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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   September 2016

Rebuilding the Mortgage Industry With Millennials

Corporate culture must change as the average employee age decreases

Illustration by Dennis WunschThe Great Recession left a long-lasting mark on the face of the mortgage industry. Between experienced professionals who headed for the exits during the housing meltdown and years when no new talent entered the beleaguered industry, the composition of the mortgage-industry workforce changed dramatically.

Rebuilding talent to fill that void has been a challenge, but forward-thinking companies are maneuvering to attract a new generation of mortgage professionals — millennials. This much-sought-after group brings different perspectives and diverse skill sets that can help lead the industry forward.

Much has been written about the nation’s largest generation — born between 1980 and the mid 2000s. But it is clear that employing millennials, and motivating them to succeed, will become increasingly important as they mature into the mainstay of the American workforce. With the average age of loan originators currently standing at 54 and the median age of Realtors at 57, the industry needs an infusion of new talent to service a new generation of homebuyers.

Millennials are fast becoming the housing industry’s front-line workforce. They are taking roles in loan processing and loan servicing, and are gaining valuable experience that will help them evolve into the next generation of mortgage executives.

Although millennials are not a single monolithic group, several themes do hold true for those working in the mortgage industry. They tend to be values-driven, expect transparency and seek emotional connections in their jobs. Mortgage companies would do well to consider these themes if they want to engage and inspire the next generation of employees.

Consider employee values

Gone are the days when an employee went to work at a bank or manufacturing plant as a young adult and retired several decades later from the same company. Millennials expect to move from one job to another throughout their careers, but they also expect to connect to their work in deeper ways than their parents or grandparents did.

The mortgage industry is actually involved in an inspirational and important mission – putting families into homes.

In an era of constant, free-flowing digital information, millennials can clearly see the values of the organization where they work. It shows up in social media, whether the company wants it to or not. Millennials want their personal values to align with the values of their employers. This is not just true for millennials, however. They are just the most visible sign of a broader social shift where consumers and employees expect businesses to lead with core values.

These core values invest employees in the “why” of their work. They explain why customer service, teamwork and leadership matter to the company, and values connect internal processes with external outcomes — families finding new homes in the case of mortgage companies.

As mortgage companies add younger staff, it is important that they make all employees understand how they fit into the overall vision of the company and how they contribute to the goal of growing homeownership, which is the core of the mortgage industry.

Core values also can help eliminate a lot of micromanagement that is often necessary in companies without a clear cultural direction. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky made this clear to his employees a few years ago in a now-famous letter, writing:

“The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing. People can be independent and autonomous. They can be entrepreneurial. … In organizations (or even in a society) where culture is weak, you need an abundance of heavy, precise rules and processes.”

If you lead with your core values as a company, not only will you engage with millennials in a deeper way, you also will engage with employees of all ages in unexpected and positive ways. Millennials expect organizations to be values-driven. Other generations don’t necessarily expect it, but they do appreciate it.

Promote transparency

Progressive companies are more transparent than ever before. Many openly reveal the details of their supply chain, their business partners, their values and their charitable endeavors. This openness goes a long way with millennials. They want to understand the inner workings of the ownership team and management, and they want transparent and accurate answers when they have questions.

Some companies use online communication tools to generate direct and transparent feedback across the company. Direct interaction like this can eliminate the communication silos that often separate frontline employees from executives. This is particularly useful in large mortgage companies where executives need to keep their fingers on the pulse of diverse departments, including sales, operations, servicing, accounting and compliance.

Millennials especially respond strongly when greeted with transparency at work. An ORC International study found that just 61 percent of millennials believe the leadership in their organization is open and honest. This may be because — according to the study — millennials want feedback from company leadership a staggering 71 times per year.

If you lead with honesty, transparency and open communication, millennials will respond by aligning themselves with the company’s goals and values. In turn, this transparency will inspire millennials to remain loyal and do great work for your company.

Provide emotional connections

Emotion drives the world. It motivates, inspires and connects us to the world around us. Emotional connection in the workplace is vital to millennials who seek something beyond a paycheck as a reason to come to work.

Companies like TOMS, a shoe manufacturer that gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every new pair purchased by a customer, have pioneered corporate social responsibility and charitable giving as brand cornerstones. Unfortunately, the mortgage industry seems to have fallen way behind the curve in this regard.

Despite its mixed reputation, the mortgage industry is actually involved in an inspirational and important mission — putting families into homes. This is a very noble profession. Mortgage companies that take a step back and realign their core values around this mission will help connect all of their teams to the company vision. This is a critical way to keep millennials engaged.

Core values should be crafted to continually remind employees about the “why” of their work. Whether employees are wading through granular details of processing applications or underwriting loans, mortgage companies can keep core values front of mind in an employee’s day-to-day work by making sure rewards and recognitions tie back to particular core values that reaffirm the company’s goals and its positive impact on customers.

Millennials need this emotional connection to their work. They need to know they are making a difference both in the world at large and in the workplace. Ultimately they, and employees of all ages, want to be a part of a company that has a story to tell about how it is impacting the world positively, effectively, truthfully and continuously.


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