Real Estate

Tackling agent retention? 4 strategies for a stronger firm

This June, Inman’s editorial theme is Teams — we’re going to go deep on what it takes to grow your team amid this intense seller’s market. And if you’re not already a subscriber to our Teams Beat email newsletter, sent every Thursday, sign up now.

It’s well known in the real estate industry that when the market takes a turn, agents jump ship and move onto a different brokerage. Well, this past year has been precisely the sort of unstable market that drives such actions — and brokerages are worried.

As a result, leaders at major firms, including Compass, the Corcoran Group and Triplemint are turning their attention to agent retention strategies, The Real Deal reported. So, how do you keep your top agents on board? 

Smart retention does more than just tackle the COVID-related agent churn. Rather, it focuses on the big picture issues in the industry to support long-term stability. These four strategies can help top residential real estate brokerages keep their best agents and team members while connecting with new talent that can help them grow.

1. Prioritize culture

If you want to make sure your agents stay with your brokerage, your business can’t just be an office. As you hire and in your everyday practices, it’s important to make culture a critical element.

Agents should be a good fit for the overall goals of your community, and that means taking time to build mentorship connections, share ideas and encourage collaboration. 

Ultimately, your agents won’t grow if they don’t feel connected to your brokerage or to the other agents — and most importantly, they won’t stay. Still, if you’re not sure how to build those connections, you’re not alone. Many firms overlook this issue, but you can start developing a more defined company culture today with these proven strategies.

2. Invest in retention tools

Agent retention often seems like some mysterious element in the formula for success since you can’t actually control what development pathways your agents choose to take, but it’s not as unmanageable as it may seem.

Tools like Brokerkit can help leaders connect with agents, while never missing a follow-up with potential recruits. When communication is streamlined, you never have to worry about missing out on a great candidate or opportunity for internal growth.

Another valuable tool for real estate agent recruitment and retention is Adwerx, a platform that specifically supports digital ads for recruiting. After all, one of the major challenges associated with broker retention is that if you’re hiring, so are your competitors.

You need to get your name out there in a recognizable and compelling way and pitch yourself to agents; they won’t just come to you.

Finally, once you’ve successfully onboarded agents, you don’t want to overlook the importance of growth and continuing education in agent retention. In fact, platforms like McKissock Learning and its associated real estate schools can help keep your agents up to date on the latest trends and excited about coming to work each day.

3. Establish leadership

It’s easy for individual real estate agents, even within a brokerage, to function as though they’re islands — and that isn’t good for your agency. One way to avoid this, though, is by establishing clear leadership, and that takes several approaches.

As an established agency, this means thinking critically about what role your brokers play compared to your agents. Brokers should play a central role in driving the direction of your agency.

Meanwhile, when recruiting new agents, especially to an up-and-coming agency, one thing you’ll want to do is look for people who will set the tone. Sometimes referred to as “eagle agents,” these agents will produce results and push others to do the same.

That attitude will set the tone for your agency more generally and make it stand out, becoming the kind of agency others want to be a part of. That said, it’s often challenging to single out leaders within real estate firms, as most agents see themselves as fundamentally independent, an issue that leads us back, yet again, to company culture.

If you want to emphasize individual leadership within your firm or even further develop your own leadership skills, there are countless educational resources that can help drive that shift. Here are a few:

Are your agents headed for the door?

As in any other industry, agents who are moving toward the exit aren’t going to announce this for fear of jeopardizing their careers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any red flags you can look for that might signal an outgoing agent.

Indeed, many of these same changes would draw notice regardless, but in this moment of industry upheaval, keep an eye out for the following:

1. Change in communication style

If an agent goes from an open, regular communicator to being more shut down or evasive, it could be a sign that they’re looking to change firms.

Of course, depending on your current communication patterns, changes may look different. Agents may touch base overly often to try to deflect attention or ask unusual questions.

2. Change in routine

Most of us are, in one way or another, creatures of habit, and that’s particularly true when it comes to our professional lives.

If an agent asks to change a long-standing meeting, starts coming in late or leaving early without explanation, they may be signaling the end of their tenure with your agency.

3. They’re having personal problems

The pandemic has pushed everyone to the edge when it comes to stress, but some people have been impacted much more significantly than others, and that’s undoubtedly true for some of your agents.

Individuals struggling with health problems — their own or a family member’s, or who are having a hard time finding childcare or juggling homeschooling are more likely to exit your firm or even leave the industry entirely.

4. There are cliques and conflicts

Workplaces have their own unique social dynamics, and in many cases, those relationships are less than healthy.

If you’re noticing a lot of relationship issues between agents, including the formation or dissolution of cliques, you might soon find that one or more members of your team decide to leave. What’s more, because of how social conflicts work, it might not be who you expect.

Learn and grow

One thing about the real estate industry is that it’s always changing, which is why retention is at least in part contingent on individual and team development.

Create opportunities for growth, encourage engagement with continuing education beyond what’s required by licensing boards, and make every day a learning opportunity. That doesn’t mean micromanaging your agents, but rather supporting them through the different phases of their career. 

You can’t predict when an agent will decide their time with your brokerage is done, but while they’re with you, you can work to support them so that they feel like they’re always growing as professionals in community. That’s what prioritizing retention means — but is your firm ready to execute it?

Larry Alton is the CEO of Alton Enterprises in Olympia, Washington. Follow him on Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.




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