Are you throwing money at your sales team retention problem? Do you want to know the reasons why your top title sales producers are really leaving? Well, read on.
I have been an executive recruiting manager now for 4 months. Before that, I was in the title insurance industry for 6 years, running the national marketing operations for a top 10 title insurance agency and underwriter. I learned a lot while working at that company, since I worked closely with over 150 sales associates throughout the country. However, these past 4 months have taught me that I never got the full picture of employee morale and the level of job dissatisfaction that is present in the title industry…particularly with top title sales producers.
As a recruiter, sales executives are candid with me. They know that what they tell me stays in the strictest confidence and will help me find them the ideal opportunity with a company that is the right fit for the way they like to work. In my conversations, I have learned the top reasons why these title sales producers leave, and it is not just for more money. In fact, rarely do I find that to be the most pressing issue. Sure, everyone wants to make more money, but the truth is had their current employers changed a few simple things, these producers would not be looking for a job.
Employee morale is a tricky topic for any title insurance company owner. It can be hard to build, difficult to measure, and way too easy to kill. There are many things that can affect morale…non-work related issues and how the company deals with them, advancement opportunities, training, employee development, working conditions, management styles, etc. With so many things to consider, how can you make sure you get then right?
Times are changing. To keep your top-producers and teams together, you have to think smart. Here are some common-sense advice I wished I’d had years ago before becoming a recruiter.
The main reasons why top-producers quit are due to dissatisfaction with:
- Advancement opportunities or job alternatives
- Supervision, particularly authoritarian supervision;
- Co-workers, especially in title/escrow teams;
- Working conditions (rigid work schedules, poor equipment, repetitive tasks, etc.);
- Level of autonomy or responsibility;
- Employee benefits
I am going to group these into a few categories, since some of them are really a part or a solution to others. For instance, authoritarian supervision and level of autonomy go together. So, below are some of the main reasons explained, and some ways to overcome them.
Advancement Opportunities or Job Alternatives
When title sales producers change jobs, it's often because they have been offered a new opportunity that just wasn’t available at their current title company. Research shows that top producers value career development opportunities. If they find their skills are not being developed for potential leadership positions, employees are significantly more likely to say, “I am being overlooked for advancement,” and I should find another company that values my leadership skills.
While this can be tough for smaller title agencies where the ability to move up the ladder may be slower and via a less defined path - you can't just create new roles out of nowhere to keep staff happy! There are still things we can do to help make sure we keep top producers engaged with our business. In my experience, employees appreciate it if you make it clear that you can see them moving up when the opportunity arises.
There are also things you can do to develop your staff and satisfy their ambitions and show that you recognize their potential even if a promotion isn't on the horizon. You can offer management training. You can give them more leadership responsibility or have them ride with a sales manager for a few days to see what it is like. You can also give them some time each month to come up with business ideas. Allowing your employees to come up with their own business ideas results in some great ideas and more engaged employees.
Yeah, we’re talking about pay. I know this post is about not throwing money at your title sales team, but that is not the entire story. Employees know their market value these days and you should know it too. If you are paying your title sales staff way-off the pay scale, and I mean low on the pay scale, they will easily find out and move on. You don’t have to throw money at them to stay if you do the other things on this blog right. But, make sure to keep track of salary trends for the title industry, and be clear about how staff can earn a pay rise. If you link pay to performance through a formal appraisal system, your staff will know exactly what they need to do to earn more. They’re more likely to commit to you if they know hard work pays off.
Supervision, Particularly Authoritarian Supervision
Authoritarian supervision…is what we like to call micro-managing. It can be difficult to surrender responsibility to your employees…especially when it is your own company. Believe me, I know from the experience of running my own companies. However, if you don’t give your staff the ability to perform what is dutifully part of their job function and let them get on with what you are paying them to do, it can be hugely damaging for morale. This, by far, is the biggest complaint I get from top producers as to why they are leaving. Title sales executives like the freedom and flexibility of title sales. The moment you take that away with draconian rules, policies, procedures, schedules, checks and balances, etc., the more likely they are to leave. Micro-management comes down to trust. Most micro-managers have trust issues and I can tell you none of the sales executives I talk to likes to think that their boss does not trust them.
Along with trust, comes respect. Respectful treatment of employees tops the charts as a leading contributor to job satisfaction according a study by the Society of Human Resources (SHRM). Nearly three-fourths of employees deem this aspect to be “very important” to their job satisfaction.
So, what can you do? Well, it’s simple. In my experience, strong, respectful and compassionate leaders inspire hard work, and good managers who are open and honest and listen to thoughts and opinions tend to run effective teams. Be respectful of your employees. Follow the do onto others rule. Treat your employees with the respect you would like to be treated. Control your urge to micro-manage. Understand that you hired your employees for a reason – they're highly capable – and you need to take a step back.
If you set unreasonable and continuous long hours all the time, employee morale will almost certainly take a hit. Now, we all know title and escrow are cyclical…even down to the time of the month. Most people in the industry know that there are times when they will be expected to work long hours. But if you find that your staff is working 14 hour days, every day, then you have a staffing issue, which will turn into a morale issue. Be careful how you manage your staffing and listen to your employees. If you hear complaints about overwork and burnout, it is time to look at your staffing levels.
Co-workers, especially in title/escrow teams
We all know that teams in the title industry can make the difference between success or failure. That is why I am often surprised to hear how much discord there is in these teams, and the lack of management oversight to correct the problem. I have had escrow officers complain to me that their processors are not being thorough in the way the process files and that causes them to work overtime and do double duty to go over what the processor should have done. Now you have an escrow officer who cares about accuracy and customer service, not being able to spend the time she needs to build her book because she is taking care of the responsibilities of the processor. This is the kind of situation that will drive your escrow officer, particularly one that has a book of business and is concern that her customers receive top-notch service, to leave. They will often let me know that they approach management with the situation and they are ignored.
Don’t ignore problems. Especially those that involve interactions within your bread and butter teams. These problems can grow into huge employee morale issues and your employees will start looking for better opportunities elsewhere.
Equipment and Environment
I have heard from quite a few escrow teams how difficult it has been for them to work in an environment with outdated computers, slow copy machines, erratic phone and messaging systems and buggy software. It is a simple, and often not very expensive solution to a major complaint that causes inefficiencies in production. It is cheaper to maintain and update your equipment and software than the losses you would have should someone in your team leave due to poor working conditions.
Along with base pay, employee benefits are the most important factor in staff retention according to both Towers Watson and SHRM. According to the latter, 63% of employees rated benefits as a "very important" contributor to job satisfaction, putting them ahead of compensation/pay (61%) and job security (59%).
In the same study, paid time off and health care/medical benefits tied for top spot, with flexible work arrangements (FWA) coming in third.
I find title sales producers looking for jobs simply because their employers do not offer benefits. If you are not offering benefits to your employees, they will quickly go elsewhere. The industry has plenty of title agencies who do offer benefits and it is becoming a competitive advantage to those who do.
Stop throwing money at your sales team. Make sure you follow these suggestions and you will be less likely to lose your top producers. Should you find yourself looking for a top title sales producer, contact me. We can discuss the top producer candidate opportunities we have available in your area.
Executive Recruitment Manager