The title insurance industry is built on service. So, what happens when it becomes much more difficult for title agents to find, recruit and hire the skilled labor so necessary to their core functions?
We will soon find out.
A unique convergence of “The Great Resignation” and increased retirement and attrition — at the same time that the largest segment of the American workforce ages is running headlong into what’s expected to be a competitive purchase market — will require title agencies to put more focus on their service levels.
A significant portion of the American labor pool are reaching retirement age, leading to a naturally increased attrition rate in available labor. In combination with the pandemic-driven “Great Resignation,” the pivot to a purchase market that will demand more, not less, service creates an equation unfavorable to title agents and business owners across the industry.
That development could present serious challenges. As attrition collides with business needs, we’re likely to see the title industry put much more emphasis on hiring, retention, engagement and even new workflow models that rely far less on labor for basic tasks.
Retention over recruitment
In most real estate-related industries, it has long been the convention to simply add more front-line workers when order volume or service needs demand it. When that need abates, such as with a change of market cycle or order volume, the same businesses have traditionally ramped down their staffing levels to cut expenses. However, this model assumes an ample and available skilled labor market.
If the conditions sparking “The Great Resignation” continue, the pool of available skilled labor will remain low. We’re also witnessing a change of employee expectations, which is leading to a historically unusual existence of more available jobs than people willing to fill them. All of this adds up to a disheartening response rate when title employers seek to add employees. Accordingly, retention will soon become a major strategic priority for title employers seeking to maintain a qualified staff at adequate levels.
Retention begins with engagement and satisfaction
It’s a well-established human resources principle that, when it comes to keeping employees from seeking greener pastures, financial compensation isn’t the only factor involved. Instead, we’re increasingly finding that empowerment and engagement can be just as important as compensation to an employee wanting to come to work.
When we look to other industries, benefits like flexible work-from-home options, adequate paid time off, flexible benefits and the option for additional education and career training are all becoming more prominent in employee compensation packages.
But it goes beyond benefits. Numerous studies suggest that employees in almost any industry want to be heard. They want to feel as though they are part of something important and that they have the empowerment to help make that happen. That’s not something that can simply be delegated to the human resources department. Instead, it requires the active and consistent involvement of the leadership team.
The tools of engagement
For the title agent (or business owner) to construct a proactive retention effort, it starts with attitude and buy-in. If it’s done reluctantly or comes across as disingenuous, employees simply won’t buy-in. Increasingly, title decision makers should make engagement and retention part of their overall strategy, then see to the consistent execution of that strategy. A commitment to regular, meaningful and genuine two-way communication practices is a great start.
Part of that strategy should also include a thorough review of the workflow process. Many title agencies, even firms using the latest and greatest production technology, aren’t always getting the maximum benefit from their tools. As a result, we still see skilled employees tasked with simple, manual processes. When it comes to both retention and cost-effectiveness, this is not the pathway to success.
Many title businesses are starting to awaken to this reality, implementing and relying more heavily upon new technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or artificial intelligence solutions to relieve skilled labor of mundane, repetitive undertakings. For example, simple title searches, basic data entry or “stare and compare” processes can all be automated. In so doing, these businesses are freeing skilled employees from routine, boring tasks and redeploying them to more complex, challenging responsibilities.
But it’s not just technology that can help title businesses with their employee retention. More small- to mid-sized title businesses are also making human resources (HR) more than a part-time function for a manager with other, unrelated duties.
Whether they’re outsourcing it or dedicating an employee with legitimate decision-making powers, many C-level executives are acknowledging that they simply don’t have the time or, in some cases, the expertise to wear the HR hat in addition to the many others they’re required to wear.
For decades, recruitment and retention in the title industry leaned much more toward a recruitment strategy than retention strategy. Conditions are about to mandate that title business owners rethink that approach. But there are benefits beyond having superior service levels to making retention a priority.
By automating mundane functions, title agents will likely improve margins, reduce error rates and possibly even improve turn times and productivity — all while making more employees available to assist with the more complex tasks required of the business.
By committing to dedicated HR-related resources, they take important steps toward consistency and even continual improvement in what is becoming a critical part of any title business’ overall strategy.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.
Jimmy Lewis is the CEO and co-founder of TrueFocus Automation.
Sridhar Loganathan is COO and co-founder of TrueFocus Automation.
To contact the author of this story:
Jimmy Lewis at [email protected]
Sridhar Loganathan at [email protected]
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Sarah Wheeler at [email protected]