The workplace changes brought on by the pandemic will have lingering effects for years to come. At our Future of Real Estate Summit (FORES21), we explored how COVID-19 has reshaped employee expectations in the title industry and how businesses have transformed their recruiting and retention strategies to successfully attract and keep top talent.

Qualia’s Director of Product Marketing, Priyanka Srinivasan, was joined by Nuria Rivera, Owner & CEO at Novation Title Insurance Agency, Ryan Marrie, President of Ohio Real Title, and Tom Griffiths, CEO & Co-Founder of Hone to discuss the workplace of the future. 

The pre-pandemic trend towards more distributed work

It’s been nearly three years since Griffiths launched Hone, a next-generation training platform for leaders of distributed teams. There was already a growing trend towards more distributed work, and that’s where Griffiths saw an opportunity to build training programs for remote teams. Before the pandemic, this trend was steadily growing; however, it rapidly accelerated when the pandemic hit. Companies were forced to transition to remote work almost overnight when the pandemic hit. According to Griffiths, “we accelerated five years in one.” The change to remote work has been successful among both employers and employees. According to PwC’s U.S. Remote Work Survey, employers have adapted to remote work during the course of the pandemic. Today, 83% of employers say the adjustment to remote work was successful compared to 73% in June 2020.  

Now discussions have shifted to how businesses make the return to the office, and this is where the employer and employee perspectives differ. Employers are eager to return to the office as they feel it promotes better collaboration, fosters new ideas, and maintains a strong company culture. In contrast, employees appreciate this more flexible lifestyle and are less inclined to rush back to the office. As a result of work-from-home flexibility, more Americans are considering relocation this year. Griffiths predicts 70% of companies will have a hybrid workforce, generally meaning that employees will have the flexibility to work from home at least one day per week.  

New approaches to recruitment through adaptability and flexibility

Marrie agreed that businesses have become more adaptable and flexible in the past year. His team, however, hasn’t necessarily changed its recruitment strategies. According to Marrie, Ohio Real Title’s greatest asset is its employees, and two-thirds of expenses are invested in them. About a decade ago, Ohio Real Title started integrating a behavioral assessment tool (Predictive Index) to help gauge the traits and profiles that work well with their top performers. He found that the leading characteristics of top performers include multi-tasking, adaptability, and working well under pressure. Marrie believes that building a solid recruiting strategy over the past ten years helped tremendously when his team had to quickly adapt during the pandemic. 

Alternatively, Novation Title has adjusted its, recruitment process since the pandemic. Before the pandemic, all stages of the interview process were conducted onsite. Now, the initial interviews are done online through video conferencing. Because Novation Title fosters digitally-adept talent, the shift to online recruitment has been relatively smooth.  

Regardless of the recruitment strategy, Griffiths said that the opportunity lies in the flexibility employers offer their staff to work from anywhere. This also benefits the company with the ability to hire from anywhere which creates a larger pool of talent. “You can pick talent from across the country, across the world that fits your needs,” said Griffiths. 

With more companies offering up remote positions, candidates can now see financial opportunities that weren’t previously afforded if they worked outside of major metropolitan areas. A possible outcome of a more distributed workforce is improved economies in regions outside of major cities.  

Providing opportunities for growth 

From the onset, Novation Title Insurance Agency set out to redefine the closing experience for the consumer, their clients, and their employees. Rivera knew that offering basic employee benefits wouldn’t entice the millennial generation. So besides providing fun incentives to employees, their retention efforts have been built around opportunities for growth and self-development. “We focus on their goals and how Novation’s umbrella can help them get there,” said Rivera. She went on to say, “We see it as a two-way relationship. Not just owner-benefited. We invest in the people and our relationship together.”

“Growth is one of my biggest values in life,” said Rivera. Training plays an integral role at Novation. “Training on title, their processes, potential gaps, and all parts of life. All areas of life affect each other. My team takes ownership; they truly care.”

Marrie agreed with Rivera and said, “providing opportunities for growth starts with hiring the right people.” Going back to their established recruitment methods, Ohio Real Title has seen great success from pulling in talent from other industries (i.e., education, banking, etc.). Having the right profile helps to ensure that they can adapt and learn fast. “We have a lot of escrow officers and managers that started at the bottom and worked their way up,” said Marrie. 

When it comes to training up, Marrie knows that there are people who love to do what they do, and that’s wonderful, but it is important to give all employees the opportunities to do more. That’s how they’ve been able to bring in professionals from other industries and see them grow and successfully evolve into other roles. 

When it comes to training effectiveness, more and more companies are adopting Hone’s remote training programs. Not only is the training platform convenient with a distributed workforce, but it’s much more effective because companies can break up training into increments. Griffiths provided the example of breaking up an 8-hour training course into eight one-hour sessions over eight weeks. This allows time to apply learnings in between sessions and see a behavior change over a period of time. According to Griffiths, “we see 90% of our learners sustaining a behavior change months after taking the training because of that spaced out approach.” 

Predictions about the workplace of the future 

For Ohio Real Title, the key will be flexibility. Even though 90% of their employees are in the office, having Qualia’s cloud-based closing platform gives the team the flexibility if they need to work from home at any given time. 

Rivera shared how lifestyle and freedom are so important, especially to the millennial generation. If they work for a company that doesn’t share those same values, they will go to another organization that does. She believes that the pandemic was a great example of being open to possibilities and, as a result, will create a workplace that is hybrid in the future. 

Griffiths agreed with Marrie and Rivera. “The pandemic has fundamentally changed how we think about work and life,” he said. From the macro-decisions, like where to live, to micro-decisions, like setting up productive daily routines. Flexibility will be paramount. Griffiths believes there is a renewed importance for employers to be “in tune with people’s lives and broader values.” He added that “a lot of folks will become changed forever as a result of pandemic and looking for more balance.”

To hear more from Marrie and Rivera, click below to watch a recording of “The Workplace of the Future” session from the Future of Real Estate Summit.

Watch the video