Ella Brocklebank: It probably made us a bit more efficient and more productive. Obviously, people need to be on site to build something, but utilising technology meant we could safely keep operating and communicating without putting people unnecessarily at risk - it quickly became the norm and helped us to keep going.

Anthony Puma: In terms of moving forward and the adoption of technology, how do you see that taking shape for you in the future?

Ella Brocklebank: We need to continue to move forwards now and utilise the technology we're using. We're based down in Folkestone but have sites in Sussex, but technology can make our teams much more efficient and connected - we don't have to waste time driving to sites. Instead, we can do meetings virtually and save days at a time, so we're becoming even more efficient, and I only see that continuing. As new technologies emerge, we're much more prepared to embrace that and implement new ways of working.

Anthony Puma: Ella, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you, thank you for coming to talk to us.

Ella Brocklebank: Likewise, thank you.