Top Workplaces 2021: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties has a company culture of listening to employees and empowering them to act

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When the offices of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties slowly started to reopen last year in the pandemic, Beth DiLoreto decided early on that sales meetings could go hybrid for the offices she oversees in Glastonbury and Marlborough.

The office space was large enough to accommodate some real estate agents in person with masking and social distancing, as other colleagues tuned in virtually. The approach may not have been possible in smaller offices of the same company.

DiLoreto said she didn’t worry about second-guessing from the corporate office.

“We’re a big company that acts likes a small company, meaning we don’t feel there is always just a cookie-cutter answer to things,” said DiLoreto, who has worked for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices for 23 years in various positions, now as an office leader. “We really take each situation individually and try to come up with the best answer not just, ‘oh, when X happens, we’re supposed to do Y.’”

A strong sense of employee empowerment combined with crucial support from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ top executives is part of what made the company the winner this year in The Hartford Courant Top Workplaces 2021 survey in the large employer division.

The Wallingford-based company placed at the top in its category for the second straight year. It also won the same award in 2018.

Employees gave the company high marks for flexibility and striking a balance with family; high standards for ethics and integrity; and, notably, providing the training and encouragement to employees who want to develop their careers.

Candace Adams, the company’s president and chief executive, said the string of Top Workplace honors — drawn from nominations from the company’s own employees — is especially gratifying for the culture fostered at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

“It’s part of our culture to make sure people are happy and they are in an environment in which they feel safe,” Adams said. “So when we get this award, we all feel validated.”

Adams said the company’s cultural foundation is crucial, on which is built listening to employees, what they need to serve clients better and make their own lives better. On top of that, the company seeks to provide the evolving technology vital to remaining competitive in home sale marketplace, Adams said.

“I think it's a combination of remembering people first and foremost and making sure we are innovative and competitive on the other side,” Adams said.

A focus on work-life balance figures highly in that combination, Adams said.

“Overall, we are very cognizant of inclusion and individual needs, like parents with kids going back to school right now,” Adams said. “Give them some flexibility to bring their kindergartner to school or to be home the day before they start school to get things ready. We understand the challenges that families face today and try to accommodate our employees as best we can.”

One hallmark of Adams’ tenure at the company has been large, town hall-style gatherings to hear from employees in large groups in addition to other social events.

COVID-19 has curtailed those in-person gatherings, but Adams said the company has continued to keep the channels of communication open by other means as the world has gone virtual.

“We try to communicate in every single way: send out videos, send out emails, e-cards and letters,” Adams said. “I call people constantly.”

Adams said she hopes to bring the town hall event back in January. “We are keeping our fingers crossed,” she said.

The company’s annual event that recognizes service both among employees and to customers and clients went virtual this year, but still included a drawing for $10,000 from among all the entries during the previous year.

The hot home sale market in Connecticut has drawn national attention in the past year, but the breakneck pace created challenges for agents. Those sometimes included dozens of showings for prospective buyers and then often dealing with multiple bids for a single property.

For agents representing sellers, digital spreadsheets helped organize the intricacies of many multiple offers and differing details on a single property.

“Prior to COVID, we were pretty innovative digitally, and we just put the pedal to the metal even more so in the last year,” Adams said.

In Glastonbury, DiLoreto said the small company culture of Berkshire Hathaway has never left her feeling anonymous no matter what position she has held at the company.

“I have always felt — and I have agents that feel this way — that you’re not a number,” DiLoreto said. “Candace knows not only who I am but who my agents are. She talks to them about their families. She cares about people as a whole person, and not just work.”

Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at kgosselin@courant.com.

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