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Are You Creating a ‘Recruiting and Retention’ or a ‘Selection and Development’ Culture?

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By Allan Dalton

RISMEDIA, December 21, 2010—How unique…another article on recruiting! Is there any other subject matter that attracts the same level of real estate management focus, fascination, and even fetishism than this eternally endearing and enduring company-based crusade? Given such repetitive emphasis, you might ask, “Allan, what would possess you to conclude that your treatment of this subject, especially in this limited format, might lead to any remarkable illumination for any real estate broker/manager?”

Although I do not anticipate any reader experiencing an epiphany, I am optimistic that my suggestions can contribute to the additional success of any real estate organization that contemplates and implements those suggestions.

For starters, I hope that my selected title has captured your attention. This headline begs the question, “Are you, your management team, and overall organization, as part of your entrenched company glossary of terms, still relentlessly promulgating the words ‘recruiting and retention?’” If so…how unique!

What’s the point? Is there a powerful and consequential distinction to be found when these terms are juxtaposed—recruiting versus selection and retention versus development—or am I guilty of sensationalizing or even demagoguing what is essentially a benign semantical difference?

To me, the contrast carries profound, companywide implications. In illustrating such a point, 15 years ago while writing a book on career development for a national brand, I asserted the following:

The only rivals we in real estate have for the use of the word “recruiting” comes from our military, while the major competition over rights to the word “retention” derives from the penal system.

Unsurprisingly, in our revolving-door industry, most real estate-company metrics that focus on retention are only surpassed by the prison industry’s regrettable record for recidivism.

Conversely, leading corporations, colleges and professional sports teams meticulously strive to convey that they “select and develop” their greatest asset…their people. It might be useful to consider the role of the scout, who goes out to actively discern who the very best are and then works to woo them to their particular organization. At all costs, companies that aim for individuals with a healthy self-image should endeavor to refrain from any symbolic gesture or nomenclature that suggests that their “human capital” is comprised of interchangeable widgets. It could be said that our industry’s eternal devotion to “recruiting and retention”—devotion to the words when conveyed openly—has created the “commodification” of real estate careers.

RISMedia has devoted the past 30 years to conducting what, arguably, is the single largest and sustained effort to research and analyze what the industry’s brokerages do to attract and develop real estate professionals. Such metrics are also partially revealed through the data RISMedia dutifully collects each year from its annual Power Broker Survey. These findings provide analytic opportunities as each company’s number of agents, offices, units, and GCI can be measured contextually…that is against their recruiting and retention trending performance.

Accordingly, RISMedia, due to the leadership of John Featherston, Darryl MacPherson, Maria Patterson and now, yours truly, is able to provide vital information regarding brokerage best practices. This knowledge and data and deep commitment to the betterment of real estate brokerages, especially in these challenging times, led to the development of the highly successful RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN). It also compelled RISMedia to share its specific information on “recruiting and retention,” the lifeblood of the industry, with companies seeking to explore additional methods of selecting and developing the industry’s finest.

While RISMedia has a specific and sacred obligation to its valued RREIN Members to provide certain proprietary information to only them, we also constantly seek to share valuable information with the industry in general.

In that spirit, I hope and trust you might find the following questions worthy of the strategic attention and focus of your management team. I believe that these thoughts, suggestions and discussion points can provide any company with perspective that can be quite useful. It is my most fervent wish that they do.

Potential Questions for Company Management Meetings to Discuss Human Resources Needs

Please select which of the following questions you feel are most appropriate to ask your management team:

1. Does our company place more emphasis on the precepts of “recruiting and retention” than on “selection and development,” and are there consequences we should discuss?

2. How overt should we be as a management team regarding how we publicize our “recruiting needs?”

3. What does a recruiting-versus-selection emphasis suggest to our agents and prospective agents?

a. Does it elevate their achievement of being a member of the company?

b. Does it dilute the significance or even marginalize the importance?

c. Do we become less desirable as a company by appearing desperate or easy to join?

d. In RISMedia’s Recruiting Census, agents indicated that they feel companies want to recruit more than develop, and chose company reputation as the most important reason for choosing a company. How do these responses relate to emphasizing selection and development over recruiting and retention…or is this just semantics?

4. Should we conduct (or reconduct) a company-wide survey to:

a. Convey how we care?

b. Determine why people join, stay, or leave our company?

c. Determine an overall agent satisfaction metric?

5. Should we define all of our locations as “regional offices,” and will this not only help us recruit on a larger canvass but also ameliorate some present agent concerns that the “pie is shrinking?”

6. Can a greater focus on agent development become our number-one retention strategy?

7. If we become marketplace-synonymous with “career development,” can this become our number-one recruiting resource?

8. How much credit do our associates give:

a. The company

b. The manager

- What can we do to address this?

9. If you could “rehire” all of your agents, what percentage would you hire today?

10. By purchasing an automated and generic recruiting system, i.e., letters, postcards, information on Gen Y, etc., and standardized formulaic recruiting scripts, does this inadvertently lead to not only desensitizing or repelling candidates, but also stultifying our company’s internal and organic capacity to resolve to respond to our greatest challenge in a more effective and customized fashion?

11. When we acquire formulaic and generic approaches, does it signal to prospective agents that our solution process is not only “industry canned” but also indiscriminate and impersonal?

12. When a prospective agent asks us, “How much can I make at your company?” do we lazily answer, “The sky’s the limit,” or do we introduce specific business plans with desired income levels? If not, how can we do this?

13. Has everyone on your management team developed the necessary response to every conceivable objection or resistance?

14. Is there a management role play we could employ to handle objections like, “I don’t want to leave my company because…”

a. I like my manager.

b. I like my company/office.

c. I like my colleagues.

d. I have too many listings.

e. You’re too small, too big, a franchise, not a franchise, etc.

f. I don’t want to make a lateral move.

g. I don’t like so-and-so in your office.

15. How does your management team preempt the following: A prospect on Friday declares he/she is joining you, but on Monday, after talking to his/her manager, decides to stay put. What is your company strategy for this?

16. What is your company or your office’s strategy to attract agents, from:

a. Large companies

b. Small companies

c. Brands

d. Independents

And…

a. New agents

b. Veteran agents

c. Agents from various age groups

17. Do you have agents at your company/office who believe they have benefited more from outside coaching and training than from your company/office programs? What impact does this have on “recruiting and retention” when agents think the company needs them much more than they need the company?

18. What is your company’s/office’s strategy to reverse the above attitude?

19. How much emphasis, if any, do you place on psychological testing and aptitude testing?

20. Do you think traditional recruiting brochures, one in which the selecting company compares itself to its competitors by “unsurprisingly” checking off more boxes in its favor, is effective?

21. Do you believe that the above runs the risk of belittling prospects who still work at the company with so little checks?

22. When a manager who is already known by an agent sends a postcard or general letter to that agent, do you think it causes the agent to wonder, “Why is Susan—who I see at board events and inspection tours all the time—sending me a generic postcard instead of just calling me? Could it be that Susan purchased this postcard program at a convention because she lacks the confidence that she can help my career…or worse, that she doesn’t really care?”

23. Are managers in your company viewed more as office managers or real estate coaches?

24. Do you try to recruit agents into your office or more into your career development program?

25. What are the top five reasons someone should work in your office?

26. What are the top five reasons someone might not want to work in your office?

27. Are your current agents “recruiting supporters” or “saboteurs?” How can you gain more support?

28. Are your agents more likely to support a companywide recruiting campaign or, instead, a selection process where they participate?

29. When real estate companies announce that a new agent just graduated from “quick start,” does that serve as an inducement to consumers and candidates or a warning?

30. I recently introduced the concept that “information share equals market share.” Do you believe that information share also equals recruiting share? Or development share? Ask your manager.

31. How effective do you feel outside recruiting “gurus” are who bring in standardized methodologies?

I am purposely providing more questions than answers. The answers must come from individual companies. If your company would like to learn more about RISMedia’s Recruiting and Retention (aka, Selection and Development) strategies and systems, and manager coaching program, contact Paris Cheffer at 203-855-1234, ext. 140.

Thanks for your kind attention.

Allan Dalton is the chief marketing officer for RISMedia and co-founder and president of RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network®.

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