All real estate firms experience a certain amount of churn each year. New agents come on board, and others leave. This trend accelerates as the New Year approaches, and there are telltale red flags brokers and managers can watch out for as we move from fall into winter. 

Once you notice the red flags, it may be too late to change an agent’s mind. They probably already have one foot out the door, and their leaving is inevitable. But why did they decide to quit in the first place? What leads an agent or staff member (perhaps someone with years at the firm) to pick up and leave?

The easiest answer is money issues — chasing a higher split or lower fees. As agents become more productive and close deals, other brokers notice and attempt to recruit them. Promises of better technology or more leads may be icing on the cake, but the low-hanging fruit is to promise they will make more money with another compensation model. 

Money is important to many of us. It’s how we pay our bills, and it’s how we measure whether or not we’re hitting our sales goals. More money, leads and tech solutions may be why agents switch firms. That said, there’s usually an underlying dissatisfaction with the manager or office in general that starts the discussion.

Agents who are dedicated to your office and satisfied with their situation overall won’t be an easy target for a competing broker to recruit. So what are the root causes that make an agent open to talking to your competitor about jumping ship? Here are a few.

Pandemic-related issues

2020 certainly was an eye-opening year for everyone. Issues that may have been minor annoyances or occasional happenings moved front and center for many employers. 

Health concerns

Your agents and staff may be struggling with health concerns or live with others who are at risk. Staff members may have to leave to take care of family members on a more permanent basis or may be afraid to come into the office and risk infecting themselves or others.

Emotional concerns ­

Not everyone who is suffering right now is physically sick. Many people are suffering emotionally from the extended lockdowns, social distancing measures and being unable to be physically close to their loved ones. People may be unmotivated, sad and lethargic — or seriously depressed. 

Child care concerns

In March, I interviewed dozens of people to fill an admin position. Because of the lockdown, our hiring plans froze until May when we were allowed back in the office again. But in calling the people who made the final cut in March for the position, I found that not a single person was available to work now — and child care issues topped the list of reasons why. 

We have agents trying to balance showings with homeschooling. Admin staff who need to physically be in the office to handle paper files may not want to be there (health concerns) or may need to be at home supervising children.

What can you do to make their lives easier? Is there an education pod or group daycare you can help your staff get information on? What are their options? What types of work can staff do remotely? How can you make the office safer for people in general? Are there health care options or therapy choices you can provide through your company?

Now is the time to be flexible and compassionate. If the work can be done off-site safely, find a way to accommodate everyone if you wish to keep your staff satisfied with the work environment. Otherwise, you may lose good employees.

Major life events

Pandemic or not, there will always be big life events that take a front-and-center position in agents and employees’ lives. 

Just as major events spur people to buy and sell houses, they also may lead to someone leaving your brokerage. A few of them include: marriage, divorce, pregnancy/children, death and geographic relocation

If one of your agents or staff members is going through a life change, check in on them. How are they doing? Is there anything you or the brokerage can do to help them through this time period? As with pandemic issues, have patience and empathy

Even positive events (like marriage or a pregnancy) oftentimes bring stress and struggle. Pay attention to what is going on in their lives, and let them know you care. A little empathy can go a long way.

Frustrations

Here is a big, catch-all category where most of your danger lies. Frustrated agents or employees may simmer on low for months or years before they pull the trigger and decide to leave. 

I’ve found that most agents who up and quit don’t do it out of a spur-of-the-moment decision. Frustrations fester and build until they become the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Here are a few frustrations or pain points that come up in exit interviews:

Compensation 

Just like I mentioned earlier, there are agents who will always chase the money. A broker who offers a higher split, lower fees or free perks will tempt agents who think they should be making more money or that their broker is getting rich off of their personal efforts.

Firm culture/politics

An agent who observes favoritism or watches the manager cherry pick the “good leads” and toss the rest to the group soon gets frustrated with the situation.

If you’re a leader who claims the office operates as a team, but it’s obvious to agents that this is lip service only, you’ll lose people. We preach about office culture but some offices actually have a negative culture that disincentivizes salespeople. 

Ignored ideas

Agents who work at an office which makes them feel unimportant to the group or that their ideas are often ignored likely have one foot out the door. 

People want to belong to a group, and if your culture marginalizes or ignores anyone (agents or staff) you won’t attract the best team members. Even if you can’t implement an idea and even if it’s not something you want to pursue, at least let your people know they’re heard. Let them know that their opinions and ideas matter — and that you’ll always encourage open dialogue. 

No room to grow

People want to feel like there is room to grow in an organization. Assistants may have desires to become agents one day. Agents may want to pursue a broker’s license. A top producer may have a goal of becoming a sales manager, or earn a partnership or equity in the company. 

Agents or staff members without goals lead to a stagnant work environment. No, not everyone aspires to rise through the ranks. Your small office may not provide room for ownership. But at the very least you should provide growth opportunities and a pathway to success — whether that’s in sales goals or leadership ambitions.

Relationships

Hopefully, your agents and staff enjoy working with each other. Sure, you may just tolerate one person or not enjoy another one’s company for too long. But beyond being just office mates, you should have respectful, positive relationships amongst the group.

Some may form tight-knit groups that hang out outside the office, and create true bonds and friendships. Agents who are frustrated because they don’t feel like they fit in (another work culture issue) or that the group doesn’t like or accept them won’t last long in your office. 

They don’t have to become best friends with the team, but if they feel ostracized or that they are being sabotaged from within, they will leave.

Quality or amount of leads

Agents who expect the broker to deliver leads to their inbox every morning will become frustrated if the leads dry up or worse — seem to go to the manager’s favorites.

What is your office policy on lead distribution? Is it fair to all? An unhappy agent starts to question where the leads are coming from and who is receiving them. 

Why didn’t they get any calls on their own listing ads? Who is showing their properties, and where is their business coming from? Is it from leads generated on the agent’s own listings that are being diverted to others in the office? If your agents become suspicious that lead gen or distribution is not fair, then you know you’ve planted seeds of discontent.

Unrealistic expectations 

Once you have an agent frustrated with pay, lead distribution or other actions of favoritism, you have an agent who may be easily recruited away from your office. 

Once you go through this list of frustrations and identify which ones hit a nerve with an agent leaving your office, ask yourself — are his or her frustrations true or just internal fabrications? Why do they feel that way? Are you sure it’s not your leadership faults or a problem with your office culture? 

Finally, when you onboarded this agent, what did you promise? How did you tell them the office worked and were your statements true? Did you deliver on promises made while recruiting and provide proper onboarding? If so, it may just be a bad hire or a misaligned agent who truly doesn’t fit with the group.

Agents join your office, and agents will leave. It’s a fact. Your job as broker or manager is to watch for red flags and identify which issues, life events or frustrations can affect your agents and staff members right now. 

Manage proactively, not reactively, and you may be able to stop some of your best people from leaving before the issues fester and grow, leaving them ripe to be recruited by your competition.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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