How would you describe your real estate business? Would you start with the people who work there? The market? Defining a company, in many cases, is about defining a culture. While fostering a company culture may feel like it should be on the bottom of your to-do list, according to Forbes, it is becoming one of the most important aspects of the modern workplace.
If you feel that your company needs a renewed sense of identity, consider these steps to improving company culture.
1. Define Your Culture
For many real estate brokerages, improving company culture starts with properly defining the culture in the first place. Since so many real estate agents run their business as a one-person entity focused on their knowledge, their network, and their brand, it can be difficult to pull together and create a cohesive brand identity for your real estate brokerage. However, it is vital to do so.
In order to define your culture, you need to start with those old standbys of corporate retreats and rebranding initiatives: a mission statement, a values statement, and a statement of purpose. These help you think on a large scale about what you want your company to stand for, what you want your company to do, and what matters to you and the people who work in your company. Without properly defining your culture, you can never hope to improve it.
2. Communicate Your Culture
Whether you are defining your culture for the first time or already have mission and value statements in place, it is essential to communicate your company’s cultural values to all of its stakeholders. How many of your agents could tell you what the company’s mission statement is? How many clients? Everyone needs to be on the same page in order to ensure that the company’s values are being manifested in the behavior and performance of each individual agent.
Consider incorporating value statements into your promotional materials, branding, and even office decor. Clearly communicate the things that matter to you and look for ways in which your company is living out those values. Create initiatives to encourage employee participation in events that serve the community and clients. Use case studies and examples of your company’s values at work on your blog, on social media, and in team meetings. By giving your people a shared vision, you give them something to strive for and rally around. In addition, by helping them promote their individual businesses with these initiatives, you give them a reason to buy-in.
3. Listen to Your People
Give your real estate agents and support personnel the space to share their goals, both for themselves and for the company as a whole. Offer incentives for those who attend listening sessions or participate in surveys. Provide both anonymous and public forums so that everyone has the opportunity to participate and have their voices heard.
Be prepared to hear some things that you don’t like without judgment and without negative consequences. Change brings with it its own growing pains, and it is imperative that you create a safe space for your people to share both good and bad thoughts and experiences.
4. Empower Your People
Improving company culture cannot be a top-down operation. If it is, it will just become another burdensome mandate. Instead, empower agents and personnel to create initiatives that bring to life the principles that you have defined as central to your company’s mission. By allowing your people to lead the way, you’ll find out what really matters to them and how they view their purpose, both within the company and as representatives of the company.
Allow your agents and employees to guide you through the process of change and improvement. Notice the things that they focus on, the things they respond to, and the things that excite and inspire them. From there, you can organically build upon and, as necessary, adjust the focus of your company’s messaging and brand identity.
5. Put Learning Into Operation
Too many times, these types of corporate exercises can feel rote or even a bit silly. When your agents and employees see nothing concrete coming out of meetings and polling, it undermines trust in the process — and in your willingness to learn from it. Make sure that your follow-up is noticeable and explicitly tied to the learning and communication that has occurred.
You may find that changes and expansions of your value and mission statements are necessary. This is not an admission of failure on your part, but an opportunity to let your stakeholders know that you take their feedback seriously. As you create new initiatives—social, professional, educational, personal—tie them to the learning process so that agents and employees know that you have been listening and that you are acting on the process.
In the past, company culture was driven by the singular vision of an iconic leader. However, the new paradigm of a collaborative and enriching work environment is driven by the energy and ideas of everyone in the organization. By including your agents and employees in the conversation, you create the energy, enthusiasm, and motivation that can bring true change to your company’s culture.