Retention Series: How to Figure Out What Your Agents Want

A collaborative, hands-on approach and listening ear gives agents the confidence to share honestly.
Diverse business meeting where coworkers are listening intently to one another

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When voicing their desires, agents tend to focus on commission splits. But often what they want—and feel is lacking—is a more collegial and inclusive culture. The key, says Harrison Beacher, managing partner at Coalition Properties Group in Washington D.C., is to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable being honest.

“A culture of care goes such a long way in getting people to tell you how they feel, no holds barred,” says Christina Pappas, President, of The Keyes Company in South Florida. When it comes to retention and cohesion, gleaning feedback is an essential element of business, no matter how uncomfortable.

Give Prospects Personality Tests

As part of the interview process, Beacher’s brokerage gives prospective hires personality assessments. They use The Keller Personality Assessment (KPA), which measures personality traits and cognitive thinking abilities. Based on the resulting reports, they gain a sense of how likely interviewees are to succeed, what motivates them and how they prefer to communicate. Knowing this information up front helps them tailor their management style to the agent, should they decide to bring them into the fold.

Help Agents Set Goals

During his company’s annual fall retreat, agents write down and present their goals and the steps they need to achieve them, reveals Beacher. His brokerage uses KW’s GPS and 411 productivity tools, which break down actions they need to execute each week and month. For example, if an agent’s goal is to sell 20 houses that year, they need to aim for at least 25 signed contracts, 50 signed-up clients, and 100 appointments. Then, throughout the year, Beacher and his partners check in with their team on their progress.

When a broker uses methods and accountability to encourage agents to dig deeper, it helps them gain clarity on what they need to do and whether they’re willing to make those efforts, he says. “Clarity is power and being honest with themselves and us is important to team culture.”

Offer the Personal Touch

Each summer, Pappas and her father, Mike Pappas (the brokerage’s CEO), stop by all 50 offices. During each two-hour session, they discuss the market and new tools and present awards to top producers. This isn’t their only point of contact with those in their offices, though. Throughout the year, they send agents birthday and anniversary cards, attend funerals, make hospital visits and reach out during challenging times. They make their presence known, which fosters trust among agents and staff. This way, if there’s an issue, those working for the brokerage feel empowered to let Pappas or her father know.

For instance, after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, “we called some of our Black agents to check in and ask if we could do anything for them,” she says. She and her father did the same following the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which is right near one of their offices. “We always make sure everyone’s comfortable, which often means a call from me or my father.”

“No one feels uncomfortable reaching out to us,” she adds. “We build a connection and culture from us directly to our agents. We have an open-door policy, and our agents know they can come to us.”

Be Honest About Your Struggles

The only way a team leader can create a culture of open communication is to model that same behavior back to agents, says Beacher. “We have weekly team meetings where we open with our wins, but we also make time to share what we’ve been struggling with.” Market shifts lead to challenges, and Beacher and his partners were intentional about filling their team in on their own setbacks.

Beacher shared with his agents that a potential client chose another agent over him, which initially felt like a blow. He also shared, however, that he made the choice to stay in contact with that almost-client who ended up referring him to someone else. Then, this new client bought a home for twice the price point of the original contract through Beacher. “If you get rejected, stay in touch and focus on that relationship,” he told them. “They might come back to you.”

Similarly, he was forthcoming about the company’s trials. Last year and into the first quarter of 2023, “business was brutal, and we were in the red. We weren’t selling enough but still paid everyone and kept it going. We finally got back in the black this past April. All along, we told agents what we were experiencing, so they’d understand the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.”

When there’s a culture of trust, agents are more honest, explains Beacher. He encourages other brokers to ensure your team knows you see and hear them and are willing to mirror the behavior you expect from them.

Make Everyone Comfortable

Personalities, backgrounds and unique life experiences mean agents and staff come to the brokerage with different needs and communication styles. To garner authentic feedback, accept each agent’s personality and keep in mind that, for instance, “some introverts are great agents,” says Beacher. “Don’t force serious introverts to be overly outgoing.” To give them a space where they feel comfortable sharing, his brokerage asks agents to type in their wins in the chat field during weekly virtual team meetings, rather than requiring them to speak up. Additionally, Beacher makes space for introverted agents to vocalize their wants and needs during biweekly one-on-one calls. From these conversations, leadership can discover whether personal issues are hindering agents. “When business doesn’t happen, there’s almost always a personal reason,” Beacher explains. “With the one-on-one coaching, we have the space to encourage agents past it.”

Making this kind of space for any agent who might feel apprehensive or unable to be authentic in the larger group setting helps foster a sense of trust and camaraderie. In addition to the above-mentioned accommodations, brokers can create affinity groups, encourage one-to-one peer support or simply ask agents how they prefer to communicate.

Socialize Together

Socializing together further solidifies team cohesion and when agents see that their broker is involved in the fun, it creates familiarity and a level of comfort that encourages communication.

To put agents at ease, Beacher’s brokerage makes time for team-building activities. Last fall, they hosted a day-long retreat with lunch, bowling, and motivational speakers. Recently, Beacher hosted the team at his home for brunch.

Have Agents Test New Tech

The CIO at The Keyes Company asks agents regularly to test out new tech he’s considering for the brokerage. For instance, agents have piloted Rolla for video compilation creation and Agent Icon for social media content creation) Then, he asks them to offer their honest thoughts on these tools.

When agents feel as though they have a stake in the company, they might feel empowered to bring new ideas to the table or make suggestions when they encounter some area of business that could benefit from improvement. These kinds of conversations can help brokers pinpoint where to focus their attention.

Ask for Input in Multiple Ways

Along with conducting an annual survey, The Keyes Company seeks out feedback during quarterly company-wide Facebook Live webinars and one-on-one meetings. In addition to the group of agents that tests out tech, the brokerage has organized a “Mastermind” subgroup of agents. Pappas describes this panel of experienced agents as a research incubator. “We ask them what they want and need, which helps us know what to change,” she explains.

She also says that asking for feedback isn’t always easy, but it is necessary, and if you’re going to put out a survey, for example, it’s necessary to make sure you look at the results of the survey and address concerns as needed. There’s no point in asking for feedback if you’re not willing to take an honest and objective look at the information given and make the proper changes.

A Guide to Retaining Your Agents

We know that agent retention is top of mind for many brokers, especially in a changing market. This series explores the various approaches brokers take to keep agents content. 

Prepare for the Market You're In

Succeeding in the current market means preparing yourself and your agents for the next one.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Brokers say the key is to let agents with special skillsets and business models know you have what they need.

Create a Culture Your Agents Won't Want to Leave

Culture is where retention starts. Is your brokerage's culture one that makes everyone feel seen, motivated and ready for success?

Prep Agents for Opportunities in the Marketplace

Buying and selling are a small part of the complex real estate business. Now is the time to help agents capitalize on other opportunities in the business.

Doing the Math for Your Agents

If an agent is coming to you ready to leave because of splits, there’s likely a deeper issue at play.

Communication With Your Agents

The reality is, agents want a broker who communicates, makes themselves available and shows that they care. Retention often starts with being available.