Agents who leave usually do so because of the culture—not the money. After all, net profits are not so different from brokerage to brokerage, explains Natalie Davis, founder of The Evolution Group powered by Keller Williams. That’s why it’s essential to create the best culture you can, she says. “It’s the culture that makes agents stay,” agrees Cole Slate, broker-owner at Slate Real Estate in Jacksonville, Fla.
In fact, culture is so important to Slate that it’s one of the main reasons he built his own brokerage two and half years ago. “I wanted to create my own culture and brand from scratch around family, character, and community,” he shares. “By having those priorities, your business will build itself because people will want to work with people they trust.”
Here are some tips from Davis and Cole on how to make your brokerage a place agents won’t want to leave.
The best culture starts with the best team. The best team starts with hiring the right people.
Build a team that embodies your brokerage’s core values and makes all your agents feel welcome, suggests Davis, who is the facilitator of the Bias Override course taught through the NAR. To do this, consider making your hiring process more standard and rigorous, she adds.
By fine-tuning your brokerage’s hiring process, you can work against implicit bias. These automatic judgments might lead to the rejection of qualified applicants based on certain traits, like skin color, hairstyle or body piercings. Conversely, they can also lead to the hiring of less qualified agents based on physical or personality traits sometimes perceived as positive.
Align Hiring Strategies with Values
To begin tweaking your hiring strategy, codify your brokerage’s key values. These should be your north star when making hiring decisions. In Slate’s case, he seeks out team members who exemplify family, character and community. Also think about traits that are desirable in all real estate agents, like integrity, hard work and dedication. Then, formulate interview questions aligning with these values and qualities.
Next, coach your team to interview and assess candidates with intention. They should judge applicants by how they answer these questions, rather than on other factors like tattoos or clothing style. If a candidate checks every box but doesn’t mesh with the appearance or personality traits you look for, do a gut check, suggests Davis. “Ask yourself if a bias is popping up that’s hindering you from making the right decision,” she advises.
Train Your Team
Once you’ve built your team, offer them bias training. The stakes are high since biases can impact fair housing and agent composition, explains Davis. “Bias training is a hard process to go through,” she acknowledges. “No one wants to think about whether they have biases, but we do. We can confront it and be intentional about addressing it moving forward,” she adds.
Build Team Spirit
Aim for a family vibe, suggests Cole. This feeling starts with cultivating an office space set up for collaboration and connection. His office models a co-work space and features a community table, bar, den and conference room. Then, offer multiple types of teambuilding experiences, from sales meetings to networking events and community service days, suggests Davis.
Slate’s company brings their team together in various ways, including:
- Several community get-togethers per year, including appreciation events for teachers, crossing guards, and the military.
- Monthly sales meeting.
- Monthly 9 am bring-your-own-breakfast-or-beverage meetup, each devoted to a different subject (like client engagement or lead generation).
- Every other month, office lunch.
- Every other month, sponsored office happy hour.
“Managing brokers need to understand that their agents are their customers,” says Slate.
Live the Company’s Core Values
Culture comes from the top. That’s why leaders need to make sure they clearly convey their brokerage’s values to their team, says Davis. Plus, they should set an example by walking the walk and embodying those values. For instance, if a brokerage emphasizes family values, its leader might initiate a “bring your kids to work day” or contribute to the PTA at the local high school.
Leaders should keep in regular touch with their agents, says Davis. Once they establish this rapport and if they emit an approachable vibe, their agents should feel comfortable asking them for counsel. To accomplish this, Slate makes sure his team knows that they can call or text him, stop by his office, or ask him for a lunch meeting. After each interaction with an agent—even just a phone call—he’ll ask what else he can do for them. That way, even if they’re on the shy side, they’ll feel emboldened to seek his input.
Make Agents Feel Special
When a new agent joins his company, Slate’s team posts about them on social media. They’ll also spread the news when it’s an agent’s birthday or if an agent has achieved a certification or achieved a community service goal. Since major life events (like the birth of a child or the passing of a parent) tend to impact most agents’ lives, leaders should acknowledge them and offer help.
Managing brokers often overlook the importance of administration to workplace culture, says Davis. But it’s the piece that makes agents’ jobs easier every day.
Provide Tools and Training to Use Them
Slate emphasizes the importance of making sure agents have the resources they need. Since they remove friction, platforms that facilitate work processes—from onboarding and navigating continuing education to marketing—will help build agents’ loyalty towards their brokerage. Davis suggests customizable templates for postcards, newsletters, flyers and email messages.
That said, leaders shouldn’t skip the step of training their agents on how to use these services and tools. Otherwise, they’re missing an opportunity to empower agents and boost the culture simultaneously, says Davis.
The Bottom Line
When agents love the culture of their brokerage, they won’t consider leaving, says Slate. “They’ll understand that even if their commission checks could be slightly higher somewhere else, they wouldn’t have the same resources and leadership. They’ll realize that they won’t enjoy what they’re doing at another brokerage.”