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"I Make Title Sexy"

Updated: Oct 22, 2021


Special Edition -

Operational Productivity aka “I Make Title Sexy


Introduction

I had the pleasure last week of presenting two Engagement Labs at the American Land Title Association’s ALTA ONE Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. My topic was Operational Productivity.


The Session Description

Learn tips for effectively managing Operational Productivity in 2021's changed workplace pairing metrics with the Platinum Rule (treat others the way they want to be treated). Attendees will gain knowledge and insight on how to manage staff more effectively by catering to Employees' wants and needs. Using the techniques will allow Company’s greater retention which is critical in our highly competitive Title and Settlement Industry with a shrinking population of available talent. Further, attendees will see the additional benefit of improving employee morale while recognizing gains in productivity.


I have gained credibility over the years using data and analytics to effectively manage operations. I have been asked to speak on these topics at many industry events over the years. Typically, when I speak about data, metrics and operational productivity people’s eyes glaze over. I decided to have some fun with it this time and added a sub-title to the session: “I Make Title Sexy!” I had bright red buttons made that many conference attendees proudly wore throughout the week which more than achieved the fun element I was looking for. Who knew the buttons would be used with the ladies to garner attention by one fun loving attendee? He even asked me for few more buttons to keep them all happy.


Thank you to everyone who wore a button, attended the in-person and virtual sessions! The in-person session had standing room only and people were being turned away at the door. One group remained more than 30 minutes after the session ended to continue the conversations. As a facilitator I always worry no one will show up to my session- particularly when I am speaking on data, metrics and operational productivity topics. It was all incredibly flattering!


Outline

Opening

The session was about Operational Productivity or “I Make Title Sexy!” How to best entice future employees so that they are interested in the mundane title and settlement industry while working to maximize productivity with current employees and enhance morale.


I grew up learning the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Company’s today in our current job market need to take this one step further and use the Platinum Rule “treat others the way they want to be treated.” I am of the firm belief that applying the Platinum Rule is the secret to “Making Title Sexy.


Traits of the Best Companies to Work For

In preparing for the session, I started by looking at research on what makes a Company a great place to work. I have always been curious about the ads that proclaim Company’s to be great places to work. Forbes publishes an annual list based on employee surveys and I looked back at the last few years results. (https://fortune.com/best-companies/2021/)


What I found was a common theme: “businesses that treat employees well during the toughest of times will attract talent, even when the war for talent heats up.” There were also four recurring traits across these exceptional employers:

1. Culture where employees feel their work and contributions matter.

→ When management says they care, it actually shows in their actions.

→ Every individual feels a sense of belonging, respect, and value.

→ Opportunities to have fun shared experiences, ability to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

2. Communication

→ Bosses actually listen to feedback.

→ Corporate emphasis on the concept of “why” when it comes to leaders explaining their decisions to their subordinates.

3. Community

→ “The attention that the executive team pays to the health and welfare of the surrounding community is extraordinary.”

4. Out of the Box Thinking

→ Is the concept of change.

→ Thumb-over thumb example of taking your hands out in front of you and crossing your thumbs. Take note if your natural tendency is to cross your right or left thumb on top. If you are asked to do the opposite, it feels awkward; still it is absolutely doable. It takes about 30 days before the awkward way becomes comfortable. This is typically how we feel when making a change.


Utilizing these Great Place to Work traits provided a foundation to begin. A roadmap emerged with lessons learned to begin the arduous process of “Making Title Sexy” in our title and settlement industry.

  • One: Measure It to Establish the Culture (and ensure profitability)

  • Two: Communicate Clear and Reasonable ExpectationsListen to Responses

  • Three: Allow for Exceptions/Non-Traditional “Out of the Box Thinking”


One: Measure It

  • To begin, employers need to know what their specific expectations are for each Employee.

  • Job roles need to be quantified across teams, departments, and/or the Company as applicable.

  • Understand that this is an average goal; look at a reasonable run of available data (ideally 12-36 months).

→ Never measure less than 30 days!

→ Acknowledge that there will be periods of difficult populations of orders to consider where an average is not reasonable; think of the singular file we have all had that can take you all day (or week!)

  • No “Holy Grail” or magic number to use as a standard in our industry due to customers, company workflows, production platform optimization, state nuances, etc.

  • Include employees to obtain feedback from the front-line to the executive table; do not use just data aka the “vacuum” or “ivory tower” models.

→ Helps establish “buy in” for front line staff

  • What do Company’s measure?

  • Groups were asked to take 3-5 minutes to discuss what type of data they measure.

One: Measure It - Group Responses

1. Order Counts

a. Agent Orders

b. Lender Orders

2. File Types (sale, refinance, search, accommodation, commercial, etc.)

3. Market Share

4. Files per Closer

5. Fall Through Rate

6. Orders Coming In

7. Turn Times

a. Order Entry

b. Search and Exam

c. Policy Issuance

8. Time in File

9. Revenue

10. Individualized P&L

a. By Examiner

b. By Office/Divisions

c. Bonus Pool

11. Orders Opened

12. Orders Closed


Two: Communicate Clear and Reasonable Expectations

  • To begin, know that:

→ Employees want expectations set for them.

→ Setting objectives or goals every 30, 60, 90, 180 and/or 365 days with your employees paired with written actionable key results will allow the employee to achieve those objectives.

→ Eliminates the need for micromanagement and allows the employee to have autonomy over their own responsibilities.

→ Supports the Culture and Communication top employers achieve that make them a great place to work!

  • Set goals that are SMART (i.e realistic):

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound

  • Follow Up.

→ Set milestones for employee and team to gauge their progress. Gives employees mileposts to guide them.

→ Employees can see how their values align with the company, they'll feel more supported and connected.

  • Maintain a published list of critical goals and progress with each

→ Help employees have a clear understanding of what they should be focusing on and how it contributes to the company's overall strategy—helping open the door for more transparent communication and motivation for success.

→ Used the example of a thermometer in fund raising events

→ Judge by results….do not micro-manage every second of remote (or on-site) worker days.

  • Leverage motivation.

→ Find out what motivates your employees.

  • It is not typically the “mansion and yacht” expectation many managers and employers have.

  • Invite employee into manager office for an informal chat.

  • Ask them where they want to be two or three years from now.

→ This will give you clear insight about what they're planning and how the goals you set will be able to take them where they want to go.

  • Groups were asked to take 3-5 minutes to discuss effective techniques to discover employee motivators.


Two: Communicate Clear and Reasonable Expectations - Group Responses

1. One-on-one conversations

2. Treat people the way they want to be treated.

3. Contests

4. Engagement

5. Personal Connection

6. Ask them what motivates them or what they need

7. It is the little things…

8. Figuring out personalities

9. Speak their “work language

10. Personality profiles right away try to establish wish list

11. Survey employees three times a year

12. 90-day reviews


Three: Allow for Exceptions/Non-TraditionalOut of the Box Thinking

  • Lessons learned from the pandemic and the remote workplace.

→ Work Life Balance!

  • 9 to 5 is now the exception---embrace the changes!

→ Is this traditional “sit in front of my office” management really required for all positions in our industry or is this just how it has always been done?

→ Discussion of thumb-over-thumb example of change

→ Title Examiner Hiring Scenario: Company has been unable to hire any title examiners for more than 5 years. Have hired four in the past 60 days due to competitors unwilling to allow continuance of remote work.

→ Example of manager who allows 100% remote work into a role that had traditionally been in office. Achieved a high caliber team of experienced professionals firmly committed to the company and her with high levels of production and exceptional customer service.

  • Align with the “Out of the Box” thinking used by the top places to work:

Cisco: “Days for Me” for employees to recharge

Salesforce: “9 to 5 workday is dead” overtly moving to a semi remote model

Wegmans Food Market: “Ask Bob” Connect all employees to SVP of operations Bob Farr through a Q&A platform

Rocket Companies: “Engineered to Amaze” employees collaborate in groups to reinforce innovation, teamwork and customer service

Texas Health Resources: Virtual work schedules

Hilton: Provides the same benefits to both hourly and salaried Team Members

UKG: 100%-company-paid healthcare premiums

Am Ex: flexible, family-friendly work environment

Camden Property Trust: 44% of employees live in Camden-owned apartments and take advantage of a 20% rent-discount benefit

  • Groups were asked to take 3-5 minutes to discuss the “Out of the Box” thinking used with employees.


Three: Allow for Exceptions/Non-TraditionalOut of the Box Thinking” - Group Responses

1. Virtual competitors

2. Encouragement

3. Work Life Balance- Health Breaks

4. Birthday off as an additional vacation day

5. Flexible schedule

6. Bonus paid for meeting goals

7. Teams for remote

8. Fund to help employees that fall on hard times

9. Section 139: Give money to help with disaster

10. Offered remote workspace and continued it on case-by-case

11. Staggered work schedule

12. Paid bonus to employees who had COVID vaccine

13. Wellness incentive

14. Happy hour

15. Food: snacks, ice cream, random lunches

16. Amazon Wishlist

17. Food truck

18. Margarita machine

19. $500 coffee cards

20. Give employees the ownership of a task- makes them feel included


Summary

  • So how can YOU Make Title Sexy?

  • Businesses that treat employees well during the toughest of times will attract talent, even when the war for talent heats up.

  • Companies that employees celebrate as being the greatest to work for offer a Culture where employees feel their work and contributions matter, include Communication that emphasizes a collaborative environment, a sense of Community and Out of the Box Thinking.

  • To achieve operational productivity effectively in 2021 changed workplace requires effectively pairing metrics with the platinum rule.

1. Measure It

2. Set Clear and Reasonable Expectations

3. Apply “Out of the Box Thinking”…allow for Exceptions

  • By applying these principals, YOU Make Title Sexy!


What is Your Life Lesson…

  1. What data does your Company measure?

  2. What techniques have you found to be effective to uncover Employee motivators?

  3. What “Out of the Box” thinking have you used?

  4. Do you want an “I Make Title Sexy Button?” If so contact me and I would be happy to mail one to you!


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