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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   November 2012

4 Tips for Better Office Culture

Developing and protecting culture in the workplace is key to your company’s success

It’s a simple fact of most mortgage professionals’ working lives: Many brokers and originators invariably spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their own families. It’s vital, therefore, for managers and employees alike to create a workplace that’s as safe, enjoyable and productive as possible.
Some mortgage professionals have been unlucky enough to witness firsthand just how significantly — and how quickly — a company’s culture can change. A few domineering or otherwise disruptive employees can increase conflicts, tension and verbal sparring throughout an entire office. With that in mind, it’s sometimes important to take certain steps to protect the culture and future of your organization.

When it comes to defining and maintaining your company’s culture, here are four key steps that managers and executives should consider.

1. Identify your culture

Of course, an organization’s culture will vary from one company to the next, but perhaps the healthiest culture is one that could be summarized as being a warm community. Value and emphasize a culture where employees are kind and caring toward each other.

Although mortgage banks and brokerages can be competitive places, the notion of a team should be encouraged. From the top down, a company always should put the team before any one individual. Even your top producers must learn the value of this concept. Integrity is another key concept for any mortgage organization. Even if employees have differing views on a multitude of other issues, if everyone believes in a similar notion of integrity, a warm community still can exist.

"From the top down, a company always should put the team before any one individual. Even your top producers must learn the value of this concept."

Although these ideals will be central to most mortgage organizations, it’s important to identify what other keywords you want to define your organization specifically and, with that, to hire employees who align with those values. Conversely, you may need to displace certain individuals who prevent your culture from flourishing in the ways that you value. Defining who you are as a company will help in hiring the best employees for your organization.

2. Emphasize the “who”

Bearing the previous point in mind, it’s crucial to seek out only those who align with your values, culture and style — no matter how much money an individual may make for your organization or how proficient that person could be at origination. It can be difficult to turn down a $30 million  producer who’s interested in joining your organization, but during an interview, if you realize that the person isn’t a team player or has a domineering personality, turning that person down can be in your best interests.

In these lean times, it’s easy to covet the volume certain individuals can bring to your organization. Even so, this tenet should be strictly followed. Today, more than ever, the “who” is more important than the “what,” regardless of how much money a person can make for your organization.

3. Don’t look the other way

Good leaders continually monitor the pulse and tone of their organizations. Even more, when they sense an attitude or conflict arising, they address the problem instead of simply hiding in their offices in the hopes that it will go away.

Never underestimate the harm that can be done by staff members who are continual hubs for gossip. Gossip can seem innocuous at first, so much so that it’s easy to look the other way and allow it to persist for far too long. Sometimes, even after a gossipy employee has left an organization, the damage can remain, resulting in entire months before trust can prevail once again.

Whatever the conflict, it may take time and emotional energy to resolve certain problems, but addressing issues quickly can save further problems later.

4. Eat together

Although it may seem like a minor managerial tactic, be sure that your company shares breakfast or lunch together at least once a week. Also, if you don’t already do so, consider having themed events, birthdays, baby showers and potluck celebrations. During these meals and events, employees have a chance to let down their guard and just enjoy life together. They can catch up on what their children are doing, what movies they’ve seen recently and just take time to get to know each other better.

Events and celebrations like these can help make a team feel more like family. Over time, these events can seem expensive and difficult to accommodate in terms of space, but the reward these activities can deliver is well worth the effort and cost.

• • •

Managers and executives have a responsibility to develop a safe, festive work environment where employees’ experience is much more than just a job. With a healthy company culture, employees will appreciate their jobs and workplace to a much greater extent, and by extension, their families will, too. This can help to drastically reduce turnover.

Regardless of their specific tactics and results, managers also should realize that their employees’ jobs are what they do, but not who they are. Your team members are much more than spokes in a wheel positioned to drive profit. They are real people with real dreams of finding a community to share life with — and with your help, they can do exactly that.


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