It’s not just your imagination. Good help is hard to find. Depending on your industry, business has changed so significantly in the past ten years that there’s likely a shortage of people trained in the specific areas that you most need workers, and you’re fighting with almost every other business in almost every other field for the same set of people. Sure, you can raise salaries and benefit packages, and get creative with how you compete, but the reality is, at some point you will be out-bid.
Here’s some good news. You don’t have to invent a new strategy to attract top applicants. Certain sectors of the economy have already operated this way for ages, because their industry is so specialized that they have never had enough talent who are already qualified for the job. Real estate is one such industry that no college major is created around. And while there are aspects of the business that take time, discipline and training to master, the most crucial component to a long-lasting career in real estate is people skills.
These aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill people skills either. As anyone who has bought or sold a house already knows, it’s a very stressful process, and your realtor has to be equipped to handle frustrated or frantic calls often, or tell desperate buyer/sellers that their above-asking offer on a dream home that they hoped and prayed for has been rejected, and it’s back to the drawing board, and tick tock, the closing on their own home is rapidly approaching.
A realtor who can handle this level of stress and is constantly attracting new business is easy to spot, and competing brokerages are notorious for poaching talent with a surprising degree of savagery. When your commission rates are company-wide and everyone on your team is basically their own entrepreneur, free to go wherever they please, how on earth do you recruit and maintain your own high-performing team?
Kris Lindahl, CEO of Kris Lindahl Real Estate, rapidly expanded his Midwestern real estate empire from a small team in 2018 to hundreds of agents in multiple states, surpassing over $1 billion in sales in less than two years. One of the many reasons for his success is his recruitment strategy. He focused on the barrier for entry, and removed the barrier for people whose personality already has the expert soft-skills he was looking for, by creating a real estate scholarship program, and marketing it aggressively on social media and various job sites.
Potential candidates apply online, and most of his successful new hires come from completely different backgrounds, ranging from flight attendants to bartenders. If accepted, an applicant receives free training to become a licensed realtor, and wins a spot on the team, although there are no actual strings attached. You might expect many applicants to take advantage of the scholarship and then work elsewhere, but most are genuinely touched by the gesture and investment in their training, and choose to stay.
Many of them also become top performers within a few months, which is understandable when you remember that they already had the people skills and business savvy in place. “I’d rather find someone with a good heart and a natural talent for empathy, and train them to be a good realtor any day of the week,” Lindahl explains. He also continues to create opportunities for mentorship throughout his team, so that more knowledgeable realtors are encouraged and regularly rewarded for helping new hires, creating an atmosphere of collaboration as opposed to competition.
It’s perhaps an unintended consequence, but when you look for the building blocks for a great employee instead of the correct resumes, and remove the barriers from those people entering your company, you can effectively curate your company’s culture. High performers in any sales industry love the job, but typically hate how they’re forced to compete against their colleagues, which can create an unfriendly work environment. Give everyone the tools they need to do well instead, and reward people for being helpful, and you create a group of people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company and look for opportunities to help each other. You also remove one of the main reasons talented people leave: a toxic workplace.
Tempting as it is to hire the skills you want, it may prove more useful in many ways to hire the people you want, and invest in their training whenever possible. And as technology changes faster and faster, ultimately, you may have fewer choices in the matter.