How to Retain Good Employees

It is more cost effective to keep a valued employee who understands your company’s culture and products than to incur the costs associated with hiring a new employee. 2002 was a very busy year for the mortgage industry, and many companies found it difficult to hire the right candidates to fill the positions required to handle the increased volume and employee turnover. Successful companies are shifting their efforts from hiring to employee retention. This applies to all the job families in your company: loan officers, operations staff, and even temporary employees. Here are four ways you can keep your good employees:

Training. It is essential that you provide learning opportunities to enhance the professional skills of your staff. Even if your company does not have a formal training department you can leverage the internal expertise of your seasoned employees or managers. You can minimize impact on office productivity by holding “lunch-n-learn” sessions. Cross-training your staff provides them with the ability to perform multiple tasks that will give you the flexibility to handle normal spikes in volume. Another option to increase employee knowledge is to have them take correspondence or Web-based industry-related courses. These are usually cost-effective and can be completed during non-business hours. You may also wish to establish minimum training standards for all employees, e.g. all employees must attend 40 to 80 hours of training per year. If your company offers tuition assistance, encourage your employees to participate in this program. This will increase their loyalty to you and the company.

The Mortgage Bankers Association of America offers instructor-led, Web-based, and print-based courses to meet the industry’s training needs.

Recognition. Many people think that money is the only way to recognize and motivate employees. It is important to pay a competitive wage, but people want to feel appreciated. A common mistake is to give all employees approximately the same merit increase. It is important to pay your “star” employees more, showing your staff that you reward hard work. Take the time to publicly praise individuals for going beyond their normal duties. Another powerful recognition tool is a hand written thank-you note. This will have more impact than an e-mail acknowledgement. On occasion, you may wish to buy lunch for your team to show your appreciation for working extended hours.

A unique way to recognize your staff is to provide them with office or desk accessories that are different from other employees’. You could provide a nicer chair, a larger monitor, or a nameplate that distinguishes them as one of the best. These gifts are useful and let visitors know they are a high-performer.

Employees quit managers—not companies. You should meet individually with your staff at least twice a month. Ask your employees about their goals and family. Busy managers cancel appointments with staff first, which is unfortunate. During these challenging times, employees need to feel they are being heard. This lowers stress and keeps them motivated. Remember that people have their own individual needs and you cannot handle everyone the same way. Treat others the way they want to be treated, not the way you think they want to be treated.

It is a challenge to communicate with geographically dispersed teams, so you should all meet together as often as possible. One cost-effective method is using a Web-cast service. Several vendors can provide means for communicating with your staff for meetings, training, or product rollouts. Purchase a small video camera for your computer, and your staff will also be able to see you. This is especially important for newer team members.

Collaboration. Ask your employees to provide you with suggestions to streamline business processes, change company policies, or improve the working environment. They are closer to the situation than you are and will appreciate the fact that you asked them for their opinion. Of course, you can’t implement every idea you are given, but take the time to actively listen. By getting your staff involved, you are showing them that you respect their talents, which will enhance their self-esteem. If you do implement an idea, recognize the person who made the suggestion. Let everyone know why the suggestion was implemented, e.g., reduced approval time by a certain percent or saved the company a certain amount of money. As an incentive, provide a monetary payout based on increased revenue or expense reduction to motivate the staff.

Even if you do everything right, sometimes a good employee will tell you that they want to leave. When this happens, give them your undivided attention and determine the root cause of the problem. Try to solve the problem and convince them to stay. If you cannot, wish them luck and let them know they may be able to return if things don’t work out for them.

The bottom line is: If you treat your employees with respect, they will treat your customers with respect, ensuring the long-term success of your company.

By Mark A. Draganescu