Poaching staff - can you stop it?


22 July 2021

By Kirsten Craze

It’s a reality of the real estate industry, staff move around and headhunting happens. But there are ways that principals and HR leaders can prevent potential poaching.

REINSW committee members Nicole MacGee, Head of Agent Support and HR at The Agency, and Craig Marshall, Managing Director at Marshall Chan Yahl, both agree that long term retention is less about money and more about communication, a supportive environment and flexibility.

Keep the dialogue going

It might sound cliche, but Ms MacGee said keeping the team intact starts with open dialogue.

“Retention is based on having a good rapport with your staff and maintaining that relationship by always having open lines of communication,” she said.

“That means not just feeling like you've got open communication with them, but that your staff actually feel as though those lines are open to them. It has to be a two-way street,” said Ms MacGee, Deputy Chair of the Agency Services Chapter Committee.

She said that COVID-19 and the subsequent changes in working conditions only highlighted the importance of dialogue.

“I put in phone calls to all staff members who are working from home and check in on them. If you're in a small business with half a dozen employees, make sure you put in regular calls even if it’s just 10 minutes to shoot the breeze,” she said.

“As much as it's important to have team meetings where everybody is involved, it's probably equally - if not more - important to have those one-on-one conversations. Because you might have a group of 10 people in a Zoom call and maybe some people will speak out, but others will just sit back and listen. Whereas, if you ask more pointed questions in a one-on-one you can get to the crux of how they’re feeling.”

Finding flexibility

Rigidity is no way to run a team according to Mr Marshall, a Committee Member of the Residential Sales Chapter, who has operated within franchise, corporate and boutique company structures over 38 years.

“I think where a lot of companies fall down is when they try to be too strict with their processes; things must be done our way or the highway. Every salesperson has their own personality and way of doing things. And every vendor has a personality. One system does not fit all. Staff can become unhappy when there’s no flexibility and that's where a lot of companies come unstuck,” he explained.

When Mr Marshall moved his team from a franchise to a corporate model several years ago, he said stricter work practices beyond his control meant some staff moved elsewhere.

“Originally, I had a very stable staff, others tried to poach them and they could never get them. But that all changed when I sold the business,” he explained.

“Since I started my own agency again, I’ve had those original staff members approach me about coming back because they knew how I operated before,” he said.

It’s (often) not about the money

There is more to keeping great staff than just dollars and sense, said Ms MacGee.

“Make sure your salaries are keeping up with the market, because that’s obviously one element of retaining staff. However, people will stay in a good working environment and get paid a little bit less, but they won't stay in a poor working environment and get paid a little bit less,” she said.

“You don't necessarily have to be paying over what your competitors are doing to retain your staff if you've got a good company culture,” she added.

Mr Marshall agreed that money is often not the greatest motivator for jumping ship.

“If you ask anybody, as long as the money is good, people only leave somewhere if the job satisfaction is not there, or because they’re just not being looked after,” he said.

“Basically, a good salesperson will make more money if they’re satisfied, happy and have good direction and support. If they lose that support, or the environment becomes toxic then they’ll walk,” he added.

Getting them to stay

If a team member announces their departure, Ms MacGee said it needn’t mean goodbye.

“You’d want to check their remuneration and decide whether you still think what you're paying them is reasonable for the output they're giving. If you feel as though you can’t move on their remuneration, then maybe there is something you could do from a Key Performance Indicator perspective to try and incentivise them to stay,” she explained.

Depending on what the role is and the reasons why they're saying they’re leaving - for example they're leaving because someone else has offered them the same package for less work, so to speak. Then perhaps there is a way you can rethink their situation and get them some assistance in some areas.

“It's important you understand why they want to go. Find out if you or your team has done something wrong, or if they’ve just been given an offer that they can't refuse,” she added.

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