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Hire Ground

Attracting and retaining talent in today’s unique workforce moment

Tim Pascarella
Tim Pascarella
Hire Ground

When it comes to staffing and hiring challenges, the mortgage business is hardly unique in facing some challenging circumstances in recent years. The pandemic has been more than just a disruption — it has prompted a profound shift in the personal and professional circumstances of so many Americans.

Coming at a time when professional stability and longevity were already waning, the result is a labor market that is both more challenging and competitive than at any other time in recent memory. In an industry where experience and hard-earned expertise is so important to give homebuyers the insight they deserve, maintaining a team of knowledgeable and experienced professionals is arguably more important than ever.

The question is how.

It is not enough for decision-makers and executives to simply declare that they will prioritize hiring and retention. Hiring and retaining good people and talented professionals takes meaningful measures and sustained commitment.

Here’s what that looks like:

Work on your core

Core values are only as good as your willingness to apply them. In hiring and retention, that means identifying candidates who are a good fit with your team and your culture. Alignment with core values is so critically important that there is a strong argument to be made that it should be the single biggest criteria for any hire: given more weight than experience or education.

Developing and establishing clearly defined core values creates a framework for employees to do their best work. My own company’s core values include the following:

We are hard working. We ensure that the promise to the customer is kept and that that hard work delivers an unparalleled customer experience.

We are knowledgeable. The more we know, the better we can deliver for our clients and professional partners.

We are helpful. Not everyone can get financing, but we are committed to helping everyone we engage with make progress along the path to home ownership.

We don’t just do things right — we do the right thing. We take pains to operate ethically and honorably, making sure we don’t put someone in a bad situation they can’t afford, etc.

The key is to use your core values to identify prospective candidates whose mindset and work best reflects those ideals. If those things are consistent with our core values, we’re confident we can train them and help them grow and become successful professionals.

Tools and tech

Invest in training and technology. The right tools can help your team not only operate more efficiently and do their job more easily, but also strengthen their relationships with realtors and homebuyers and improve the customer experience. Homebuying is a low frequency/high-risk transaction and establishing trust and building relationships are essential. The more you can make that experience seamless and hassle-free, the easier it is to build that rapport. Investing in the tech stack with a trusted, secure, and user-friendly point-of-sale system is a great way to make that happen. Make sure you are investing in a loan origination system and a post-closing customer relationship manager platform to help keep in touch with closed clients. It’s all about reducing the friction that can occur in the mortgage process and building and leveraging relationships in the long run.

Training is also an essential part of building confident, productive and successful employees. Consider carving out a position for a full-time in-house trainer to put together personalized training programs and monitor the progress of both new and existing employees. On the tech side, I strongly recommend a system like our Knowledge Coop, a repository of training materials and programs that is regularly updated with new regulatory and licensing requirements. A product like that allows you to create training programs and series into a searchable archive. You can assign to-dos for companywide compliance requirements, or individual refreshers. Because your own instructors and experienced employees are helping design these programs, you’re facilitating critical knowledge sharing from in-house experts.

Spread the word

Review your internal communications and employee engagement programs to ensure you are communicating clearly with your team, getting honest feedback to improve the employee experience, and meet their needs. Another tactic to consider is to establish a culture ambassador program or something similar. The idea is to designate specific employees who not only consistently demonstrate and reinforce core values, but partner with new employees and give them a resource to answer questions and help with the onboarding process. A culture ambassador is a kind of core values liaison, making the initial employee experience welcoming and positive from day one.

Connect and engage

Professional memberships like the Veteran Lending Council and the Mortgage Bankers Association can offer invaluable training, tools, information, and even recognition for your top performers. Those professional partnerships can be another tool you can arm your team with to give them the skills and the confidence to be successful.

Strong relationships within the real estate community can also pay off. We regularly embed loan officers as lending resources in different real estate offices, a mutually beneficial engagement that exposes those individuals to a host of new insights and opportunities.

In other words: leave no stone unturned in your efforts to find new ways to identify opportunities to show your expertise and differentiate your people, your products, and your services. You won’t just become more indispensable to your clients — you will empower your people. Ideally, every employee should recognize that your company is the best place for them: providing the products, services, and support to fulfill their potential and realize sustained success.

Ultimately, recruiting and retention is a two-way street. The best companies in this industry make a substantive and sustained commitment to their people, with the belief that the effort will empower and inspire them to make a correspondingly strong commitment to the company that helped them become successful.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine June 2022 issue.
Tim Pascarella
Tim Pascarella

Tim Pascarella is president of Michigan-based Ross Mortgage Corporation, an independent lender in the Midwest.

Published on
Jun 16, 2022
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