Recruitment and retention are a top priority for title companies and company culture plays an integral part in a successful hiring strategy. We recently connected with Tim Hooper, who serves as WFG National Title’s VP for the Mid-Atlantic Agency. Hooper trains teams throughout the real estate industry and will be speaking at ALTA ONE about the importance of company culture. We caught up with Hooper ahead of the event to discuss how businesses can build a strong company culture.

Qualia: Company culture is often an afterthought or something leaders think forms organically. Why do you think company culture should be more prioritized? 

Hooper: The organizations that survive and thrive through changing times are those that are intentional about culture. Culture is the DNA of a company, and it’s made up of its people. So, if we don’t consider the health and well-being of our people, then we’re not truly building culture. 

I’ll give you a recent example from a small-to-medium-sized title company that was so busy closing transactions—their business volume, like many others, had exponentially increased. The owner valued his team but, with all the busyness, had inadvertently left his people to drift off into what I’ve coined as “pandemic islands.” One day he looked up, and his lead title production person was handing in their resignation. It was a wake-up call for the owner that there was much work to be done to bring his people back to the forefront of priorities and let them know how much they’re valued. He realized that he had to be intentional and consistent about their culture. He started by reaching out to his employees, regularly checking in with one-on-one sessions, and having honest conversations about how they’re doing.

For larger, multi-faceted companies, intentionally creating a culture starts from the top with leadership. The C-suite needs to be having discussions with all the managers, and the managers need to pull their people in, help them feel noticed and valued, celebrate them, and keep it consistent. For example, pull people in by including them in face-to-face time, team-building exercises, and roundtable discussions. 

It comes down to being honest with ourselves as leaders. Are we intentional with our company culture, or is culture something in a notebook filed away in a desk drawer? If we’re intentional, we can get to work on where we go from here. If not, it will have a bottom-line impact on retention and creates a revolving door cycle—filling a hole instead of going for the root cause. 

Qualia: What impact do you think a strong culture has on a business’s bottom line? 

Hooper: Studies show that high employee engagement leads to higher productivity, higher job satisfaction, more sales, and higher revenue. I’ve seen companies look to expand their talent pool—recruiting the next generation to carry the baton. Yet, once they’ve made the hire, what are they doing to retain that talent? You can’t stick someone in front of a computer and expect them to learn and be a part of the workplace family. Without a mentor, an internal person dedicated to training, onboarding, and a consistent check-in process to help new recruits acclimate to the team, we risk losing them.

Mentorship programs are where we can tap into that collective brain of industry knowledge held by our more senior staff. I’ve often said that more seasoned title professionals have more title knowledge in their one pinky than I have in my whole body. You can’t just learn this industry from a textbook. Every day is something different and new, and that is the beauty of the title industry. 

According to Gallup, 87% of millennials say professional growth and development opportunities are their top priorities. Being proactive and consistent in training and professional growth means higher retention. In fact, 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. It doesn’t need to be complicated. For example, checking in with your team on their continuing education (CE) needed for this industry and allowing them to take the time to complete these courses (before last-minute crunch time) is a great way to demonstrate your company’s investment in learning and development. Employees who feel their growth is being prioritized are more engaged in their work and more likely to stay.

Ninety-four percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development

Qualia: What other factors do employees value when it comes to staying with an employer for the long run? Is access to modern technology and tools a factor? 

Hooper: Even the most technologically advanced organizations can still create “pandemic islands.” Millennials and Gen Z are tech savvy, but we still want face-to-face time. We all have an underlying human need to feel noticed, appreciated and valued. Therefore, touting technology alone is not enough. Leaders need to demonstrate to their team and potential recruits that the technology they offer will help to make them more efficient in their day-to-day tasks. Reinforce the payoff of technology with an emphasis on how this technology will provide a better quality of life (work-life balance) and better efficiency in their work.

Over the years the industry has been accustomed to a patchwork of systems and processes. A software that takes minutes to complete tasks versus a clunky software that takes hours to figure out and complete tasks will be a competitive advantage in recruitment and retention. The next-generation workforce will be demanding more, and they will want the flexibility to spend more quality time with loved ones and travel. With technology like Qualia, users can access it from anywhere and have everything in one place, which is very appealing. 

Qualia: In the same vein, how important is innovation in creating an attractive company culture? 

Hooper: Innovation is all about pulling people in—generating new ideas, resources and creativity. Our real estate partners are continuing to expect a faster turn time in real estate transactions, while making the best experience for the consumer. It’s critical that we all innovate along those lines, but there are ways to do that without losing the human touch in the process. An organization’s all-hands-on approach to innovation will tie into the DNA of what they become, further enhancing their culture. 

It’s the people in our industry who try something completely different that will be successful and continue in the next decade. Therefore, they have to try those ideas today to see what will stick. It’s all being reinvented right now—the pandemic stepped on the gas pedal to reinvent some of the long, drawn-out processes of the real estate transaction. 

Qualia: What you just touched on sounds like it might be aligned with what you’re speaking about at ALTA ONE. Can you explain your session topic “Every Member Culture”? 

Hooper: Something I got from best-selling author and motivational speaker, Jon Gordon, is that leaders set the tone and decide what the team values and stands for, but they don’t come up with it on their own. They are spending time with their team to find that out and that is the key— spending time and building relationships with the team.

A company’s culture is brought to life and created by every member of the team. “Every member culture” is not just leadership down; it’s also including the newest members and up. Each individual takes ownership and responsibility. We all have the opportunity to create and influence our company culture.