MReport November 2019

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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14 | M R EP O RT FEATURE " G ranted, maybe this was not the best idea, but at least we care enough about our employees that we are willing to fight for them." Steve Carell's Michael Scott, the often ill-spoken leader of the fictitious Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in the TV series The Office, never had much luck with words. However, the quote above demonstrates a rare moment of Scott showing compassion and care for his employees. While Dunder Mifflin might not exist, the quote touches on a challenge every com- pany must tackle: ensuring that its employees feel the sense that they are more than a number, and that the company views them as such. With the workforce changing as millennials—and millennial priorities and values—become more promi- nent, how are the companies within the mortgage sector working to adapt? What are the challenges and changes that are underway as suit- and-tie culture is forced to adapt to a generation that places a premium on not just a paycheck, but on the experience of earning it? A Changing Culture T here is no denying the fact that the workforce has changed dramatically, and quickly—and the landscape of the mortgage industry is no exception. published an article in 2018 on how businesses are making the shift from being customer-centric to employee- centric. "While the employers once ruled the market with the privi- lege of being able to hook the best candidates, the priorities have changed to focus more on devel- opment, transparency, and work- life balance," the article states. Kevin Hamilton, President and CEO of Bron Inc., agrees with this sentiment, saying he and his company believe in "taking care of your people." "We had this adage in the military that was, your people eat before you do. It's just one of the things that we do," Hamilton said. "By taking care of your people, rais- ing them up, making them better when you go into battle means that you have a better team." "It's about taking care of every- body else," he added. Aaron Samples, CEO of First Guaranty Mortgage, pointed out that it's a company's employees that usually make up the biggest line item in a profit-and-loss document. As such, it only makes sense to take care of them. "It's our biggest investment, and we take it very seriously," Samples said. He told MReport that First Guaranty actually created a role focused on learning and organiza- tional development to help create a more positive working environment. "We're focused on employee retention and trying to be the firm that attracts the top talent in the industry," Samples said. In the past, Hamilton said that, to some companies and even executives, employees were often regarded as "just numbers." However, Hamilton said he be- lieves in the importance and the benefits of providing better care and training for employees. With that in mind, Bron Inc. launched the "Bron Better Brain Program," which encourages employees to get their MBA, finish their college degrees, or take courses to help them become a better person. "I've always believed in educa- tion is a never-ending process," Hamilton said. "I want to make sure my clients know that the as- sociates care about them and that they are professionals." Bron enrolls every new associate each year in Five Star Certification. Hamilton said that 85% of enrolled Bron employees are certified within four months of being registered. James Wade, VP of IT & Security at the Tampa Bay, Florida, office of Mortgage Contracting Services (MCS) sug- gested that there are two aspects that make a company a great place to work. The first element is people, plain and simple. "Without great people by your side, it would be difficult to come to work each day and produce at a high level," Wade said. The second aspect Wade cites is "technology and the pursuit of continual improvements in the areas of IT security and network performance. With the changing technology roadmap and changing client needs, staying ahead in the technical game is both exciting and challenging." Bethany Ockerman, VP of Operations for the Lewisville, Texas, office of MCS, said MCS encourages employees to work together to solve problems, as com- munication is key to leadership. "[At MCS], employees are able to reach out to any senior leader to provide ideas or discuss difficulties whenever necessary." That chain of reliable communication can be critical within any business when it comes to ensuring that employees feel heard, valued, and capable of achieving at their highest level. However, the challenge of providing a work-life balance a in a high-stress industry is not lost on Nickalene Badalamenti-Kalas, acting President of Five Brothers Asset Management Group. "It's a demanding job, and the greater the number of employees, sometimes that morale can be affected by a single individual on a team." However, Badalamenti- Kalas suggested that an even bigger challenge can be ensuring that employees receive accurate information "from the top down." Badalamenti-Kalas also empha- sized the importance of mentor- Revitalizing the Mortgage Workforce A younger generation of workers are filling offices and desks across the nation. How are lenders keeping up with their new expectations? Industry minds discuss how their companies are adapting to a new workforce. By Mike Albanese

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