Chairman of the not-for-profit Conveyancing Foundation Lloyd Davies has explained why staff wellbeing is more critical than ever for all businesses in 2022 after the challenges of the Pandemic:
Mr Davies, also Managing Director of Property Transaction, said: “The conveyancing industry experienced a tumultuous year in 2021 with quarterly SDLT or Christmas deadlines, staff having to work from home and often with increased caseloads and dealing with increasing numbers of frustrated clients and fellow professionals. An unprecedented number of conveyancers found themselves no longer able to cope and leaving the industry or looking for different roles.
“We recruited 20 Property Transaction conveyancing consultants into our Title Checking team last year – these guys had had enough of the grind of conveyancing but still loved the technical and complex legal aspects and now enjoy their work without the telephones or angry emails and working from home…or anywhere in the world!! Thankfully, we saved a few excellent conveyancers with a world of experience from leaving the industry altogether……. but how many left altogether last year?”
Mr Davies said the Conveyancing Foundation’s “Be Kind We Care” initiative was “born out of a cry of empathy with conveyancers and others in the industry being abused by frustrated clients and fellow professionals whilst working under extreme circumstances – often with more work than normal and in isolation – at home without the immediate support of their colleagues”.
He added: “We soon realised that we needed to broaden our approach and define and share best practice in looking after staff wellbeing during these unprecedented times. So we teamed up with LawCare, Agents Together and the Mindstep Foundation charities to produce a Wellbeing HUB on the Conveyancing Foundation charity website, with webinars and best practice advice.
“Today’s Conveyancer and our wonderful sponsors took up the mantle with us and we are delighted that the BKWC initiative and the wonderful charities that we support, and who have supported our cause, will be the charity of choice at the British Conveyancing Awards at their gala dinner in March 2022.
“This year, we hope to raise the bar and maintain the momentum with further webinars and great practice advice. The support from industry, especially the Society of Licensed Conveyancers and the Conveyancing Association, in asking us to take part or recommend wellbeing experts to them for their events as well as assisting with charity fundraising – we raised over £6000 at the CA Conference Dinner in 2021 – has been fantastic and long may it continue. We need as much exposure and input as possible on these issues.”
He went on: “At Convey, like most conveyancing practices, we had one of the best years on record financially last year. So, we ended the year with a massive round of bonuses and Christmas gifts for our staff and we even managed to squeeze in a Christmas party for 100 of us before the pandemic took hold once again.
“Saying thank you and being grateful for the sacrifices of those that we work with is integral to any wellbeing programme and I am sure that all conveyancing practices will be as generous as possible with salary increases and other incentives at the start of this year.
“Our bonus scheme has been running now for nearly a decade and has been successful in keeping salaries at a manageable level, with performance bonus payments set to easily achievable KPI targets, allowing conveyancers to earn up to £10k per annum on top of their salaries. This works for everyone as client service is the key driver to the bonus payments, with our conveyancers highly motivated to look after their clients and introducers of business.”
Mr Davies said Convey’s wellbeing programme was currently under review “with our staff telling us what is most important to them through a confidential online survey”.
He added: “One of the key wellbeing initiatives that we introduced over the last 30 months is complimentary in-house counselling services. Conveyancing is high paced and can be stressful at times and individuals with underlying anxiety or other issues tend to suffer the most during stressful times.
“As business leaders, managers and conveyancers, we are not trained to help these individuals and if they don’t get help, they often don’t perform well and worse, they become ill and leave!!
“We offer both in house and external counselling and over a third of our team took up the complimentary sessions to great effect in 2021. We retained more staff than in our previous history last year and, like so many legal practices, we are trying really hard to make our environment a great place to work.
“Good mental health and wellbeing is so important for us all. We hope to train Mental Health First Aiders this year within our environment, as we know first-hand from our webinar with Martyn Tolhurst Solicitors, winners of the Wellbeing Award at the British Conveyancing Awards 2021, how effective and necessary they can be.
“Working in small teams who nurture each other is also important as it provides for that sense of belonging and teamwork. An open management structure and open door policy is also critical to ensure that there are avenues for dialogue for individuals to express concerns or satisfaction – it goes both ways…. sometimes!”
Mr Davies also talked about the importance of recognising each other’s achievements:
“Saying well done to those that you work with is also critical to wellbeing. Not being congratulated for your hard work and endeavours can be difficult for people, especially youngsters – and is unnecessary. Employee awards monthly, weekly and annually is critical – we had close to 20 categories in our Annual 2020 Awards to thank our staff – with each individual receiving a financial reward, a trophy in recognition of their achievement and air space on our website and social media channels.
“If your team do well – celebrate their success – it is endemic and nothing could be better for their sense of achievement and wellbeing. We were hoping to hold a gala dinner for the team to celebrate the Annual Convey Awards but it looks more likely that we will be online again this year due to the pandemic.
“We have found that staff are good at congratulating each other for good work or a nice deed and we encourage them to share good news stories with the rest of the team. Likewise, words of thanks and gifts from happy clients are posted everywhere – to celebrate the successes and great service.”
And finally, Mr Davies talked about the importance of charity work and corporate social responsibility:
“Helping others and especially those less fortunate than us is incredibly good for the soul. At Convey, the team love to give to their chosen charities and also love to take part in charity fundraising endeavours together.
“The charity events are great team bonding adventures, they are not contrived and they allow individuals to work together in a challenging environment where teamwork and camaraderie are highly prevalent.
“Physical fitness is a precursor to mental wellbeing as we know, and training for these events provides focus throughout the year. We have a full calendar of charity events this year, from climbing mountains to trekking Hadrian’s Wall – I can’t wait!!
“Last year team Convey raised over £80k through the Conveyancing Foundation Charity Lotto, with 80% of clients being encouraged to take part by our Conveyancers to support our chosen charities.
“We supported some fantastic charities and helped individuals through some tough times – and we even managed to help fund a water filtration plant in Pakistan which now provides fresh water to thousands of people!!
“Great Corporate Social Responsibility helps to pull the team together to support each other and great causes and creates a great sense of collective wellbeing. The Conveyancing Foundation Charity Lotto is available to all legal practices to help you to raise significant funds for your chosen charities.
“Thank you all and especially our wonderful Conveyancing Foundation charity sponsors for their support in helping us to raise awareness and share best wellbeing practice during these difficult times. The best of luck to you all in looking after each other in 2022.”