The mortgage industry (and more than a few others) is a place of cycles. That includes staffing levels. During volume surges, lenders (and vendors) ramp up staffing. And when the market turns? We’ve traditionally moved to reduce staffing, unfortunately. This was once an economically viable strategy, although it came with a very real human cost. But, when it was viable, we had few alternatives.
Considering the technology available to us, we have alternatives now. And we’re already starting to see some firms using them—to their betterment of their long-term bottom lines as well as their employees.
Considering that we’re facing the Great Resignation and subsequent labor shortage, employee engagement and retention will be key. And while it’s easy to suggest that the industry is already ramping down because of the change of markets, a lot of those layoffs are focused on a couple of job functions. In a purchase market, lenders (and their partners) will need the right people in the right places. Now.
Mortgage-focused businesses are already starting to focus more on attracting, training and engaging talent. Failure to do so will leave even the most talented operations executives struggling. We’ll need to better utilize our technology (or available tech) to streamline the most basic and repetitive tasks. We’ll need to be more flexible about when and where our employees work. And we’ll need to evolve our thinking about what our employees value, and how to compensate them.
We’re an industry that loves to focus on sales, revenue, new markets and innovative product mixes. Admittedly, that’s the fun stuff. In the past, it almost seemed, for some, that strategy started and ended with sales, markets and sales. Admittedly, decision makers in any industry love to focus on these things. A business doesn’t profit without revenue. But it’s becoming apparent that, in this day and age, lenders and other mortgage firms are evolving their strategic planning. We’re seeing a greater emphasis on efficiency, productivity, transformation and continuous improvement. Operations and systems are no longer “back of the house” items.
Over the past few years, the mortgage industry on the whole has begun to increase the resources it’s putting into the human resources element of operations. It’s yet another example of our belief that doing the right thing is usually also something that generally benefits one’s business. We see them embracing flexible hybrid work environments to balance remote and office work. We’re seeing more benefits that go beyond financial compensation. And we’re seeing increased diversity and inclusion initiatives that bring in a wide set of experiences and make companies look more like (and better understand) their customers. In fact, we’ve finally started to accept that diversity and inclusion isn’t just a nice-to-have, check-the-box initiative. It’s an acceptance of reality, the embrace of which will inevitably bring even greater success to the organizations fully committed to it.
All of this also means more engaged employees. More productive and innovative employees. More great ideas or great execution moving the brand forward. Less time and expense spent on training and re-training, recruiting and hiring and other expenses related to the “ramp-up/ramp-down” staffing model.
Don’t forget we’re not just competing among ourselves for talent. The Great Resignation is proving that millions of Americans were (and are) willing to change industries and even develop new skill sets for increased workplace satisfaction. So we’re also competing with other kinds of tech, other professional services and other industries when it comes to attracting and retaining skilled employees.
Realize also that this means there’s plenty of potential out there in other industries who might be more than willing to jump to ours, with the right incentive!
In our experience, the most productive, and engaged, employees are empowered with the best tools, the most flexibility and a direct channel to decision makers. You see, the most effective employees are given the chance to grow the business beyond what it thought it could be. To have the ideas no one else thought possible. They’re treated with respect, and given the chance to prove themselves. If you have a look inside many of the fastest-growing businesses—in our industry and others—you’ll see a healthy dose of these things.
Again, this isn’t to suggest most mortgage businesses don’t allow for these things, or at least consider them. The best already do, with an increasing number of businesses joining them. The fastest growing businesses are leading the way by taking a critical look at ways they can make the mortgage process more comfortable and more available to all people. They’re hiring more people who look like the people they’re serving. They’re recreating their HR programs and benefit packages with the understanding that most people give their best and go above and beyond in their employment because they’re valued, empowered and heard. Successful businesses are doing the right thing—and in so doing, realizing benefits as well.
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