Real estate and the ‘great resignation’

12 Nov 2021
Estate Agents Co-operative

Rumour has it there’s going to be a ‘great resignation’ — a mass exodus of Australians from their current jobs, as they seek out new opportunities and better conditions after several years of being forced to stay put.

At EAC, we’re not big on rumours, and understand stories like ‘the great resignation’ are often just clickbait. But whether or not this collective movement occurs; after such a long period of insecurity, it’s inevitable some employees are going to pack their bags and move on, as we enter an era of greater stability.

While, in most states, life almost feels back to normal — we can go the pub, workout, kids are at school — a lot of workplaces have put off mandatory return to office orders until very late this year, or even next year.

In the USA, where they are months ahead of us in terms of the Covid cycle and have already seen a large return to work, economists report increased resignations — not so much as part of a mass movement, but merely a correction after a prolonged period of inability to embrace job change.

And though those who debate the likelihood of the ‘great resignation’ in Australia point to low resignation numbers currently, it must be considered that so many employees haven’t yet experienced that shift back to the regular commute or return to decreased flexibility.

During Covid-19, we gave up freedom over our movement, but many of us gained more freedom over our time and lives.

There’s no doubt those same conditions that apply to some Americans — that sense of burnout and that motivation for a bit of a rethink — will also exist in many Australian employees.

In real estate, where we already have a higher-than-average staff turnover (one of the highest of any industry in fact), it’s important we think about how increased resignations might impact our businesses over coming years.

  1. Embrace the demand for changing conditions

One of the most important changes to look out for is a potential increase in wages and flexible conditions as people return from Covid, and employers fight to attract and retain the best employees.

Several Australian commentators have echoed commentary from the USA, suggesting competition for employees will drive up the weekly pay cheque, and employers who fail to consider flexibility across the board, not just for parents, will be left with slim pickings.

As an employer seeking the best of the best, be prepared to offer the best.

  1. Factor in the cost of replacement

An important part of annual business planning is of course, staff planning. It’s considering who might be on long service or maternity leave, how many might jump ship and how many you will need to replace them or to grow.

Something most small businesses don’t factor into financial projections, even in their business planning, is the cost of replacing a staff member.

Research suggests recruiting your new employee, getting them trained up and firing can cost upwards of 150% of their salary, and if you consider salaries just might go up as demand does, this is a cost you can’t afford to be surprised by.

While we’re still dubious of this ‘great resignation’, the fact remains people do come and go, and businesses that are both financially prepared for this and have robust processes in place for replacement, induction and training, will thrive, while others struggle to keep up the pace.

  1. Focus on retention

Just because real estate staff turnover is high, and people might be considering other options post-Covid, does not mean you will have to lose employees. In fact, unless their lives demand, through illness, family, geographic or other similar reasons, that they move on, an employer of choice can likely convince an on-the-fence employee to stay.

Becoming an employer of choice isn’t something that happens overnight, and isn’t always organic – we have to work at it.

Start improving your brand as a desired employer by creating genuine advocates of your existing employees.

Implement clear policies and procedures so they feel secure and certain, provide competitive conditions so they know you see them as well-rounded people – not work robots, make opportunities for upskilling and progression available, and foster strong, open and accessible communication in the office.

  1. Make it easier for managers

One of the main reasons people leave a job is because of their manager. And while it can be easy to blame the manager, we also have to look at what they are up against.

In real estate especially, most managers aren’t just ‘managing’. They are also listing, marketing and selling or leasing.

They are expected to help manage and foster good culture within their team, practice and lead diversity and inclusion, identify and mitigate all the risks that come with modern business – from changing legislation to damaging social media posts.

Give your managers every tool and resource possible to help equip them to do a good job the smart way, not the hard way. Empower them with regular training, strong mentoring and counsel, clear policies and robust procedures. This investment at the top, will trickle down and cause better retention at the bottom.

This great exodus that is filling the pages of mainstream media may never come, but when you look at the turnover figures in real estate, perhaps it’s actually always been here.

Employers that create a desirable working environment, with good conditions, clear expectations and strong and approachable leaders have nothing to fear from any form of ‘great resignation’ and everything to gain!

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