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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   August 2017

Pave the Way to Career Growth

Employee development is critical to company success

Key Points

Checklist for building an employee-development plan

  • Get buy-in from upper management;
  • Work with managers on implementation;
  • Create job tiers tied to training and performance;
  • Encourage employees to cross-train;
  • Provide managerial and non-managerial career paths;
  • Help employees create career maps; and
  • Provide training resources to aid advancement.

Attracting and retaining talent remains a huge part of a mortgage company’s ability to excel and prosper in today’s business environment. Although competitive compensation and benefits remain an integral part of why originators choose to stay with a company, to keep top talent, it has become increasingly important to show them how they can grow, develop and contribute to the company over time.

A generation or two ago, the world was much smaller than it is today. When someone entered the workforce, there was an implicit — or sometimes actual — contract between employer and employee that generally implied that if workers were loyal, they would be taken care of for life.

An employee who put in their 20-plus years could expect a pension and retirement benefits after a lifetime of service. In recent years, however, pension and retirement benefits have disappeared and few employees work for one company throughout their entire career. Employees are now in charge of their own career paths and are left to work out their own retirement plans.

Development benefits

Most employers recognize that employee development is important for retaining top performers, but they don’t always have the necessary time and resources to devote to each employee’s development plan. Employee development is essential to employee satisfaction and retention, however, so making the time and finding these resources should be a high priority for all employers.

Nowhere is this truer than in the mortgage industry, which depends heavily on high-producing originators to generate revenue — originators who are constantly courted by competitors. If you are mortgage executive who is on the fence about strategically developing career ladders, just look at some of the benefits:

  • Differentiating yourself from competitors. Having a career-development plan can be an added value for employees. Whether you are looking to hire new talent or keep your current originators happy, investing in quality training and development shows you have more to offer them than your competitors.
  • Enticing and keeping younger workers. Gen Xers and millennials see learning new skills and personal growth as top priorities — even over pay increases. With many originators reaching retirement age, it is important to appeal to these generations to ensure the longevity of your company and the mortgage industry as a whole.
  • Decreasing turnover. If employees do not feel they have opportunities at your company, they will find them elsewhere. Have career-planning discussions during annual reviews or schedule separate one-on-ones with employees.
  • Retaining key employees. It’s critical to identify future rising stars and put them on a path to success with your company. Remember, other people are probably recruiting the heck out of your star employees. Give them a good reason to stay.

Before putting an employee-development plan in place, you must have absolute buy-in from senior management. Without support from the top, there is little incentive for the rest of the company to stick to development initiatives. The bulk of the work will fall on human resources (HR), but managers will need to keep the ball rolling and keep employees engaged in the process. Even then, the drive to keep a program like this alive really belongs to the employees.

Plan structure

So, what are some ways to structure an employee- development plan? First, consider creating a tiered system for each position in a given department. Every tier should have specific training and metrics built into each position. This can create a path for employees to attain both status and pay increases within their own department, which is important for non-sales positions.

This method also allows employees to see how their current position leads into future opportunities to move up the ranks. When employees can see what they are working toward, it can increase their motivation to achieve it.

Culture is contagious, so make sure you have ambassadors who champion the great things you do.

Another option for non-sales employees is to allow them to “intern” for a month or two with another department. This can provide the employees an opportunity to learn more about the overall function of the company and gain valuable insight into how their job duties affect other departments. It also allows employees to find what they are good at and find the job they really love at your company, not someone else’s.

For sales teams, you can provide levels that are based not only on production, but also on how originators interact with other departments through file quality, follow-through, etc. Basically, this system can reward sales people for being good corporate citizens.

To help originators succeed, provide continuous coaching and motivation to keep them focused, and give them goals to work toward beyond just sales goals. A structure within the sales department could look like this:

  • Loan-originator intern — An entry-level position for someone just licensed or out of training.
  • Loan originator — A position set by years of service and average production.
  • Senior loan Originator — A position set by years of experience and sustained volume numbers.

Branch manager, regional manager and vice president of business development could round out the advancement levels for those wishing to pursue a career of managing others. Originators not wishing to manage, but willing to contribute, can be tapped to be part of advisory teams or cross-functional work groups to provide sales perspectives and training.

These types of plans encourage others who want to move up but are not interested in managing others. Providing opportunities for them to become subject-matter experts is another alternative. This also is referred to as re- designing an existing job.

Subject-matter experts can assist managers with identifying process obstacles and creating best practices within their work groups. They also can be tapped as resources in implementing change policies and championing process improvements.

There is a value from a cultural perspective to having long-term employees, as long as they are engaged and motivated toward continuous improvement. Potential new employees tend to ask interviewers how long they have been at the company and why they stay. Culture is contagious, so make sure you have ambassadors who champion the great things you do.

Career maps

Once you have identified the structure of your plan, it is time to begin facilitating career development with individual employees. Career mapping is a popular and useful tool that helps employees and managers think strategically about an employee’s career goals and to then lay out a plan to attain those goals. Career mapping involves three steps: self-assessment, career mapping and exploring other options.

For self-assessment, employees need to honestly assess their strengths and weaknesses with their managers as they relate to their position. Managers should then identify potential places in the company that play up the strengths of the employee and use that information to help the employee create an individualized career map. Finally, employees should look at opportunities outside their particular department, and managers should be willing to assist in this process.

Once a plan is put into place, it is HR’s responsibility to provide and develop the resources needed for managers and employees to execute the career map, including any essential training resources. Company-provided training — whether through vendors, training libraries, or internal trainers — is a key component to a successful employee-development plan.

Employees also need to take charge of their own careers by investigating and suggesting training resources they have found. In some cases, the career path an employee wants to follow may require more schooling or a degree. Companies should consider offering some tuition-reimbursement programs to encourage this.

•  •  •

When it comes to building a thriving mortgage business, employee satisfaction should be your top priority. Having well-trained and motivated originators and staff who want to stay with the company for the long haul will ensure you stay in business for years to come. Work with your employees and invest in their success, and you will surely reap the benefits of what you sow.


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