The residential real estate industry requires long hours, stressful interactions and time away from our families on nights and weekends. On top of the pressures of the job, there is always worry about how the market will impact our livelihoods, especially for those of us who lived through the Great Recession.
The key is keeping agents bonded to the company and to one another. Here are eight ways to boost morale and maintain a culture that fosters success regardless of outside circumstances.
1. Set group goals where every agent is a part of reaching the goal — and a part of the reward
Creating quarterly or monthly group goals unites everyone around a cause they can get behind. Once everyone is on the same page about the goal, they will be excited that everyone gets to experience the reward too.
I highly recommend adding administrative and management members of the team to this quest, if possible. Find unique ways they can play a role in the mission.
Also keep in mind that a newer agent might not be able to contribute as much to a sales volume goal, but he or she could have time to get more five-star reviews from past clients or make a big impact on social media.
In fact, instead of only thinking about sales volume or gross commission income, how about focusing on your number of followers, increasing likes, tracking shares or other goals around social media engagement?
Additional goals to consider: getting more reviews across platforms, bringing in potential agents to join your company or fundraising for a charity.
The reward for the group can be elaborate, but it can also be simple — real estate agents always love food and drinks! You could bring an ice cream truck to the office, host a “Taco Tuesday” event or even give out small gift cards to a local coffee shop.
The purpose is to get everyone working together. The better the leader communicates the reason for the goal and how it benefits everyone, the better the results will be.
2. Make time to work on the business, not just in the business
Bring in someone to run a personality workshop or lead training that helps all the agents see their strengths and differences mapped out and explained together.
Everyone loves to learn more about themselves, but these opportunities also provide insights about others too — and how we work together. This might not directly impact your sales volume, but it will strengthen your office’s interpersonal relationships.
A strong office dynamic can ultimately affect your bottom line. Focusing on the development of your people is an inexpensive way to invest in your agents and deepen their connections to one another.
3. Leave an ‘awesome citation’
At our office, we have a habit of leaving encouraging or funny notes on each other’s desks. It’s amazing how much it can brighten your day to find a simple Post-it note thanking you for your efforts, telling you you’re crushing it or exclaiming that you rock.
The note might also quote a movie your co-worker loves or a song they enjoy. When we have big news at the office, we upsize to the very large sticky notes. They come in neon colors and make a huge impact on the receiver.
But our all-time favorite way of encouraging each other is using the “Awesome Citation” notepads you can get from the company Knock Knock on Amazon. They are hilarious and super fun.
4. Host a scavenger hunt in the office
One Easter, we had a grown-up egg hunt in our office. Eggs were hidden all over the place and, in full disclosure, it did make things a bit of a mess when it was over. But the rewards were worth it.
Some eggs contained candy, a few had nice things like a slip of paper that said “you won a $25 gift card to Starbucks,” and one even held a $50 bill.
Maybe in your office there are other fun things you could put in the eggs, like certificates for free time with the marketing department or a $100 credit toward your next mailer.
These prizes could also be used for an in-office scavenger hunt. Clues could relate to the business or to the agents’ personal lives — a good way to see how well everyone knows each other.
If you want to make people feel like kids again, to play around and to take a break from the usual stress, try a scavenger hunt or egg hunt. The mess will be worth the smiles, the laughter and the fun.
5. Use social media as a megaphone
If your fellow agents are doing great things, use social media to call them out and congratulate them. Showing the world that the agents in your office support each other is not only good for the company brand, but also important for your personal brand.
On social media, sharing, liking and posting are all free and quick actions that mean the world to the agent who is highlighted.
6. Have each other’s backs
When things are hard for one of your agents, support them. We all want to feel helpful and not helpless in the wake of someone’s loss, diagnosis or hardship, but often we don’t know what to do.
Taking some kind of action is usually better than doing nothing at all. Meal trains, gift cards to restaurants or food delivery services, a thoughtful greeting card, and offers to help out with clients or meeting vendors at listings are easy ways agents can help each other.
Good office morale does not primarily come from being the No. 1 brokerage. It directly correlates to the level of trust and caring among your team. Feeling safe and cared for at work is critical for optimum performance. For more on this topic, Brené Brown’s work is outstanding.
7. Do an offsite training or trip
This isn’t an offsite training or trip for just “some people” — this is everyone in the office. Once a year, we take our whole team out of town for 36 hours, mostly for fun with a bit of work mixed in.
We ask our preferred vendors and partners to contribute financially or with tangible items for the agents to receive as gifts. The retreat location and agenda is a surprise for the team, and you can’t put a price tag on the kind of joy, bonding and loyalty an experience like this creates.
Being offsite allows agents to spend time together in a way that deepens friendships. This could be difficult for bigger offices or teams, but I challenge you to think creatively about how you can get everybody out of the office — and surprise them in the process.
8. Celebrate birthdays and milestones
I saved the best (and maybe most impactful) one for last. With our agents, we never, ever miss a birthday, and we always strive to personalize each celebration. We have an extensive questionnaire that we give all our agents to find out their favorite desserts, restaurants, dance songs, TV shows, books, movies and more. We use all this info to celebrate each person with the details they provided.
For example, one of our agents shared how she loves a certain cake you can only get at one place in town. When we brought it to her last year, her eyes filled up with tears because we were the only people who remembered and made the effort.
In another instance, when one of our agents reached a huge milestone in her career, we blasted her favorite song as she walked into our team meeting. Some of us might or might not have danced too! The point isn’t just to make people feel special, but to do it in a way that would be special to them.
When you have good morale and a healthy culture, you have no trouble with agent retention. When agents feel cared for by their leaders, they then mirror that behavior with their fellow agents and their clients.
Making people feel special, cared for and supported with a dash of fun is the recipe for not only high morale but sustained success — in any market.
Stephanie Lanier is the founder and CEO of Lanier Property Group, a boutique real estate firm in Wilmington, North Carolina.