It’s time to take our industry’s conversation du jour beyond current market conditions. We’ve done that enough. One has either prepared for it and is doing as well as can be expected…or not. And while some publications continue to rehash stories of layoffs and reduced transactional volume, I believe most mortgage business owners have long since begun to look ahead as to a path forward. At least, those who have returned from their holiday vacations by now!
Unfortunately, mortgage businesses had to lay off thousands of qualified professionals in the third and fourth quarters of 2022. I’ve been fairly consistent in saying that I believe the optimal use of technology and strategy wouldn’t require such volatile ramp-up/layoff cycles, but it’s the reality in which we live for now. But, the reality is that we’ve just experienced (hopefully) the low point of that pattern.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, our proverbial telephones will be ringing again with new orders and potential new customers. And for the many who made deep, deep cuts to their staffing, any type of rebound could mean a short term disaster for client service levels and sales. As so many are fond of saying, those firms risk “leaving money on the table.”
So whether it’s in February or December or March, 2024, I’m confident we’ll actually see a hiring surge in the coming months. And, with that, I see another opportunity for meaningful change and an improved sense of community.
For too long now, DEI efforts have, for some, been confined to a nice section of the corporate website or perhaps an afternoon roundtable at the end of an annual convention. And yes, we’ve made real progress when it comes to equity and inclusion, but not enough. With the coming hiring surge, however, we have an opportunity to make some substantial progress there. And we can start by reviewing our hiring practices to start making our staffing look a little more like the communities that surround us. All of those communities.
Although some businesses may claim to have inclusive hiring practices, there are plenty that, for whatever reason, fall short. So, when the demand comes for waves of new employees, will we fall back to those standard practices? Or will we take the time now, while we have time, to bolster our protocols so that we are truly inclusive as we recruit? That change could make DEI a critical element of our staffing models. It’s a real opportunity for our industry.
I’m not trying to deliver a full-on recruitment and hiring primer, but we have been doing some hiring here at LodeStar. And we’ve learned a few things as well. So here are a few pointers I’d provide for those genuinely seeking to install and use an inclusive approach to hiring new employees.
Just as we should be with virtually all of our processes, models and strategies, we should be taking this period of diminished market activity to increase our self-assessment activities. If not now, when? This includes the recruitment and hiring process. Even if you’re an HR department of 1 (or it’s simply a hat you wear as an owner or COO with a small firm), you can ask yourself a few questions (and give yourself honest answers).
“When I post a new position, in what places and publications do I post? Do those sources reach a wide and diverse audience?”
The local newspapers and corresponding websites are decreasingly serving all walks of life. People of different cultures and backgrounds don’t always check in to the traditional news sources. Recruiting exclusively through universities and colleges also tends to dramatically narrow the spectrum of available talent. And hiring/recruiting sites like LinkedIn or Indeed? Well, we’ll just save that conversation for another Deeper Thoughts.
“Do I automatically include the requirement of a college degree or even high school diploma for every new job opening? Is it really necessary for that position?”
I’m willing to bet a sizeable number of owners, C-level professionals and executives in our industry do not have degrees. Some may not have diplomas. And yet, along the way, these folks fought their way into entry level positions and proved themselves. On the flip side, there are piles of statistics that prove there is a very real disparity between which demographics tend to receive degrees, and which demographics receive fewer degrees. So, I ask again, does every position for which we hire truly require a degree?
“Do you pay your interns?”
We all know that internships are great ways to conduct extended job interviews and get a deeper feel for the potential fit with a new employee. Now, ask yourself this? What kinds of people can afford to put in 40 hour weeks (or even 20 hour weeks) without any compensation? How many other people are excluded? C’mon, folks. If you can’t afford to pay something for an internship, how can you somehow afford a new FTE? Let’s not be greedy.
I invite feedback on this topic, as well. It may not seem like we’re approaching a hiring spree, but we are. And rather than moving straight to panic and knee-jerk hiring strategy too many employee when the orders start to come in again, it would be wonderful if, this time, we as an industry, embrace the opportunity to improve in more ways than one.
We at LodeStar are grateful to all of our clients, friends and colleagues who take the time to view Deeper Thoughts. Please consider having a look as well at some of our other great content, including our podcast, “LodeStar’s Lending Leaders,” and “A Tale of Two Mortgages: an original webcomic for the mortgage industry, presented by LodeStar.”
As always, your feedback is welcomed and appreciated!