As Estate Agents contemplate the proposed launch of a new Regulatory Framework, which will demand an increase in training, our MD Emma Vigus explores how to ensure training delivers.
Why is training important?
The Estate Agency industry suffers from a high rate of staff turnover with research suggesting employees move business every 18 months. This could justify a decision not to train staff but the cost of replacing a valued employee is high, so it’s important to invest in your best members of staff to ensure they are happy and motivated and remain in role. Dan Creed, Head of HR at tmgroup, mio’s parent company “the training budget is often the first to be cut when the chips are down but it’s one of the most important things to continue doing as it helps to retain and motivate your employees when you really need them to step up and deliver.”
If you think the bit about happiness is drivel; research done by Oxford University found evidence that happy workers are 13% more productive. A happy team is also more likely to create happy clients. Think how you feel when you’ve spoken to someone who sounds miserable, in their job.
Increased regulation is always partially aligned with a desire to reduce risk. Estate Agents are, currently, comparatively lightly regulated and successful allegations of professional negligence against Agents are rare. However, the costs of a breach can be disastrous for a business, with The Property Ombudsman striking off eight Estate Agency businesses in March 2020, alone. Delivered well, training plays an important role in reducing risk, but it must dovetail with effective monitoring and it should be remembered that neither training nor regulation will catch the real ‘bad eggs.’
Finally, before you cut the training budget, give a thought to succession planning. Lots of smaller businesses flourish because of the personalities and skills of a few key individuals. It’s great whilst they are in the business but what happens if they move on? Good training should ensure that other members of the team adopt the very best of their behaviours and skills which helps to create a sustainable business culture that isn’t reliant on a few key people. A strong business culture aligned with customers interests and needs is one of the strongest differentiators a firm can have and it’s the hardest thing for competitors to replicate.
Emma Lacey, Managing Director of Sterling Training, “Done well, training is a motivator, an ideas generator, a passion invigorator. It can breathe new life into staff and your business, whatever the subject.”
How to deliver effective training?
Be clear about what you want to achieve
Start by being clear about what you want training to deliver and ensure the goals are aligned with your business objectives. Emma Lacey, “training should be designed to achieve specific outcomes. If the staff understand the businesses’ goals, then conversations in the training room can be made relevant to them and the outcomes they’re seeking through the training. If you’re using an external trainer, share those goals and ensure they are reinforced through the training.” For example, ‘we are going to train our team on sales progression to reduce the time it takes to get from Sale Agreed to Completion by 10 days which will improve pipeline turnover by 20%.’ The longer-term results of training must be measured against the impact on income and margin. If training doesn’t help achieve business goals, it will be seen as a waste of money and will not be fully supported.
Management must believe training is important
If Management don’t see the value in the training that’s been delivered, the underlying team will pick up on it and they won’t buy into it. Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell, The Able Agent “Your team must buy into the changes you want training to deliver. Getting buy in from the bottom up is really important but that won’t happen if Managers don’t believe in it.”
Lead by example
Managers must also lead by example – If they tell their team that something is really important, for example progressing sales effectively but they continuously fail to keep buyers and sellers updated, they’re not leading by example. This is particularly important in smaller businesses where Management behaviour is very visible. Simply, put, don’t ask your team to learn something that you won’t or can’t do.
Train, practice, review…. and repeat
Training has to be repetitive to deliver results. If you change the drawer you store your cutlery in, it will take about 60 repeated actions before you consistently go to the correct drawer. Train someone on a topic once and they will forget everything they’ve learnt in a few days. Pick two or three topics to focus on over the course of the year and then develop a training programme that blends face to face or digital training, gamification, bite size learning, testing and 121 reviews.
Dan Creed, “I have seen a number of successes in recent weeks through virtual learning and its pretty enjoyable, especially as some training providers have come up with all sorts of challenges online from virtual gamification to video chat with peer groups. I still think the most effective method will always be face to face but let’s see what the future brings!”
Training should be delivered little and often. Your team is really busy. They haven’t got time to spend an entire afternoon away from their desk and you probably don’t want them to, so make training part of everyday.
Regular reviews are essential to ensure your team are applying what they’ve learnt. Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell “Regular staff appraisals are really important to ensure that training is effective. If your team have been trained on something and they clearly aren’t applying it, ask them why not?” It’s not about beating people with a stick; it’s about getting the right balance between asking and rewarding so align performance targets with desired training outcomes.
As an example, if you’re trying to improve sales progression, give your team a performance objective of reducing the time taken from sale agreed to completion by 5 days and then break the delivery of that goal down into manageable tasks e.g. clearing all outstanding tasks in mio each day and then reward the team when they achieve the goal.
Don’t train someone how to dig and then forget to give them a shovel
Managers must give their teams the right tools to make the most of the training they are being given and to apply that training, every day, without having to think about it. If for example, a team is being trained on sales progression, the software the team is using should make effective sales progression as simple as possible. If it doesn’t, the team will struggle to apply what they’ve learnt and will eventually revert to their old behaviour because it’s easier to do it that way. Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell, “If you train staff but you fail to change your business, training deliver won’t deliver.”
From Couch to Gold Medal
Don’t expect training to transform your business overnight. Professional sports people train consistently week in, week out to improve performance by a tiny margin. Apply the same expectations to your team and measure the impact over six months, rather than six days. Charlotte Jeffrey Campbell, “Deliver training in bite size chunks and recognise that change won’t happen overnight.”
Finally, Managers have to believe that their business and their team can succeed, and they have to make their team believe it. “If you do not believe you can do it, then you have no chance at all’ Arsene Wenger.