• Shonleigh Draper

Employee retention - the 'make or break' for recruiters & the stigma around my role in the industry

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

I've had many conversations recently around 'retention' with different people working both inside and outside of the industry, some with Property Managers and Principals, and some with people who are providing a service to the industry that I dig and vibe with so much - Real Estate & Property.

The definition of "retention" according to the Cambridge Dictionary is: "the ability of a company to keep its employees and stop them from going to work somewhere else".

And that's the thing right, how do we stop people from going to work somewhere else? The bottom line is, we can't. And if we could, i'd be out of a job! Whilst we can't completely stop people from leaving us, I think that what we can do is prevent people from leaving us before their 'expiry date' is up. What I mean by this is, in my experience working with talent day in and day out, I think that most people have and pre-set 'expiry date' in each role that they step into. Which means that there will always come a time in their career where they feel their time is up, and they are longing for a change of environment, professional growth, more money, a promotion, a more inclusive culture, a stronger leader, better working conditions and so on. It's life, it happens, nothing is forever and the quicker we get our heads around this concept as an industry when hiring and firing, the quicker we'll start hiring people for attitude and energy and contribution as opposed to hiring people for their "years worth of experience" in the industry. Side note - the quicker we start firing (managing people out of their roles) for their poor attitudes, lack of contribution and energy, the better. I have experienced firsthand many people who are well and truly past their 'expiry date' in our industry, but they are still being recycled yearly, and it's gotta stop because it's giving our professionals a bad name and it's making it harder for recruiters to do their jobs.

Every time I interview someone who is proactively looking to move on from their current agency, I ask them one very simple question "What is the main reason you're looking to leave your current employer?". One of the main answers is "I want to grow professionally and I can't grow here". After hearing this answer for the 3rd time last week (no word of a lie) I asked my talent "Okay so what do you mean when you say you want more growth?" to which she was caught off-guard and unsure how to answer that question. I thought, "Uh huhhhh!" and it was a real lightbulb moment for me. It made me realise in that moment that so often we think we are chasing and wanting "growth", but we aren't sure how to articulate that, or perhaps we're covering up what the actual reason is for wanting to move on.

So often I see unnecessary and completely avoidable resignations happening due to relationship, communication and cultural breakdowns - things that we have complete control over fixing if we're given the opportunity to do so and if we're willing to put in the work. What blows my mind is that you wouldn't break up with your partner for making one or two mistakes in your relationship, would you? Yet we break up with our employers and employees every single day because of a couple of mistakes made or a misconstrued conversation, simply because we don't have the communication, conflict resolution or mediation skills to address the issue, unpack it (civilly) and find a solution to the problem. All too often my talent discuss their concerns with their employers (which takes a hell of a lot of guts and courage) prior to reaching out to us for help and all too often their requests, concerns and feedback fall on deaf ears. Unfortunately the behaviour stays the same and the revolving door continues to swing and whack people on the butt as they walk out (metaphorically speaking of course). I've said it once and i'll say it again, we have a lot of work to do in the 'leadership' department in our agencies which I believe will have a huge impact on increasing the retention of employees. Less long-lunches, more leadership podcasts.

Last week I met with a very successful Real Estate professional in his own right, who is now running a company that provides a service to our industry. We were talking about the retention of Property Management professionals in our industry (between 9 months to 2 years is what I most commonly see) and how it was quite low compared to other industries. His response was "Yeah but that's great for you, it means you're always placing people". He wasn't being unkind when he said this but I was a little taken back by the comment but also not shocked by it because i've had people make this type of comment to me many times before. I replied with "It's actually not great for me if i'm being honest, my job isn't to continue to recycle people in our industry, my job is to keep people happy and retained in their roles because ultimately, when I have talent approaching me for help but their track record shows that they haven't stuck around in a job for more than 9 months over the past 3 years, my clients won't take me or my talent seriously and it makes my job so much harder in the process". He was surprised by this comment but he totally got it, nodding along and replying with "Yeah wow, I never really looked at it that way, you're so right". Perception, shifted.

As an ex-real estate agent and now recruiter, i've internally carried the stigma of these specific job titles for the past 5+ years and I think that on some level, I have felt a small amount of 'shame' around what other people have felt my job actually is. In my real estate career my role was seen to be that of a washed up car sales-lady, a bottom-feeder who preyed on helpless little old ladies who were about to move into nursing homes and sell their family homes, swooping in, selling them the dream then massively underdelivering. As a recruiter, my role has been seen to be that of someone who creates fake advertisements to 'steal', 'lure' and 'headhunt' people from jobs that they are perfectly happy in, promising them the world and delivering them the polar opposite of that. Neither of these judgements or perceptions are even remotely close to being true, and I have felt proud working in both of these roles because for me, I have always known what my big "why" is.

What i've come to understand as I grow in business and as I step into becoming a more astute girl-boss (let's be real, I still have no idea what i'm actually doing most days and I still suck at organising my BAS), is that I can't take these opinions on as being "bible", and I especially can't take on opinions from people who have never ever walked a mile in my shoes.

I truly believe that once you get the "why" right in your life, the rest falls into place (not overnight, sometimes it takes like 4 years). For me, my "why" has always been about being in service to others, whether it lines my pockets or not (and very often, it doesn't). I have always felt fulfilled and successful in my day after i've genuinely helped someone on their journey, whatever that journey may look like. Sometimes being in service means honking, smiling and waving back at the old bloke who waves at all the cars on Old Coach Road of a morning (he is the cutest human on the planet), other days it means getting an incredibly worthy BDM the salary package they have been chasing for years. If it aligns with your "why", it ALL matters.