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Technology Adoption: Impact on Office Synergy

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable this month discusses agent adoption of technology.

Moderator:
Robert Bailey, Broker/Owner, Bailey Properties, Santa Cruz, Calif.; Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations, NAR

Panelists:
Mike Pappas
, CEO, Keyes Co. Illustrated Properties, Miami, Fla.
Dan Forsman, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, Atlanta, Ga.
Tom Skiffington, Broker/Owner, RE/MAX 440, Perkasie, Pa.
Chad Ochsner, Employing Broker, RE/MAX Alliance, Denver, Colo.

Robert Bailey: Business technology is a billion-dollar business, and brokers invest significant dollars each year to ensure their agents are efficient, connected, and competitive. But the adoption and usage of all this new technology can have drawbacks. Some agents are slower—or less interested—in continually learning new ways to do things. Others are just too busy out there in the field to be concerned with changing technology. So, what are brokers doing today to ensure a return on their investment? And, as more agents choose to work remotely instead of from desktops at the office, what’s the impact on company culture and synergy? We’re checking in with some tech-forward company leaders. Mike, what’s your take on all this?

Mike Pappas: Well, the very fact that agents are working remotely indicates a mastery of technology. But when new systems come in, adoption and engagement are the so-called ‘special sauce’ that can make a critical difference, so we’re laser-focused on getting everyone to see the value and get onboard. At the same time, we’re very aware that everyone learns differently, so we offer a smorgasbord of emails, webinars, one-on-one training and on-site/off-site coaching opportunities so that agents can become familiar with programs on their own time and in their own way.

Dan Forsman: We’re big believers in communication, and it’s important that what we introduce to our agents is both relevant and exciting. So, we’ve instituted what we call an “Innovation Council,” made up of leaders from all our offices. They communicate to us what the agents want and need, and they also become the first-line conduits to take new innovations back to them. Then, as Mike indicated, it’s a matter providing training in enough ways and times to help bring every agent up to speed.

Chad Ochsner: I’ll second that. We host a consistent “Fourth Friday FAST” meeting, which stands for “Fantastic Alliance Services and Tools,” where, among other things, we introduce new systems and programs, in addition to new marketing partnerships our agents want to know about—like Best Buy discounts they can offer their clients. From there, branch office managers sit down one-on-one to help agents understand and see the value of newly installed technology. And monitoring is essential to track the usage.

Tom Skiffington: Most of our agents frequently work out of the office, so it’s especially crucial for them to have a technological edge. But since we’re spending some 20 percent of our outlay on technology, ROI is equally critical. When a new agent comes into the company, we set everything up for them—website, social media pages, search portal profiles, their blog, and our proprietary lead-generation system. Then we sit down and walk them through everything—one-on-one, small group coaching, whatever it takes to be sure they know how to use it to their advantage. Every time we bring in something new, it’s the same routine.

RB: With all these people out of the office, what happens to company culture? How do we maintain the kind of synergy, mentorship and reward systems that inspire camaraderie and performance?

MP: We take the company culture to them, with social events like “Wind Down Wednesdays,” where we buy the first round of drinks at a local watering hole. Or we might reserve a night at a local gallery, where everyone drinks a little wine and gets hands-on painting lessons. Sometimes a manager will drop in on an agent in the middle of an open house. When it’s quiet, that can be a great time for a casual little one-on-one.

DF: We schedule “Power Lunch Fridays” at various offices, with good food, cool guest speakers, and so forth—and they’re often covered live on Facebook, so even those who can’t attend in-person can follow what’s going on.

TS: Social events provide a great opportunity to launch new programs and systems because everyone is relaxed and receptive. But the simple truth is, if some new piece of technology helps make them more profitable and productive, you can bet they will get onboard.

CO: Something that’s been successful for us is a company-wide internal app we install on agents’ cellphones so that we can push out notifications, special messaging and so forth. With some 50 percent of our agents working remotely, it helps everyone stay in touch with what’s happening in the office. That, plus the regular social events we plan, is our best route to preserving synergy.

DF: American culture as a whole is changing, and we’re changing with the times.

RB: In the end, our job is to provide value to our agents. As they say, “If you build it, they will come.”

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

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