A shortage of workers, the number of people who prefer to work remotely and the anticipated rate of pay are making it difficult to find talent. Here are some tips for hiring the right person.

Due to the pandemic, the shortage of workers, increasing wages and inflation, a massive shift is fundamentally reshaping the nature of the working relationship between administrative staff with brokers, team leads and agents.

The shift is so severe that if you need administrative help, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find someone with experience, especially for the price you may expect to pay. 

I recently interviewed Linzee Ciprani, founder of Ciprani Consulting, who has been placing both in-office and virtual administrative assistants and back-office management for many years. She has a 90 percent success ratio, and the people she places generally stay in their positions, according to her data. 

The mismatch between sales vs. administrative talent

If you’re not familiar with the DISC Behavioral Profile, it describes four key dimensions of behavior: Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness and Compliance. Here’s what each of these factors address:

  • Dominance describes those individuals with high-drive, get-it-done personalities.
  • Influencing describes those who are outgoing and find it easy to meet and work with strangers, i.e., “people people.” 
  • Steadiness describes those who are stable, comfortable with systems and regular routines, and want what is predictable. 
  • Compliance describes those who are detail people and are often perfectionists. It’s more important to do it right than to get it done fast. 

When a broker or team leader is hiring for a top producing sales professional, they should be searching for an individual who tests high on the “D” and “I” factors. Fewer than 5 percent of the population has this profile, but it’s almost universally found among most top-producing sales professionals. Many broker-owners also share this profile.  

On the other hand, if you’re hiring for an administrative position, you want someone who scores high on the “S” and “C” factors. They are dependable, they follow the rules, and they make sure the details are right. Most are not very good in terms of interacting with clients and agents. 

According to Ciprani, those who score high on the “S” and “C” factors often flourish in a remote environment where “they can get so much more done, especially since the don’t have to chit chat with all those people.” 

Admin talent overwhelmingly wants remote positions

The pandemic proved that the residential real estate business can run entirely on a virtual basis. Today, 70-75 percent of the talent Ciprani works with want remote positions. On the other hand, a whopping 98 percent of the positions she has posted are in-office positions.

According to Ciprani, the pandemic caused many of the current admins and back-office talent to reevaluate what they want. Besides the mismatch between the talent that wants to work remotely and the employers who want in-office staff, applicants are fed up with the expectation that just because real estate professionals work nights and weekends, they’re expected to do the same. 

They want work-life balance, and the people in this industry work all the time. So, we’re pulling at these stable, steady, wonderful personalities, all night and all weekend, and they’re just fed up with it. I think the pandemic made everybody start to look at their life and reevaluate. Well, they have massively reevaluated. 

As a result, what Ciprani has observed is that back-office staff are not only leaving their present positions, they’re also leaving the industry in droves for better positions that allow remote work, have better pay and 401Ks. Most brokerages and teams simply can’t compete.  

In fact, in terms of the applicants for the 52 current open positions Ciprani currently has posted, she has only between 7 and 10 applicants with even a modicum of back-office experience in real estate ranges. 

We have lots of candidates who don’t have any experience. What we hear all the time is, “Oh, I watch HGTV, so I want to get into real estate.” So, we have lots of people applying.

How much admin talent really costs in today’s market

According to Ciprani, here’s what you can expect to pay today for an in-office assistant with the following experience levels:

  • $35,000-$40,000 per year for someone who is fresh out of college with no real estate experience.
  • If you want someone who has had a little bit of experience in the job or a few positions, post the position as paying $40,000-$50,000. 
  • At least $60,000 for an admin with one year of previous real estate experience. According to Ciprani, “I’ve seen this numerous times where someone gobbles up another person’s admin and at least $60,000 is the going rate.” 
  • A minimum of $50,000 per year for someone who may have had an admin job or supervised one or two people. 
  • A minimum of $60,000 plus bonuses (normally resulting in a range of $65,000-$75,000 per year) for an executive assistant, general manager or someone to run or manage your team. Many of the candidates looking for these positions want a base of $75,000 per year and want bonuses to take them to $100,000 per year. 

What’s fascinating, however, is that Ciprani has also heard this comment from admins in three different industries about the pay cut they would be willing to take if they could work remotely. 

It’s so it’s crazy. It’s the exact same number every time: $15,000. People are willing to take a cut of $15,000 to be able to work from home, and that’s from three different admins in three different industries. 

How to cope with the lack of administrative help

The first step in coping with the exodus of experienced admins from the real estate industry is to evaluate what positions need to be in the office and what positions can be remote or at least a hybrid of remote and in-office.  

Kill the myth: They have to be in the office

Two years of the pandemic proved this isn’t true. As noted above, those with an S-C profile on the DISC are usually more effective if they’re remote. The challenge is whoever is supervising the admin needs to have the necessary tools and systems, including a robust contact relationship management system to manage a remote employee. The S-Cs love systems and checklists since they know what to do.  

Nevertheless, many team leaders are locked into the outdated thinking that their team must be together in the office to prospect together. 

In real estate, we’re out meeting with people and talking to people. If you’re truly doing your job, you’re in the office for a few hours prospecting, and then you go out to be with people. So, I think that’s just a myth (that they need to be in the office). I mean, we should be able to come together in the morning by phone or on Zoom, do what I call a daily standup or huddle, figure out what our day needs to look like, figure out what everybody’s doing, and then off we go.

A warning about hiring independent contractors

Ciprani’s guidance is that if someone is sitting beside you at the office, they must be salaried, not an independent contractor. Moreover, if you hire someone full-time in an admin position remotely or in-person, they must have a minimum of at least two clients at all times — otherwise, they are an employee. 

You need help now. What to do?

If you have the budget, you can definitely search for an in-office admin, but with increased demand and inflation coupled with the exodus of talent from the business, the cost may be even higher in the very near future.

To locate potential talent as well as to see what that talent will cost in your location, Ciprani recommends the salary finder at CareerOneStop.  

In addition, here are four companies Ciprani suggests that provide qualified remote professionals who can help you run your administrative/back office team until you find the right in-office admin. 

  • RE Box provides listing coordination services, compliance, marketing and design, contact relationship management, database management, transaction coordinators, bookkeeping and much more. 
  • HelloLeverage provides transaction management, listing entry and marketing services. 
  • Blink Marketing supplies a wide variety of marketing materials, including print collateral, graphic design, branded gift experiences, office supplies, custom branded outwear and much more. 
  • CPros, a “full-service provider of concierge transaction management services for real estate brokerages and agents,” was acquired on Feb. 17 by Keller Williams and is now available to KW agents.

The smart move for brokers, agents and teams is to shift as much of your admin work to a remote or at least a hybrid model. You will have many more candidates to choose from, and the cost will be considerably less. 

Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with more than 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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