OpinionTechnology

How should we manage senior agents and technology?

When innovation is a burden instead of a blessing

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The brokerage for whom I work comprises people of a wide variety of ages and levels of experience. Among the 100-plus agents on the roster are several “senior” agents who have been in the business 30 or more years and have seen the business of real estate change enormously. They bring such a wealth of knowledge and business savvy from their vast experience and usually are happy to share their wisdom with those who are newer to the game. I adore them and love listening to their stories and learning from their experiences.

Unfortunately, some of these seasoned veterans are in danger of becoming obsolete due to changes in technology that take place almost daily. What they used to do with couriers in a day or so we now do with one text message.

Are they all enjoying the fruits of our brave new world? Many are not. They cannot keep up, and so they are giving up.

Since I am technologically savvy, I’m often asked to help these older agents figure out how to perform technical tasks. This includes everything from basic email usage, photo management, cellphone use and everything in between. A few agents are able to manage on their own from there, but many cannot. They need a lot more help than I am able to provide due to time constraints.

Increasingly, there are senior agents who leave the industry out of frustration because they can’t seem to keep up with the technological side of the business. Attrition is normal in any industry. Aging out of an industry isn’t rare, either.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the average age of a Realtor is 56, and because so many real estate agents are remaining active as they age, a higher percentage of agents are being left in the technological dust.

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Sadly, the right tools to help them become and remain current in this rapidly changing technological world are not yet available. Webinars and “Dummies” books exist, but even those tools can be vexing if one does not have a basic understanding of computers, programs and applications and how they work. Our office staff is very helpful with a quick tip, but they do not have the time to sit down with an agent to teach basic technological skills. These tasks may seem easy and intuitive to learn for someone who is used to computers and cellphones, but to someone learning a whole new technological language, it takes time and patience for both the teacher and the student. Unfortunately, Rosetta Stone doesn’t have a computer language class!

Our senior agents are valuable assets. When they end up wasting a good part of their day just trying to do a basic task, such as file management or basic email functions, it causes them frustration and stress. There has to be a better way for our esteemed colleagues to get up to speed.

So how should we as an industry manage this issue? Here are three thoughts:

1. Perhaps our local associations of Realtors could provide free small-group training with one-on-one follow-up. The small group size and one-on-one training is critical because each person learns in a different way and at a different pace. It also is necessary to have someone who knows how to teach technology to beginners. And since many of our senior colleagues are not top producers, keeping the training free or very low-cost is imperative.

2. Each brokerage or regional area of a large-brand brokerage could add specific training for the tools that they provide. My office offers many great programs for our agents, but most of the training involves webinars or videos. That’s great for me, as I know how to take advantage and follow along. However, a beginner can get lost very quickly, even if he or she knows how to access a training webinar or video in the first place and can keep up with the pace. I’m a note-taker, and I have to pause the training video pretty often to get down what I want to remember and review later. It can be a daunting way for anyone to learn, so a user-friendly training tool is essential.

3. Senior agents have stores of knowledge and understanding that can benefit any industry newcomer. A brokerage invested in taking advantage of that treasure trove of experience could set up a dual training program or partnership between brand-new agents — or even young aspiring agents. The younger trainee can manage the technological aspects of the job and the older agent can direct the client interaction. This tactic has the added benefit of solving another potential business problem: how to onboard young agents who are eager to learn but have very little tangible experience.

I propose we find a way to train and retain our seasoned agents by providing them the training or resources they need to be pertinent, confident and expedient leaders in our great industry before we lose these valuable colleagues.

Lorelei Taylor works in the design, estate service and real estate business in sunny San Diego.