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Dealing With Change — Cross Training

It’s a means for smoothing out the inevitable cyclical transitions

Dave Hershman headshot
Dave Hershman
Dealing With Change

This is certainly a transition year for the industry. Production is down and operation staffs are being pared in “right-sizing” exercises. A year ago, we were competing like crazy for operational staff and bidding up their salaries. But for those who have been in this industry for a long time, this cycle is nothing new. What is amazing to me is how little time we spend preparing for these times, especially when there are tools available enable us to become more efficient. Thus, this month I decided to pull one such tool out of the leadership course from my OriginationPro Mortgage School. That tool is cross training.

We know it is good for us, but … many managers cringe when they hear the words cross training. We all know that it is good for our staff and to meet company objectives such as cost considerations. We all know that we should have a good cross training plan in effect. Yet, most companies do not. It is like exercise: we know that it is good for us, but we don’t do enough.

Cross training increases personnel efficiencies. When someone goes on vacation (or leaves) someone else can step in and accomplish the job. If a vacation means that someone will be returning to a pile of work—this puts your staff in a perpetual stressful situation.

Cross training increases production efficiencies. When there are production bulges in certain departments, other departments can pitch in. The mortgage business is extremely cyclical: monthly, seasonal and interest rate cycles. Each brings on a new challenge in which cross training could increase our efficiency to deal with the problem. Companies can become more efficient as they face increasingly volatile cycles in the coming years.

Cross training increases the value of our employees. When we give value to our employees, they become more valuable to us. Many become more loyal, reducing very expensive turnover. Others stay because they have more promotional opportunities because they have new skills. In general, giving them more skills helps them meet their objectives and helping others meet their objectives is what great leadership is all about. Some good reading material in this regard—Company of Heroes: Unleashing the Power of Self-Leadership, by Henry P. Sims, Jr. and Charles C. Manz, John Wiley & Sons.

Cross training becomes our farm system. Good recruiting starts from within and promotion from within lowers employee turnover rates. Cross training gives the skills to effect promoting from within. Your next originator might always be right under your nose in your processing department.

A good cross training plan starts with an analysis of the office’s needs. In what areas could the benefits of cross training be seen? A typical place in mortgage offices is loan file set-up. When processors get busy, this is one of the first places that is ignored as we respond to the fires of impending closings. We train the receptionist to set up files and when things get busier, we hire a temp for the phones and make the receptionist a temporary “set-up person.” Unfortunately, answering phones is a key skill which we continuously ignore in our training efforts—and subjugate to others even less qualified when things get busy.

A good cross training plan also integrates the desires of employees. In our coaching reviews we ask about our employee’s long-term objectives. This is a futile exercise unless we are going to use the information. Cross training is one way we can do just that—help our employees reach their objectives. If a processor desires to become an underwriter, perhaps we can train this person to sign off on conditions. If they desire to be a loan officer, perhaps they can attend or even help present classroom training for originators.

Management Cross Training. An all-important part of this equation is training for managers. It is likely that some of your staff have the desire to manage in the future. They can’t become managers effectively unless you start to impart to them the skills they need to practice and grow. In addition, how many times are you short of time because of your many management responsibilities? Management cross training can help you solve both dilemmas—furthering the goals of your employees while you lessen the stress in your own situation.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine May 2022 issue.
Dave Hershman headshot
Dave Hershman

Dave Hershman is an author for the mortgage industry with eight books and several hundred articles to his credit. He is also senior vice president of sales for Weichert Financial Services, head of OriginationPro Mortgage School and a top industry speaker.

Published on
May 16, 2022
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