Take a Walk!

There is a war taking place. (Oh geez, not another one?!?).

Well, if not in an outright war, certainly an ongoing battle. And it’s one in which nearly every senior executive I know is an active participant. It’s the battle to keep and retain employees.

I won’t waste your time about why this battle is raging – you already know the reasons. But I do want to share a personal take on the best way – beyond highly competitive pay (not naïve; that’s a given) – to become and remain an “employer of choice” in 2023 and beyond.

Before I go on, let me say that there is no shortage of recruitment/retention initiatives in the financial services industry today. After reading a recent article in American Banker entitled “Best Places to Work in Fintech in 2022,” I was especially impressed by the innovative ideas taking hold within young financial firms. Here’s the link. (https://www.americanbanker.com/list/best-places-to-work-in-fintech-2022)

Again, won’t waste your time writing about what someone else just wrote. Suffice to say, these ain’t your dad’s HR and benefits departments.

Gas Cards are Great, But …

So, having worked inside organizations both large and small throughout my career, I have one key takeaway to offer. And because we focus on helping clients with their HQ’s and branches, this insight rings especially true for me.

It’s simply this: All the well-intentioned cultural and incentive programs in the world won’t work unless senior leaders visibly lead. By that, I mean unless they are present, interested and authentically engaged with their people.

In more than twenty years of real estate service to clients in numerous industries, I have never seen an organization succeed from the bottom up or the middle out. Oh, some profess to do that, but it’s all talk. The fact is, every organization is a reflection of the leadership at the top. This is where success begins. Also failure.

Hi There, What’s Up?

The Irvine Company, headquartered in Newport Beach, California, is the largest privately held real estate development organization in the country. By the mid- ‘90’s, they were already far too large for senior leadership to know everyone within the enterprise.

But that didn’t stop one executive from trying.

Every week, Dick Sim — one of the firm’s long time and most senior VP’s – would regularly make his way from the executive suites to walk the floors below where the brokers, analysts, operations, finance and marketing teams were hard at work.

Dick would walk throughout the offices and cubicles introducing himself to people he didn’t really know and engage them in conversation. Sometimes about their work, but just as often about their lives. Where they were raised, their families, their interests and more.

And then he’d depart only to do it again a short time later. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year until the day he retired.

A simple thing, that. Also an effective one because every conversation always ended the same way with Dick letting whoever he was speaking with know that his door was always open. And it was.

Walk the Talk

Yes, gas cards, free lunches, sabbaticals and team building retreats are all great. But at the end of the day, your employees want to be seen, heard and known. Not simply by their immediate supervisor, but by the people at the very top who make the biggest decisions about the direction of the company they work for.

So, as you consider what innovations your firm can employ to boost recruitment and retention, try something that’s been around since humans began to congregate and work together.

That is, step out of your office, take a walk through your HQ and branches, and talk to the people who work for you but whom you don’t really know. Then, remember what you heard/learned and, if and when appropriate, assist those people in their career growth based on what you learned.

And then keep on doing it.

Corey A. Waite is a leading commercial real estate advisor to the financial services industry. As Founder and CEO of Rubicon Concierge Real Estate Services, Corey works directly with senior executives coast-to-coast to deliver strategic plans and transactional services focused on optimizing the needs of employees, clients and members.

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