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Create a Company Culture That Inspires Agent Retention

Five tips to build a home away from home for your agents and staff, in a work environment that helps them thrive.

October 22, 2019

We know that a real estate company’s work culture is critical to agent retention. A few years ago, research suggested employee retention (though most agents are independent contractors) hinged on the effectiveness of managers alone; new data elucidates a shift toward a more complex reality. Competent managers and fair compensation are still essential, of course. However, those elements alone are not enough to keep workers fully committed to one company over another. This analysis, I believe, applies to the real estate industry as well.

According to a study discussed in the Harvard Business Review, employees cited three main reasons they ultimately decided not to quit their job. Those who stayed “found their work enjoyable 31% more often, used their strengths 33% more often, and expressed 37% more confidence that they were gaining the skills and experiences they need to develop their careers.” Across industries, people seek out receptive, engaging, and adaptive work environments. But what is the secret sauce in real estate? How can broker-owners and managers create, develop, and sustain the culture needed to entice and retain top performers?

The Secret Sauce

To understand the ingredients that make up a killer company culture, it’s important to understand that the millennial workforce has undoubtedly contributed to the shift toward receptive, engaging, and adaptive work cultures. They make up more than one-third of the entire U. S. workforce and esteem emotional intelligence, authenticity, and independence over higher compensation and previously sought-after job titles. According to a recent Gallup poll, millennials are the generation most likely to hop from job to job. The same poll puts the onus of this stat on employers, stating that millennials want to pursue work that makes them feel worthwhile and that they will likely stick to a career if they receive a compelling offer that takes this into account.

Whether your organization is looking to recruit and retain millennials or more senior real estate professionals, here are six effective ways you can create the kind of work culture that attract and keep high achievers.

1. Craft an entry interview. Usually, honest agent feedback doesn’t happen until the exit interview. Don’t let that valuable information go to waste when it could be used to keep the agent from leaving in the first place. Give your new recruit a week or two to get used to their new position, and then conduct an entry interview. Ask them when they found themselves most immersed in their tasks and what passions they have outside of work. Listen carefully and adjust where you can. Be honest about what you need or expect from them as an agent. Let them know if you cannot make the adjustments they want and why.

2. Create opportunities for connection. Building camaraderie at your brokerage can be a great retention tool. Plan group events and volunteer opportunities. Encourage agents to take part in happy hours. Do what you can to build community and avoid making your agents feel like just a number. Create a positive and friendly environment by asking them to share stories about their lives, family members, and loved ones. Most importantly, pay attention.

3. Prioritize growth through education. Agents that stick around do so because they see themselves contributing to a company’s success—and they see the company contributing to theirs. Whether it’s bringing in speakers, hosting workshops, or investing in courses for your agents, education is key to contribution. You can create a space where your agents’ skills can develop by cultivating an atmosphere of collaboration. Create in-house resources and encourage sharing at sales meetings so everyone has the chance to communicate with, help, and learn from one another.

4. Humor can often mean success. Allow for opportunities for your agents to be silly, laugh, and enjoy themselves. Organize events where your agents can have fun and bond. Maybe host a lunch where new recruits can meet your other agents in a relaxed and welcoming environment. This type of environment will help agents feel more comfortable being themselves and making real friendships with other agents, which will lead to a culture of respect, trust, and creative collaboration.

5. Stay positive. I love to start meetings—no matter the context of the meeting—with one simple request: “Tell me something good.” This question helps the individual agent or team shift to a mindset of abundance from the start. Stephen Covey coined the term “abundance mindset” in his 1989 bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, defining it as “a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others.” He contrasts it with the “scarcity mindset,” which is founded on the idea that if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning (in some way or another) in a given situation. Office leaders who are able to foster this positive spirit have the best chance of fostering agent engagement.

Your agents are the hero of this story. It is your job as the broker to create a meaningful work environment in which they can thrive. When you are recruiting, put the agent first, not the job. Pay attention and give them space to utilize their distinctive skills. Motivate them to imagine how they could meet goals—and then provide resources and educational opportunities to further those goals. Companies that recruit and retain humans versus roles, and define and cultivate a positive and supportive culture, will reap significant advantages in a competitive market.


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Broker-to-Broker is an information network that provides insights and tools with business value through timely articles, videos, Q&As, and sales meeting tips for brokerage owners and managers. Get more Broker-to-Broker content here.

Jill Butler

Jill Butler founded RedKey Realty Leaders St. Louis in 2012—an independent real estate agency created on a foundation of love, service, and fun. In addition to growing 300 percent in their first year, RedKey has consistently and significantly outperformed the market in both sales amounts and volume. RedKey opened a second location in West County in 2015 and is now considered one of the largest independent real estate companies in St. Louis. Jill was named 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year by the state of Missouri and St. Louis chapter of the Women’s Council of REALTORS®. She has held an officer position for the Women’s Council of REALTORS® and serves on the St. Louis Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors. Learn more at redkeystlouis.com.

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