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Boot Camp: Improve Productivity and Reduce Loan Officer Turnover

Deborah Hill
Feb 22, 2019

The mortgage industry has a higher turnover, or job-hopping, rate than other industries. Experienced Loan Officers can earn signing bonuses and other perks by changing jobs—so finding ways to keep your Loan Officer talent can save you thousands of dollars.
Studies show a positive correlation between company culture, onboarding and retention. This article shares six easy steps to a positive onboarding experience for your Loan Officers—an experience that acclimates your new Loan Officer to your culture, reduces their frustration with new systems and measures their compliance acumen.
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to run a boot camp—a rapid training program for new hires that also reduces turnover. It’s a great approach if your team is growing fast, you’re hiring several people into similar roles and you worry that turnover might become a problem.

Step one: Hiring
Schedule your boot camps a few weeks in the future then give several of the Loan Officers you’re hiring the same start date. Start dates that leave a gap before the next boot camp can erode your bottom line because untrained Loan Officers aren’t as productive. By joining a cohort of new hires, your prized Loan Officer immediately makes friends and starts to feel like a part of your organization. The advance notice also allows the Loan Officer to make adjustments to their personal lives in advance of the training—freeing them up to learn without distractions.
Step two: Think about travel, equipment set up and human resources (employment forms and benefits enrollment) onboarding
I hire people from all over the country and my company has a standard half-day human resources orientation program. With this in mind, I know my training has to start Monday afternoon after the HR onboarding. Scheduling time for new employees to work with IT to make sure they can log into key systems and have all the software they need comes right after HR onboarding so my new hires aren’t distracted by basic access problems during the rest of their training. I also want to leave Friday afternoon free for travel. In return for letting my new hires off early on Friday afternoon, I run boot camps from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and from 8:00 a.m. to noon on Friday.
Step three: Variety
Most new hires need a mix of systems, compliance and loan product training. You’ll get better results if you mix the three throughout the week. Two-hour time blocks that rotate through these three types of training help new hires stay engaged. Also, segments should work together to build skills. For example, a software system training segment that covers your compliance process followed by training on the compliance requirements for your Loan Officers’ target market will help your new hire pick up your offerings faster. Intermix mandatory continuing education sessions on topics like data security, harassment, or non-discrimination with more relaxed sessions like company branding, partner relationships or your organization structure to help your new hire quickly fit into their new responsibilities and team.
Step four: Guest speakers
Add variety to the schedule (and give yourself a break) by inviting people from other parts of your company to share information about their area. These speakers help you socialize your new Loan Officer to your company—they help them know where to go with questions or how the teams work together. For example, in a credit union, someone from senior management might talk about the credit union’s founders, attitude toward members or examples of how members benefit from the credit union’s services. This helps your new Loan Officer accurately communicate the benefits of your organization to their borrowers. You should include all the departments adjacent to your own–for example IT, processing and member services.
Step five: Be flexible
Boot camps have a lot of moving parts, new hires, guest speakers, trainers and things you really cannot control like flight delays and weather. Be prepared to move sessions around.
Step six: Evaluate what they are learning
Use quizzes, and if appropriate, tests to measure progress. Use self-graded pop quizzes to help your new Loan Officers gauge their understanding of complex compliance topics then give them a graded test their manager can use for ongoing professional development and coaching. Since Loan Officers are often competitive, think about providing a small prize to the person with the highest score. However, be careful with egos—especially if you have a class with varying levels of experience and training. Make sure the playing field is level or you may create resentment.
Step seven: Fun
Plan some fun breaks and time for your new hires to meet your team. Ordering lunch for your existing team plus the new hires, taking everyone out for a beverage after work, playing human bingo or even sitting in on a regularly scheduled team meeting will help your new hires feel comfortable and bond with their new co-workers. Create experiences for your new Loan Officers that are different and enjoyable–help them bond with their new team and you’ll keep them longer. Also, use these fun times to learn more about their personalities and what they enjoy–then plan events similar to the ones they like throughout the year to deepen their attachment to your company.
Now that you’ve learned how to structure a one-week boot camp, let’s explore what happens when you need more than one week of boot camp to fully train a new Loan Officer. This often happens when you are training people with less experience or those who need to pass a licensing exam. In this case, you may want to mix weeks of formal boot camp training with weeks of hands-on shadowing. When your new hires shadow, they work closely with a more experienced team member for one or two weeks–applying what they learned in their boot camp classes and gaining confidence. Alternating boot camp, exam prep classes, and shadow weeks allows new hires to put training into context, develop a list of questions to ask in the next class and gives your existing team members the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to lead others.
Once you master new hire boot camps you can apply the same principles to ongoing professional development and other internal training needs. Whether your training lasts a day or a week, creating a compressed, lively and interactive training experience shows your Loan Officers their time is valued, and you care about their employment experience. You can stand out by being a different kind of employer–an employer who treats your relationship with your Loan Officers as more than a business transaction. The best part … you’ll actually save money, have higher productivity and enjoy your own job more!

Deborah Hill has more than 10 years of experience helping financial services customers gain efficiencies through their implementation and use of softwareDeborah Hill has more than 10 years of experience helping financial services customers gain efficiencies through their implementation and use of software. She is Vice President of Customer Success and Operations at MortgageHippo. Before joining MortgageHippo, Deborah consulted and held board positions with several early-stage FinTech firms. Prior to that, she was Managing Director at Backstop Solutions Group.

This article originally appeared in the January 2019 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

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