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Recruiting and Retaining High Quality Staff

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July/August 2000 - Volume 79, Number 4

by David E. Poisson

Title companies — or any other employer, for that matter — face no greater challenge than finding and keeping good employees. The nation is in one of the tightest labor markets it has ever experienced — national unemployment is the lowest in 30 years, and total employment is expected to increase 14 percent in the next 10 years.

Employers in this labor market find themselves vying for good employees, not only with the same major employers with which they have always had to contend, but also with the likes of the dot-com newcomers.

The Tire Association of North America, Reston, VA, had its share of difficulties finding the best employees available. Following are some of the strategies I used while there to attract and keep employees. While TANA is an association, these strategies can easily be adopted by title companies.

Treat staff as individuals with unique personal and family needs.

• TANA staff have a four-day-in, one-day-out work week, which means that while they are expected to work five days a week, only four have to be spent in the office. This policy has allowed us to attract some very capable individuals, mothers, in particular, who now only need a daycare provider four days instead of five. This saves them quite a bit of money, and they get to spend more time with their children. As a result, these employees are infinitely more productive than they might otherwise be.

• From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we close at noon on Friday. This may seem like a throwback to the days when Washington literally did shut down at noon on Fridays. However, we found that when our staff knew they were going to be able to get an early start on the weekend, they were much more productive the other days of the week.

• Every staff member is given a pro rata part of the association’s shared tickets to Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play baseball. Employees each take turns picking dates for the games they want to see, until all of the dates have been chosen. Everyone on the staff shares equally in whatever perquisites there are to enjoy.

• Casual dress is permitted every day.

• We schedule outings at least once each quarter with family and significant others to prevent relationships from becoming one-dimensional.

• TANA pays for the cost of the staff’s membership in a health club as a way of encouraging staff to keep fit.

• TANA provides medical, dental, and prescription drug coverage for employees and their dependents.

• Every now and then, TANA staffers "unwind" together after a big project has been completed by taking the afternoon off and enjoying a movie together. For larger companies, this could be done by department.

• Members of the staff get 20 days of leave annually to use for whatever purposes they may choose, including vacation, sick, personal, jury, military or
bereavement.

Give staff whatever "tools" they need to do their jobs.

• All staff are free to choose the contractors for any outside services needed to complete the tasks for which they are
responsible.

• Our employees are provided with association-issued laptops, printers, pagers, and cell phones to enable them to respond to members’ needs anywhere, anytime.

• TANA organizes regular field trips to help staff familiarize themselves with the way things are done in the industry and, most importantly, why they are done that way.

Provide training to allow staff to keep current and perform competently.

• TANA provides staff members with $3,000 annually for training to keep pace with the demands of their jobs. The decision of what training to take is solely up to the employee.

• Memberships in professional
organizations, like ALTA®, and subscriptions to trade journals are paid in full.

In addition to the things listed above, TANA strives to keep base salaries competitive with those of regional employers. And, we match 401(k) contributions with 50 cents for every dollar employees contribute.

Admittedly, there is little new, different, or terribly earth-shattering about the types of benefits TANA provides its staff. Taken together, however, they have proven sufficiently attractive to enable the association to recruit every candidate to whom we have extended an offer for the last three years — and to have kept every one of them, too.

But salaries and benefits notwithstanding, we believe that what has really accounted for our recruitment and retention successes during this period has been our unswerving commitment to creating not just a staff, but a "culture."

Relationships Are Key

For most of us, the lion’s share of 40 or more years of our lives will be spent in the company of others, not our family, trying to earn a living. But work is that and so much more. Yet, it is how we support ourselves and our families. It is also is a powerful influence in determining who we are and how we relate to others. I am constantly amazed at how many employers fail to recognize this important fact about the employment relationship.

At the end of the day, employers want and need more than just stable work forces. They need truly loyal, committed work forces. But to attract talented employees in the first place, such professionals must be made to feel welcome. And to earn their loyalty, they must be treated well.

Ultimately, this means that companies must learn to exhibit a much higher level of interest in their staffs — and in more areas of their staff’s lives — than has been routine or customary. Failing that, employers will most assuredly always be caught short in their pursuit of the very best talent this or any future labor market has to offer.



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