Searching for talent in a shift might feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. CEO Anthony Hitt shares his secrets to discovering new agents and keeping them happy and engaged.

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Talent attraction and retention will always be one of the most widely discussed topics in our industry. Attracting and keeping the right people is essential to building a successful real estate business, and yet can be one of the hardest things to do.

However, in the many conversations I’ve had on this subject with other leaders, there is one definite, non-negotiable takeaway: having a strategic plan in place is an absolute must. Here are three considerations to keep in mind when building out a healthy talent attraction program.

Begin at the end

Talent attraction can indeed be equal parts art and science. We’ve all had the experience when a candidate just “feels” right. Our instincts here shouldn’t be ignored; however, it can be helpful to have an overarching plan in place to help guide these decisions. 

To this end, it can be useful to “begin at the end” when thinking about building out a team. Start by envisioning the ultimate dream for your business by asking yourself questions:

  • What markets and clientele are we ideally serving?
  • How many and what types of transactions are we specializing in?
  • What does the company look and feel like in terms of culture?

Now, it becomes easier to work backward and make decisions based on what will bring your business closer to realizing that vision.

For some leaders, this may inform a formally structured plan. For others, it can help to establish two or three key talent goals for the year, while for some it may just mean establishing a target number for their brokerage.

Regardless of individual leadership style, it’s easier to get where you want to be if you have an idea of where you want to go. 

Don’t be deterred by the long game

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is subscribing to the idea that more and bigger are always better. Recruiting simply to reach a target number as quickly as possible rarely proves to be successful.

The most successful real estate leaders take the process of making an offer very seriously in order to ensure that new team members embody the same values and ethos around which they’ve built their business. One wrong hire can negatively impact the rest of the team’s performance and happiness. 

Making the right hiring decisions is a process that can’t be rushed. Leaders who subscribe to this philosophy are likely already monitoring their local markets and have an idea of which performers may be a good fit for their team and business.

Reaching out to these prospects proactively, even if they’re not actively looking, can be an excellent way to begin the conversation. 

A helpful trick for breaking the ice can be to say, “I’m sure you’re happy right now, but if you ever consider making a change, I’d love to talk further.” After all, you want to add happy people to your team.

Perhaps they are just looking for different growth or learning opportunities or expanding into new markets, and this is something you may be able to help them do, whether it’s today or two years down the road. 

Another best practice is to let prospects “see behind the curtain” a bit during the interview process. It’s worth reminding ourselves that an interview goes two ways, and changing brokerages can be a significant decision.

The culture, the team, and the way you collectively do business will really set your business apart for prospects. Invite them to a happy hour or to come sit in on a weekly meeting. The chances of success increase for everyone when all parties have clear expectations. 

One red flag to watch out for is candidates that are solely concerned with the split from the get-go. What your business can offer talent beyond the split is what will attract quality players to your team long term. 

Keep your people engaged long after they sign on the dotted line

As real estate professionals, we understand how important it is to nurture relationships with clients even after the sale has closed.

Leaders should apply the same mentality to talent. Once a prospect has decided to join your team, it’s up to brokerage leadership to keep them engaged, happy and producing to their top potential. 

Just as clients are not just a transaction, your team members are not just a number. If you see someone struggling or their engagement is lagging, the best leaders will check in with them as people first and producers second.

Once you understand what’s going on, you’re better positioned to offer people the tools and support they need to get back up and running.

When your team sees you’re invested in their success and willing to provide the support they need, feelings of frustration or “stuckness” can quickly shift to feelings of competency and a renewed energy for their work.

In practice, this can mean employing supervisors whose sole job is to check in with agents regularly and ensure they’re getting what they need to be successful, as well as identifying any problems that may be percolating under the surface.

Regardless, the ultimate responsibility lies with leadership. It’s up to you to be present and notice when things are perhaps moving too fast or the vibe is off amongst the team. Hands-on, high-touch leaders often build the happiest — and most successful — teams and happy agents are often the best recruiters. 

Building teams, recruiting the right people and retaining quality agents are the bread and butter of the real estate industry.

No matter the state of the housing market or the nuances of a particular geography, the ability to attract and retain the right talent can make or break the success of any brokerage. 

Anthony Hitt is the CEO of Engel & Völkers Americas in New York City. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram.

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