Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE) lives up to its name—and more—as it moves into the No. 1 spot on the 2018 Training Top 125, underscoring its firm commitment to best-in-class employee training and development.
LeadingRE’s senior executives believe “it’s incumbent on our affiliates and the LeadingRE Network to develop training to ensure sales associate and brokerage professionalism and raise the performance bar,” says Dan Nelson, vice president, Performance Development. “We’re committed to it every day.”
As such, the company set some ambitious corporate goals for 2016/2017, including:
- Growing and developing the culture for its internal team and 120,000 sales associate customers
- Positively influencing the profitability of its 565 brokerages worldwide
- Strengthening member efforts to recruit and retain premier managers and sales associates
- Expanding its global footprint and building global member value proposition
Training helped seal the deal for success by “providing evergreen leadership and sales just-in-time training and coaching, empowering our managers and agents to enhance performance, close more transactions, and increase their bottom lines,” says Nelson. He points out that LeadingRE Institute students and conference attendees close 33 percent more member-to-member referrals. In addition, Network sales increased from $351 billion in 2015 to $368 billion, representing 1.1 million transactions in 2016.
In addition, notes Cecelia Chott, executive director, Institute Content Services, “showcasing the value of Institute for attracting top agent talent, providing behavioral assessment tools customized for job roles, supporting talent identification and development, and utilizing our train-the trainer Career Gold workshop and MAESTRO Leadership Certification Program to build magnetic cultures for top-performing professionals all contributed to affiliate and Network growth.”
Providing customized course syllabi and closed captioning for non-U.S. members also enhances Institute relevance. Incorporating live learning at LeadingRE’s 10th annual Global Symposium in Vienna and other events and regional Webinars in Asia and Latin America fostered learning and networking, resulting in client referrals to 100-plus countries in 2016. Chott says this global mindset has generated 48 new member companies in 18 countries in the last 12 months, despite a selective, quality-focused approach resulting in turning away 80 percent of membership inquiries.
Know Thy Customer
In 2016/2017, LeadingRE took the adage, “Know thy customer,” to a new level. One of the organization’s largest challenges was recognizing a need for consumer research specific to real estate and then realizing that type of “Big Data” just wasn’t available. So in 2016/2017, LeadingRE invested in a major research study and launched its Consumer Insights program to identify seven “personas” that characterize all real estate consumers. “By applying these findings, we empower real estate sales associates to customize their communication and service delivery to the specific style and decision-making behavior of each individual client,” Nelson explains. “Teaching agents to relate on such a personalized basis significantly increases their ability to convert buyers and sellers by better understanding their psyches and their needs.”
LeadingRE invested more than $250,000 in the Consumer Insights program for an exclusive landmark research study of the U.S. population that is the first of its kind in residential real estate. This proprietary psychographic data addresses consumer Interests, Desires, Emotions, Attitudes, and Lifestyle Segmentation. In addition to highly progressive marketing applications, Nelson says, Consumer Insights has a “critical training application for agents, who can be taught to ask certain strategic questions to profile their customers to create more powerful relationships that drive more efficient sales and marketing results.”
LeadingRE recognized the scope and complexity of this unique program and planned necessary training resources prior to launch, creating excitement and early adoption within the network. This entailed adding live training workshops, Webinars, online and printed training resources, and coaching into the training matrix. “Because this consumer research is the first of its kind in our industry, specialized training was needed by leaders and sales associates, so they can customize not only their communication but also their service delivery,” Nelson notes.
Participation in the program is increasing 10 percent each month, Nelson says, calling feedback “outstanding.” In real estate, he adds, “property data has always been the focus, but by expanding our efforts to ‘people’ data and training our agents to apply these findings, we are having a dramatic impact on the effectiveness and confidence of our agent population.”
Another successful program is the MAESTRO Leadership Certification Program, which Chott believes is one of the most effective programs LeadingRE has ever delivered. In just two years, attendance increased 168 percent for the program, which consists of three in-person, interactive three-day workshops covering the three pillars of great leadership:
2. People Development
3. Business Growth
The robust, relevant agenda is taught by a diverse team of accomplished real estate leaders led by leadership coach Mike Staver. The six-month program begins with a behavioral assessment tailored for real estate sales managers and includes numerous pre- and post-workshop assignments, Webinars, accountability partner pairings, and ongoing communication and motivation.
LeadingRE recently added content and a focus on “Gestalt” at the end of the workshop on business growth. “Lead instructor Rosey Koberlein of Long Realty in Arizona was the genius behind this idea to tie together content from the three pillars,” Chott says. “We now end the MAESTRO program with a ‘What’s your personal gestalt?’ exercise.”
The Gestalt philosophy is being applied across LeadingRE for a more holistic approach to work, messaging, and service delivery. “Our organization has grown rapidly and with numerous departments or divisions focused on various areas,” Chott says, “so it’s too easy to build and work from silos without ‘connecting the dots’ or creating more meaningful perceptions of how each person matters and contributes to the Network’s success and the difference it makes for our broker affiliates.”
In between MAESTRO workshops, instructors send text messages to students weekly, reinforcing core content and reminders to move forward with action plans to which they committed during the last workshop. This is effective in staying top of mind, being supportive of their efforts when back in their offices, and helping them stay on track, Nelson says.
As a result, “we’re seeing tight bonds forged and continued alumni interaction online and offline two years after training ends,” he notes. “They are sharing what they learned with their broker and teaching other managers, extending the impact of the training beyond our student base.”
Key performance metrics for 2016 MAESTRO training include:
- 65 percent experienced a productivity increase of 25 percent or more transactions per agent than the prior year.
- 70 percent experienced 90 to 100 percent retention of agents they-wished to keep; nearly all attrition was at their initiative to remove low-performing agents.
- 90 percent said they were significantly happier, less stressed, and more productive.
- 45 percent experienced an increase in net profit of l5 percent or more.
Quantitative data is critical, Nelson says, but he's also impressed by “the palpable enthusiasm and passion witnessed from MAESTRO students.” The average evaluation score for all pillars rating value of the program was 4.81 out of 5.0. Feedback from participants includes:
- “I can't say enough about the great balance of teaching and interactive exercises for applying concepts; I learned so much more than in most traditional classroom environments.”
- “I am walking away armed with a system for diagnosing what my agents need, so I can provide relevant coaching and development.”
- “I'm anxious to get back to my office/company to implement all I've learned!”
- “The accountability partner component of this program has made all the difference in connecting the dots between learning and execution.”
After witnessing the results from the MAESTRO Leadership Certification Program for sales managers in the last few years, the LeadingRE leadership team committed to offering internal managers a similar learning and development opportunity. “We worked with the MAESTRO instructors to capture and modify training content to offer the first LeadingRE Leadership Lab,” Nelson says. “Every manager in the U.S. and our global managers from Thailand, Turkey, and Germany all convened in Chicago for two, two-and-a-half day workshops for deep dives into creating culture, coaching, and developing their people and to share and generate best business practices across all divisions.”
LeadingRE's C-suite executives—which include the CEO, COO, CFO, senior vice president of Membership Services, and vice president of Performance Excellence—each play significant roles in training/learning and development initiatives collectively and individually. “Our CEO's vision made it possible to develop and launch Institute, our online delivery platform, and she continues to set the standard for commitment in the learning space overall,” Chott says. “She meets with our Learning team and faculty deans regularly to provide feedback and ideas for future course development and live training workshops. Additionally, she works closely with the VP of Performance Excellence on internal employee training.”
The COO ensures that “we have the highest quality marketing and in-house production capabilities in the industry and oversees the planning and delivery for our annual conferences and member events,” Chott continues. “The CFO develops pro-formas for new initiatives, monitors budgets, helps us gauge return on investment/value, and reports financial results. The SVP of Membership Services is responsible for membership growth and service delivery, making this role invaluable in providing feedback on existing training/learning offerings from affiliates, as well as insights on what new courses or knowledge transfer delivery systems we might consider.”
Mobile delivery capability continues to grow as LeadingRE seeks new ways to incorporate it into its offerings. One hundred percent of Institute online courses are mobile friendly, making it easy for students to take a course while in the car or in Starbucks between appointments, Nelson says. “We’re moving to mobile-first course design and production with point-of-view scenarios that allow sales associates to learn by failing in a low-stakes training environment instead of practicing and learning via trial and error with consumers.”
Recognizing the mobile nature of the real estate professional, who spends a small percentage of time in the office, LeadingRE launched a new, more engaging and navigable Intranet called Access. It is mobile responsive with access to Institute and marketing resources on any device. “Easier access results in a better user experience and works well for those utilizing single sign-in (SSO) customized learning sites,” Nelson says. “And auto-detected Internet connection speeds deliver the best definition- level quality for student viewing.”
Access features thousands of photographs taken by sales associates around the world. These photos also are used on the company’s public-facing Website, LeadingRE.com, incorporating global lifestyle search with “See what it’s like to live there” information and thousands of community photos submitted by affiliates. Nelson says LeadingRE hosts weekly Facebook contests for best photos captured around the world and continuously offers prizes and recognition to build the company’s photo banks.
Nelson notes that mobile access increased more than 160 percent for managers and 60 percent for sales associates last year and partially attributes increased course enrollments to it.
Incorporating social media is another trend LeadingRE sees and is addressing. “We constantly are updating our social media course catalog in Institute, Webinars, and live training sessions throughout the year designed for various constituent needs—sales, marketing, technology, and leader roles,” Nelson says. “We allow opt-in by our students into private online groups (many tied to specific training programs), and we’re selective in providing access to ensure safe places and non-competitive participants, which alleviates concerns of both leaders and learners and also generates free and open discussion and learning within these social spaces.”
C Is for Collaboration
Collaboration—via social media and other avenues—is one of LeadingRE’s core values as encapsulated by the acronym, CLEAR (Collaboration, Leadership, Excellence, Accountability, Respect). LeadingRE constantly recognizes employee activities demonstrating these values via monthly staff awards, “shoutouts” on the company intranet, and employee evaluations. “Our HR department works with an Employee Council to plan events and activities to foster collaboration such as our Global Culture Club, monthly breakfasts, lunch with leaders, holiday parties, awards, and care packages for remote employees,” Nelson says.
LeadingRE enjoys strong relationships with its brokers and teams, and their collaboration is demonstrated by the company’s industry-leading broker-to-broker referral business. “Our relocation directors are able to capture and direct out-of-market referrals to LeadingRE members because our results and relationships foster trust and confidence,” Chott says. “We assist by providing resources such as our ‘Art of the Introduction’ contests and campaigns featuring member videos with real-life referral stories.”
Relationships are developed and strengthened during idea-sharing and networking sessions during LeadingRE’s live events for all roles within brokerage staff, including an annual conference week, global summits, and cultural immersion events. “Many individuals collaborate on panels for presentations to benefit peers, and we work with advisory councils, such as Relocation, MARTech, Global, and Luxury, that meet regularly to brainstorm and collaborate on solutions for common needs,” Nelson notes.
LeadingRE’s Career Gold is a two-day in-person workshop led by Dean of Innovation Matthew Ferrara for brokerage Learning and Development staff. “Our industry does not offer enough training and networking opportunities for these real estate Learning and Development professionals who play such a critical role within real estate brokerages,” Chott says. “Career Gold gives us an opportunity to bring them together to learn about learning trends and innovative approaches they can incorporate into new and experienced agent training.”
Topics change every year but include areas such as distance learning, measuring results, making training engaging and fun, creative writing, and storytelling, with “Ted Talk”-like opportunities for trainers to share ideas on their most successful training experiences from the last year.
“CEO Exchange Groups” are master-mind sharing groups comprising principal and managing brokers/CEOs of member real estate firms who do not compete with one another. They meet by phone and in-person a few times a year to share challenges, opportunities, and best practices; critique each other’s business operations; and generally offer cross-mentorship to each other.
LeadingRE also offers Smart Start, a mentoring program for new relocation staff entailing collaboration between the Network, seasoned relocation professionals, and new mentees, as well as blended learning approaches via zoom calls, online courses, and best practices communities.
As LeadingRE heads into 2018, Nelson and Chott believe the future will bring an even sharper focus on customized learning that fits individual student needs. “If we had unlimited funding for training, one of the top things on our wish list would be to build more individual training that could put every sales associate into every challenge he or she can possibly have with customers using immersive, goal-based courses,” they say.
Gazing even farther forward to 2028, “we expect our staff will be larger, located around the globe, and even more reliant on technology,” Nelson says. “Training’s role will be finding ways to make barriers to training entry disappear, provide and better measure informal learning, and feature relevant training for increasingly global students.”
Total number of employees and independent contractors⁄franchisees trained overall annually: 130,120
Average length of employee service: 11 years
Percentage of job openings filled by internal candidates: 77%
Percentage of new hires referred by employees: 75%
Total number of employees and independent contractors⁄ franchisees trained annually via instructor-led classroom sessions: 95,000
Total number of employees and independent contractors⁄franchisees trained annually via online, self-paced study: 65,000
Number of courses offered as instructor-led classroom sessions: 450
Number of courses offered as instructor-led virtual classroom sessions: 250
Number of courses offered as online-self-paced modules: 1,100
“We believe training is improved when it captures, supports, and reflects the company or corporation’s culture,” says Dan Nelson, VP, Performance Development, LeadingRE. “For us, that means every aspect must be true to our core CLEAR values: Collaboration, Leadership, Excellence, Accountability, Respect.”
Additionally, he says, training that continuously builds upon itself by varying and blended delivery, while expanding upon the content making next-level courses and resources readily available, is key.
To maximize results, Nelson suggests, “continue to engage with students after training is complete via your learning management system; one-on-one; or via social networks, texts, follow-up Webinars, or online hangouts—whatever works for your teams.”