Recruiting for skills AND culture in real estate

27 May 2021
Estate Agents Co-operative

When running a real estate office, there can be a lot of unpredictability.

Will the seller sign on with you? Will the buyer commit? Will the market change?

Interestingly, while all those external factors can be difficult to pin down, one of the most unpredictable influences on your success and that of your business, sits right inside your four walls.

People, by our nature, can be unpredictable, and as both managers and colleagues, we don’t just work with names and faces, we work with attitudes, personalities, idiosyncrasies and personal dramas.

The one time we really have the most control over those factors, is when we are recruiting.

We can recruit based on skillset alone, but if we really want to create successful real estate agencies, we need to recruit with culture fit at the forefront of our minds.

What are the risks of recruiting on skills alone?

Over the last few decades, we have really focused in on office culture and how important it is in building businesses that work.

Bringing in a new person who doesn’t fit the existing or forming culture, can be damaging both for them, and for everyone around them.

So, what can go wrong if you recruit a poor culture fit?

  1. Morale can slide

    In a small or medium workplace, every personality has an impact on workplace culture – on how it feels to be in the office every single day.

    Bringing in someone who doesn’t fit that culture, who doesn’t align with those personalities, and especially someone who doesn’t match with the collective values around him, can create a toxic environment.

    Someone who stands out in a negative way, who separates themselves and can’t operate harmoniously in the team, causes division, and while it unites the remaining workforce against a common enemy; an enemy within is far from ideal.

    In workplaces with a toxic culture, a ‘him vs us attitude, or a ‘snide remarks by the water cooler’ outlook, morale suffers, people stop wanting to come to work, and less gets done.

  2. Leadership and direction can fail

    Culture is driven from the top, and even if a leader says they on board, actions speak louder than words.

    Bringing on a new leader who is a poor culture fit, who doesn’t understand what really drives his people (or doesn’t care) and steam rolls them into his way of doing things can cause a damaging divide between staff and management.

    This divide can manifest as a lack of trust in leadership; a lack of understanding of the business, where it is going and the role each person plays in it; and animosity, the kind that results in employees choosing not to follow instructions.

    Likewise, a leadership team that selects an important hire who behaves as above – counter to the culture and values of the wider business – and does nothing to manage this once complaints starts rolling in, can experience a lot of those same issues.

    Distrust, a lack of direction and resistance to authority.

  3. Productivity can plummet

    Productivity is linked to a lot of factors, leadership and morale, being two of the most important.

    Needless to say, productivity is closely tied to your bottom line, so experiencing continued declines in staff activity and output, means also experiencing declines in your revenue and profits.

  4. Customer relations can decline

    Have you ever had a tough day at work, and then had to meet up with clients?

    Sometimes, on those days, it can be difficult to get rid of that negative feeling, to push it down and serve clients the way you need to.

    Imagine if you didn’t just have one rough day, but feel toxic and negative every single day at work, because your workplace has been disrupted by someone you clash with, or who negatively impacts the culture.

    At some point, a negative culture spills outside of the walls of the office, and starts to impact the way your people interact with other people.

    Clients are people too; they are often questioning, sceptical and looking for reasons not to trust you, so they will pick up on negativity or poor service.

    How do you recruit people who fit your culture?

    1. Start by understanding your culture

    Your culture is all based on how your organisation feels, what it’s like to work there. This is underpinned by the people within, and the values they live their personal and professional lives by.

    You can’t dictate a culture – you certainly can help and guide it in a number of ways – but you can’t tell a workforce, ‘this is how it feels to work here’ if it is blatantly not true.

    Nor can you tell them ‘this is how you have to make it feel to work here’ without the supporting structures and processes in place to genuinely foster that culture.

    Get your team together and workshop what your culture is now, and if it needs to change, collectively where you think it should go.

    Work together to articulate and define the values that will guide every decision and process in your organisation and ensure your people truly align with them.

    2. Shape ads around culture

    The first part of recruiting the right person is placing jobs ads that talk directly to people who will fit your culture.

    Don’t just describe a role and the boxes the candidate needs to tick, describe where they will be working, who they will be working with and make sure you’re honest about it!

    Businesses that post job ads that describe a workplace inaccurately recruit people for the workplace described, not their real workplace. This can increase cultural issues and employee turnover.

    3. Interview for culture fit

    When interviewing, don’t fixate only on skills – yes, it’s important they can do the job effectively, but if they do so while bringing down your whole business from the inside out, does it even matter?

    Talk to the candidate about what they look for and expect when it comes to culture, what they really value, what kind of people they like working with. Explain to them what to expect from your workplace.

    If you get to checking references for the candidate, ask previous employers about their culture and how the candidate fit in, ask about their attitude, personality, emotional intelligence and what drives them.

    While you can never be sure of who a candidate is before they join you every day, investing extra time and patience in testing for culture fit, as much as possible, can pay big dividends.

    A word on employer brand…

    Your employer brand is your reputation as a workplace and your customer value proposition – it needs to come from the inside, and it will definitely precede your business on the outside.

    Businesses that focus on building a positive employer brand often spend less money recruiting better employees and lose less in employee turnover.

    Your culture and your values are a big part of your employer brand. Investing in them, is investing in the future of your business.

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