I recently read an article in which the head of a large company said that working remotely during the pandemic was a “culture killer.” It caught my attention because our experience was so vastly different. In many ways, the pandemic brought the agents and staff of our large residential brokerage firm together and strengthened our real estate culture – and I believe that’s because we have a set of defined values that we live and lead by – not just when crises hit, but all of the time.
If working from home exposed the cracks in your company’s real estate culture, going back to the office alone won’t fix those issues. Here are some suggestions to help get back on track and revitalize agent and staff morale:
Define your values
When we established @properties, one of the first tasks my partner Mike Golden and I accomplished was to articulate the core values that would shape the way we interact with others and the way we practice business. If your company doesn’t have a stated set of values, now is the time to formulate them and put them into action. It defines your real estate culture.
To start, think about what’s important to you and what distinguishes your company from others in your space. Many experts suggest identifying no more than four or five core values. Whatever values you choose, you must be prepared to integrate them into every facet of your business, so make sure they truly align with your business strategies and goals.
We have five core values, and they are based on relationships, innovation, excellence, impact, and love.
Live your values out loud
Your values need to be flexible enough to adapt to different environments and market conditions. Will they make sense during both a booming and challenging market?
When the pandemic hit, our “Everything is Relationship” core value became more important than at any other time in our history. Our agents, brokers, and staff needed advice and support. We quickly mobilized and created agent-focused videos distributed every weekday morning to help them stay reassured and engaged. The daily phone calls and motivational emails and texts that had always been common practice among our management team took on new importance, and we doubled down on these activities.
We also focused on driving technology innovations. Even though it was more difficult, the pandemic forced us to think differently about how to sell and market homes. We hired new programming talent and created new tools such as a digital open house application. Most importantly, we constantly let agents and staff know about the initiatives we’re pushing to get us through the pandemic and make us a better, stronger company on the other side.
Don’t underestimate the power of appreciation
Study after study tells us that a positive work culture leads to improved engagement, increased productivity and higher profit margins. You MUST let your team know they’re appreciated.
Appreciation should also be authentic and meaningful. We already had programs in place to send handwritten notes on work anniversaries, provide staff appreciation gifts and reward agent production. Even though we couldn’t celebrate many of these milestones and accomplishments in conventional ways, we celebrated them nonetheless. And the creative lengths we went to not only made our team members feel appreciated, but also engendered their return appreciation for the company.
Now, as the pandemic wanes and people slowly return to the office, companies have a unique opportunity to strengthen their culture — if they plan and execute around their values. Our values inform everything we do, and we’ll use them as the foundation to adapt and grow in the “new normal.”
You can too. It’s not too late to do the work. Talk to your teams to identify what they will carry forward from their experiences of the last 18 months. Have conversations and listen. Find out what will work for you and help you drive your business and real estate culture forward in a healthy, positive way that will drive success for years to come.