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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   August 2017

Create a Culture of Learning

It is possible to teach old dogs and young cats new tricks

Create a Culture of Learning

The average age of a mortgage loan originator today is in the mid-50s, so it is imperative for mortgage companies to identify, cultivate and mentor young talent to develop the next generation of successful mortgage professionals. To accomplish this, companies must provide the tools that will allow originators to build their teams and grow their business.

Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all training methods because different people learn in different ways. Offering the same rewards to different personalities, for example, can result in completely different outcomes. Luckily, there are many ways for mortgage companies to create a culture of learning that resonates with new originators and experienced veterans alike.

In today’s technology-focused world, a mix of live, personal education and training, web-based training programs and concise and easy-to-use training videos can provide employees with the tools necessary to become well-trained mortgage professionals. A strong training department is a necessity as well, and if a company needs help in this area, mortgage training companies can fill any gaps in their expertise.

With the wide age range of originators in our industry, training programs need resources that can be tailored to different age groups. Many millennials, for example, value knowledge over a degree, and half of this generation doesn’t feel they need to be in a classroom to learn. Training offerings must balance the vast differences between millennials and veteran originators — many of whom are in their mid-50s.

Hubs and boot camps

One solution that helps bridge the generation gap is a company-specific, branded training hub. These hubs can provide ongoing training needed for experienced team members, on-board new team members and develop the next generation of loan officers. Hubs also can deliver on-demand training, which provides a quick and easy way for team members to see the training available, participate when it fits their schedule and choose the style of training that is best for their learning styles.

Millennials tend to be collaborative and inclusive, and they expect their place of work to be the same. Through online training, mentoring and coaching, companies can provide training programs that meet the needs of this generation of employees. According to a study from the Intelligence Group, 72 percent would like to be their own boss. If they must work for a boss, however, 79 percent of them want that boss to be more of a coach or mentor and 88 percent prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one.

When designing training programs, collaboration, coaching and mentorship are vital to engaging new originators. For college graduates who have no mortgage experience or just one to two years of sales experience, boot-camp style programs can be very successful. Mortgage boot camps combine educational course work and required exams to monitor progress followed by a mentoring period where students learn from veteran originators.

Collaboration, coaching and mentorship are vital to engaging new originators. 

An effective boot-camp program should include traditional training classes as well as online and video-based training. In addition, a strong mentorship program is critical to the ongoing success of boot-camp participants. As trainees enter the market, their mentors can help them with day-to-day issues after the training team is no longer available to guide them through the day.

Not every successful loan originator makes a great mentor, however, but there are several critical characteristics that can help determine the best mentor candidates. The most important traits include the ability to listen, a willingness to provide one-on-one guidance and a desire to continue their own learning.

A mentor who focuses on providing honest, relevant feedback in an environment of continuous learning will help to create a successful mentor/mentee relationship. In short, mentors need to be people who are dedicated to the mortgage industry and want to pay it forward.

Boot-camp style programs have shown huge success rates. Boot-camp trainees who graduate as loan originators tend to hit million-dollar production months more quickly than new originators who did not attend such a program. In addition, those who graduate as loan assistants often play bigger roles within their teams in hitting those milestone months.

Onboarding

Experienced loan officers new to a company also need to be trained. Companies should develop a 60- to 90-day onboarding plan to help new hires acclimate to the company’s systems and meet the people they need to know to get their job done. These programs can help ease the frustration and stress of starting anew and create engaged employees from day one.

In addition, as with boot camp trainees, pairing new hires with mentors can provide an ongoing resource to help them continue to succeed in growing their business. Along with mentors, consider providing dedicated operational support for new originators, including an experienced operations team as well as someone to oversee their pipeline. This will help originators transition to their new company in the shortest amount of time.

By leveraging the unique skill sets of different age groups, companies can create symbiotic relationships.

A dedicated operational support staff also allows new originators to be monitored so the training team can be alerted if additional training is needed in those first few months. This is important because the first 60 to 90 days are a key indicator of a new originator’s long-term success. Mentors and operational support personnel also must work to create a positive and supportive training and onboarding environment where new hires feel comfortable enough to ask questions.

Social media training

Our society is now plugged in 24/7. Some 72 percent of millennials take the opinions of online friends into account when making purchase decisions. This fact also holds true for 41 percent of older consumers. Simply put, today’s consumers trust the opinions offered by friends in their social networks.

Unfortunately, many loan originators don’t have the needed digital skills in their arsenal to deal with this online world. To stay relevant, training must help originators leverage technology to improve their business, connect with Realtors and builders, and find new customers.

A dedicated social-media specialist can teach originators about the power of social media and how it can impact their bottom line. Training can be done at branch-level seminars or as needed with one-on-one tutoring. The goal should be to teach originators how to strategically invest their time for maximum return, resulting in a positive digital footprint that can help them reach a broader audience and increase their mortgage business.

Team approach

When implementing any of these training programs, remember that allowing team members to become part of the training team is a powerful way to leverage the passion of that team. Loan originators benefit from hearing and seeing from their peers.

A younger originator, who may be more tech savvy, can share information regarding social media posts or answer loan origination software questions. Older, more experienced originators have years of expertise in building referral relationships and understand how to be resilient in an ever-changing market. By leveraging the unique skill sets of different age groups, companies can create symbiotic relationships among the groups, a process that results in better-equipped loan officers.

Another collaborative program that has proven successful is the “concierge desk,” which is staffed by a team of experienced mortgage professionals. This team acts as a liaison between all departments to help answer questions for the sales team. By coordinating everything from loan-program requirements to IT issues, this service saves time and frustration by efficiently adding extra support.

If a question comes in that is specific to an underwriting scenario, for example, the concierge desk will direct that question to the underwriting department, gather the needed information and then respond quickly to the originator who posed the question. The goal of the concierge desk is to efficiently move questions through departments at the home office to streamline the information-gathering process. In addition to answering questions, the desk serves as an ongoing resource to train and educate team members and help them spend the most time possible growing their business.

•  •  •

Collaboration, coaching and teamwork are vital to creating a culture that encourages and supports continuing education and embraces cross-training experiences and personal development for all mortgage professionals. To train today’s originators, who encompass a wide range of ages, it takes an investment of time and talent from the executive suite down to managers and employees — sales and otherwise.

That investment, however, can provide companies with talented and prepared team members that will fuel future growth and continue to bring in new talent. In the end, a mortgage company’s most valuable asset is its employees, so it makes sense to invest a substantial amount of time and money to make sure they are trained and educated properly.


 


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