Category Archives: Real Estate Financial Services

The Gift of Holiday Hiring

The holidays often bring warm thoughts of family, celebrations—and some hard-earned time off. In the land title insurance, settlement, and appraisal industries, we see this season as a time to close the books on a year well-done. Office parties take the place of team meetings; we wrap up both projects and presents. We sometimes leave many new challenges for the New Year—including hiring.

If you push hiring to the bottom of your To-Do list, you’re not alone. It’s common for both companies and candidates to slow down their job searches at the end of the year, even though many business writers like Debra Donston-Miller of Ladders advise against it.

After all, the breaks that the end of the year promises also come with the final push to meet quarterly benchmarks, set new goals, and finalize future budgets. A lot of stress can come with that holiday cheer!

But it’s also true that the New Year rush to hire floods the market with both jobs and job-seekers. Instead of thinking of winter as a time to put a freeze on hiring, consider six reasons to warm up to holiday hiring:

1. Seasons’ Greetings and Budget Meetings

A new hire is an investment in the health and talent of a team.

Throughout the Real Estate and Financial sectors, the end of the calendar year usually means it’s time to re-budget. New hires can be a big factor in the layout of your financial plan. But it’s nearly impossible to get an accurate picture of your finances or your hiring capability without having a sense of what your team will look like in the new year. Starting the hiring process early can eliminate some of the financial surprise expected in bringing on new personnel.

Spending a little more can mean high returns in productivity and revenue long after the holiday season ends. You can set your team up for success and growth on the very first day of the new year by finding a new leader early.

2. New Year. New You. New Hire.

Resolution Season can prime people for change, even if they aren’t actively job-hunting.

The culture of making resolutions and the symbolic power of the New Year can influence us even if we don’t plan on making a formal resolution. This can be good for businesses looking for top talent when unemployment is at a 10-year low. The open-mindedness and good-will associated with the season can make even passive candidates more receptive to change.

Just as businesses use this time to budget, individuals are also thinking about meeting financial goals. Maybe unsurprisingly, 53% of resolutions involve saving money. Even for high-earners, the holidays can come with a huge price tag. There are donations to make, gifts to buy, and travel arrangements to book. A new job, better benefits, higher pay, or even a shorter commute can all appeal to goals for saving.

3. All I Want for Christmas is an Em-ploy-ee

Holiday hiring puts you in front of top talent first.

Low unemployment rates are driving up the competition to find quality workers. Top talent is tied down across the board in title insurance, appraisal, and settlement. The executive and managerial levels are especially tight, with only 2% of leadership candidates unemployed at this time last year.

However, you can get an edge in the candidate search by leveraging holiday time. The reality is that many companies do slow down hiring, despite expert advice not to. This can be to your advantage. Holiday hiring puts you on candidates’ radar long before the traditional mid-January job rush. With fewer companies competing for candidates at once, you can make meaningful, lower-pressure connections with the best people.

4. There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

The hiring process takes time, and the holidays build in plenty of it.

The holidays offer a decent amount of flexibility, between office closures and project completions. Candidates are more likely to be able to take time away for interviews without compromising their normal work. Furthermore, Glassdoor found that over half of workers only use up “about half” of their vacation time. Vacation accrual not only allows for flexibility to interview. It also offers candidates a good reason to submit their resignation early in order to start fresh in a new role.

5. It’s Snow Time for Home-Buying

During the winter slowdown, new executives have a chance to fully settle-in with their teams.

The real estate market typically shows the least activity between October and February. This also slows down title insurance, settlement, and appraisal needs. It may seem strange to take on new employees during the off-season. But it takes time to onboard and to acclimate to company culture take time. Even the most adaptable leaders often face an adjustment period with new teams and office environments. You can capitalize on the holiday season as a chance to give new leaders time to hit their stride before peak season. And you won’t be as likely to use valuable resources to hire, onboard, or train during the summer rush.

6. 8 Days of Hanukkah, 36 Days of Hiring

By moderate estimates, it takes 36 days to hire someone.

At the executive level, this timeline easily increases to 45-90+ days to allow for market research and the vetting of high-quality candidates. If you wait until January 1 to start a talent search, you may not have the position filled until March or later.

While this timeline can be daunting, any progress is still progress. Using the holidays to work for you starts the hiring process earlier than for those companies that wait until after New Year’s Day. Holiday hiring helps you beat the January rush and moves up the likely timeline for placement.

The Bow on it All:

Holiday hiring can give you an advantage over competitors. Top talent is in extremely high demand. Getting an early start on hiring can match you with executives before the New Year hiring thaw and jumpstart your returns at the closing table. And if resources are tight during the seasonal bustle, there are other ways to help you cross “Holiday Hiring” off your Wishlist. Networking at holiday parties, interviewing digitally, or even partnering with a trusted third-party recruiter can all be ways to capitalize on the holidays without added stress. No matter how you use holiday hiring, think of it as the best business gift you can give yourself.

Real and True Online: Why Authenticity on the Web Can Help Your Business Attract High- Quality Candidates

In our increasingly digital lives, private web users are becoming more aware of inauthentic web personae.  Scams, bots, deep fakes, and hackers are just some of the risks we open ourselves up to on the web. And in the era of Big Data, users are critical of companies that profit off of their web presence.  In the recruiting world, these cautious web users will often also be potential candidates. Being authentic online can help your company appear trustworthy, which is especially important because of the financial high-stakes of the Land Title Insurance, Settlement, and Appraisal industries. As more and more top-tier professionals are conducting their job searches virtually, online authenticity may just be what attracts the best candidates to you and away from your competitors.

To get a sense of why online authenticity is so important, consider this: In August, Disney launched a coordinated Twitter thread to market the unveiling of its streaming service, DisneyPlus. The thread—featuring icons like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic—could have been a charming conversation between beloved franchises. Except, for a significant part of Disney’s online audience, it backfired horribly. Instead of a natural chat, the thread struck many users as a grossly-scripted corporate stunt. The point of the thread—to advertise DisneyPlus—wasn’t the problem. The problem was the phony sense of community Disney forced onto its branded assets, and thousands of Twitter users criticized Disney for patting itself on the back.

Disney’s thread is a case example of a lapse in authenticity. On the one hand, Disney has near-infinite resources and is perhaps the premier group of creatives for our time. But in August, their storytelling expertise fell a bit short.

So what does this have to do with finding high-quality talent in the Land Title Insurance, Settlement, and Appraisal industries?

The short answer: Everything.

This mishap just goes to show that no company is too big or too creative to misread its audience. And that audience will call out plain-old fake web personalities.

So what is authenticity, why does it matter, and how do you cultivate it online?

Let’s leave the internet and turn to the traditional interview. How many qualified candidates have you turned down because they felt like they were putting on a show or forcing their personality in-person? How often have you brought people onto your team mostly because you felt something genuine about them?

Often, this one interaction decides the direction of this person’s life with your company. Your gut-feelings about a candidate can also shape the entire future of the role, the team, or even the company.

The age-old adage stands: First impressions are everything, and you only get one.

It’s easier to see how first impressions work face-to-face; we sense when people are performing in front of us, even if we can’t explain how or what feels “off” about them. Users also rely on first impressions online. As both companies and candidates conduct online research for a potential position, the distance that your devices create between you can make candidates more skeptical of your business and its online personality.

Authenticity Defined

There are many interpretations of authenticity and even more ideas about how to be authentic. But this first-impression, gut-feeling reaction is a pretty good place to start.

According to leading researchers at Robert Morris University, authenticity is “a presentation of the self in a truthful way.” To be authentic online is to act in a way that feels real to your visitors and true to your business’ mission.

We can see in Disney’s Twitter thread what happens when you miss one of these pieces. Disney’s thread was certainly true to its creative and collaborative missions. However, the execution felt fake to its viewers, and that was enough to unravel the entire post.

Authenticity Matters

You might be thinking right now: “But my business exists in the real world, off the internet, too! If candidates really want to know who we are and what we’re about, they should just call or wait for their in-person interviews!”

That’s all well and good, but let’s look at some quick facts:

  1. 93% of businesses use social media to fill jobs (SHRM)
  2. 90% of recent job seekers relied on the internet to find or research a position (Pew Research)
  3. Visitors average 2 minutes, 17 seconds on a webpage (Brafton)

As both candidates and companies increasingly conduct job searches online, research suggests that businesses are becoming inseparable from their online lives. Your recruiting strategy must involve a healthy web and social media presence.

Much like the in-person interview, your potential candidates are making instantaneous judgements about your business’ credibility. And much like the in-person interview, you may only be given one chance to make a good impression. More often than not, the initial contact a candidate will have with your business will happen online. The impressions that your company makes in the first online encounter help establish its reputation.

Because it directly relates to trust, your authenticity online is a critical point for attracting high-quality candidates. We often think about using social media to check-in on current and potential employees. We use it to confirm that their online lives complement company values; things like suggestive images or controversial posts are red flags. But this basic practice works the other way around:

In the two minutes they spend on your website, candidates make snap decisions about the quality, appeal, reputation, and values of your organization.

The bottom line is, your candidates may never interact with your business in the real world if you fail to earn their trust online. And the best way to do that is to have an authentic online presence.

Being Authentic Online

The catch is that there are no hard-and-fast rules about how to be authentic online. In fact, a quick internet search on just that question sends back over 250 million results. But there are some common building blocks to work with:

  1. Be Visible on Social Media. By one count, there are 65 social media sites out there right now. It’s not realistic or useful to be on all of them. But you should find a handful of meaningful outlets to highlight your business and give visitors a better idea of its personality.
  2. Practice Social Consciousness. Social consciousness can take many forms, from meaningful involvement in a local organization to a broad stance on global social issues. Being active in your company’s various communities makes you more personable, authentic, and trustworthy. Done tactfully and honestly, social consciousness can demonstrate a real, true connection between your brand and the public.
  3. Share Quality Content. Know your audience and what they value about your company. Invest in fact-checking, design, and copyediting. Most importantly, create content that enhances your business’ mission.

Technology is changing every day, and so is how we recruit through the web. Just as we sift through a high volume of applicants to find the best possible hire, candidates use a similar process to find the best possible work environment. You can attract more first-rate candidates in Land Title Insurance, Settlement, and Appraisal by cultivating an authentic, credible persona online. Overall, if it feels like a real representation of you and your company, it probably is.

Offering Candidates the Benefits of Less Doubt

We’ve been there many times with candidates. Great interviews are had. Numbers are discussed. Basic compensation parameters are nearly finalized. Side perks are presented.  Everything appears to be in order. Happy client, Happy candidate. Then comes the time to open the inevitable can of worms that may be the benefits discussion.

In the Land Title Insurance and Settlement space, the cost and structural differences between former and new employer can often be huge. What is covered, what is not covered…does the spouse have a better plan, HSA, employer contributions…could the base be raised to compensate for a potential short fall? The list goes on and on and with numerous variables that now come into play, a wrench is sometimes thrown right into the gears of an otherwise smooth deal. Now, of course we attempt to communicate potential short falls as early as possible. That said, there is an art form to communicating less than amazing news and an artist must work with the materials at hand! Sometimes it just “is what it is”. Larger employers generally have more pull than smaller shops when it comes to negotiating lower costs with insurance companies, but even the big guys are seeing the numbers get out of hand. The relentless increase in the costs associated with healthcare benefits is causing the market to get creative to help balance cost and offerings, which can add more potential complications into the inevitable benefits analysis. So, what are employers, candidates, individual hiring authorities, and recruiters to do?

According to a recent SHRM article, larger employers can expect their total cost for providing medical coverage to rise 5% again for the sixth year in a row. That would be a 6% increase if they were not actively getting creative and making changes to curb that increase. The average annual employer cost for providing medical coverage is $15,000 per employee, and as mentioned earlier, smaller employers often see higher costs due to decreased negotiating power. On the other side, the average cost to employees including premiums and all out-of-pocket costs is estimated to average $14,800 in 2019. Many of the creative options used to reduce cost result in higher contribution rates for employees or reduced benefit options typically involving higher deductibles or limited provider networks. In many cases, larger groups are cutting out the brokers and negotiating directly with healthcare providers, direct contracting. This usually results in lower prices but employees are limited to that single provider. The market is also seeing larger employers pushing telehealth options that can greatly reduce costs by utilizing the latest technologies, allowing employees to have “face-to-face” meetings with a health professional from the comfort of their homes, via smartphone, tablet, or computer. Some larger employers are even cutting out standard care providers and are setting up onsite clinics and becoming providers themselves.

On top of the already tumultuous U.S. healthcare system is the prospect that our politicians have been threatening for decades to “fix it”. Both sides are screaming about burning down this or that and starting over, or healthcare for all, or Medicare for most. Promises are made and broken while employers and employees alike try to figure out how they are going to navigate the healthcare rapids while staying afloat. The fact that one’s ability to provide basic healthcare to themselves and their family is mixed into another large decision, making a potential career move, can make for a rather stressful situation.

We don’t claim to have the answer to sorting out the U.S. healthcare system, but we do have some tips for employers to keep in mind while going through the hiring process that may help to avoid late stage surprises.

  1. Understand the Competition’s Offerings. One of the best tips we can offer land title insurance and settlement companies looking to add talent is to know where your current benefits package stands relative to the market. Are your premiums higher than average for a similar deductible? Do you only offer HSA plans when the competition offers a PPO at a similar cost? It pays dividends to know your strengths and shortfalls to highlight your advantages. Also keep in mind the company dynamic of the target candidate. If you are looking to hire from an industry giant or from a smaller company, they may have vastly different offerings. By keeping these dynamics in mind, and a strategy thought out ahead of time, you may make much more appealing total compensation offers that take into account the unavoidable differences in employee healthcare costs.
  2. Go Visual! Having a brief summary of benefits ready to share with potential employees tends to be helpful for candidates that are trending towards an offer. No one wants to try and sort through the dense packets provided by insurance providers with obscure warnings and fine print, especially when the offer conversation is at the goal line. The basics can be conveyed with an easy sheet, more general in nature or customized to the individual.
  3. Get Creative to Better Compete. If you can swing it, maybe think of new options or perks to offer to help combat a less than stellar health benefit plan. These items can be attractive selling points to new hires. Options like the latest telehealth system or access to an on-site clinic, or any number of fringe benefits that can be offered to help make up possible cost disparities.

According to an article by AHIP, “71% of Americans are satisfied with their current employer-provided health coverage. Further, 56% indicated coverage remains a key factor in their choice to stay at their current job.” The peace of mind that comes with good or even adequate healthcare is irreplaceable and taking that into account is a vital part of attracting top talent. In the Land Title Insurance and Settlement space, employers and employees look on anxiously as the healthcare debate rages and significant changes are suggested. The changes could be for the better or for the worse. Regardless, they may affect everyone. Moving forward, keeping an eye on benefits and understanding the enormous impact they can have on current employees and potential candidates’ decisions will likely serve your company well.

The Silver Wave Opportunity

Time and change are two variables that can be extremely abstract thoughts. To the best of our knowledge, you cannot stop either one of them. However, time and change are concepts we can all relate to in the Title, Settlement and Appraisal space. Land records are subject to progression just as are we. From ink quill and parchment, hand written paper abstracts in brand new county buildings in the late 1800’s, to the tapping of typewriters in smoked filled offices in the 1900’s, to the digital age with e-closings and completely paperless environments of the 2000’s and beyond. Yet, so do the title professionals evolve that facilitate the core real estate transaction. There is no questioning that a sizeable number of seasoned veterans remain the backbone of the industry and will eventually complete their last file and ride off into the sunset. This “Silver Wave” phenomenon, as it has been described, highlights two fundamental topics:

  1. “Silver Wavers” aren’t necessarily following in the proverbial footsteps of their predecessors when it comes to calling it quits.
  2. Fresh, knowledgeable talent is needed to step up when the time comes.

According to a Forbes article published in February of this year, “the unemployment rate stood at 4% and the economy added a fantastic 304,000 new jobs that month. From whence are these new workers coming? The answer is quite surprising. Over the past year, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly 40% of all employment gains were driven by Americans aged 55 and older. And truth be told, this should not be coming as a surprise. You may ask yourself why Baby Boomers are continuing to work longer than previous generations. Three key points stand out (Forbes):

  1. Financial motivations: A 2015 GAO study finds that 30% of workers aged 55 and over have no retirement savings and many others may not have saved enough to live comfortably in retirement. This works in conjunction with a decline in taxes that comes with a shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans after age 65.
  2. Health: Per data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people are living longer and healthier than before, allowing them to work longer.
  3. Fulfillment: The most important reason is that a large majority of older workers actually want to continue working because they find their work meaningful and rewarding.

While there may be lingering stigmas around the aging workforce of yesteryear, these Boomers are bucking the trend. And when it comes to our beloved Title and Appraisal space, if it weren’t for experienced talent staying longer, consequences may have been dire. It’s no secret that attracting Millennials and Generation Z to the Land Title Insurance and Settlement industry can be a difficult task. Unless a family member or close relative happens to operate in the space, these younger generations, like most living Americans, have a cursory understanding at best of title insurance. Title also tends to be slightly slower in adapting new technology and workplace fads compared to other “trendier” industries such as private equity or tech. The Title industry is catching up in some areas by providing remote based capabilities, casual work environments, community volunteer opportunities and by offering programs to better the planet…Yet, the Title Industry may still lack the overall visibility and market awareness to compete for new talent with other, more common professions.

The task of wooing current and future workforce generations is of the utmost importance. The fight for top talent entering the workforce, who will succeed the current regime, is a competitive one. Costs are rising as certain skillsets are becoming more valuable due to scarcity. Costs are likely going to continue to rise in the short term. That means not just salaries, but training, benefits, creating market visibility, and attracting new and experienced blood alike.

There may not be one single end all be all solution to stem the tide of the silver wave. However, one strategy, that won’t ding the pocketbook and may help woo talent, involves deploying a resource you may already have on staff: Mentors. A Mentorship program rewards everyone involved, as experience and knowledge is passed along, paving the way for new long lasting and rewarding careers.

As referenced previously, one of the main components, if not the main component to Boomers working longer is fulfillment. If one is simply working to earn a little bit of extra cash or as a way to get out of the house, then there will likely always be a place at the golf course or in retail. There is no shame there as we all know friends and family that would like to follow that path one day! For others who believe age is just a number, for those that don’t want to let society dictate when to hang it up, it might be more about achieving fulfillment by taking pride in their work, continuing to perfect their craft, and leaving a lasting legacy.

For many experienced hands, providing valuable mentoring input could help provide that fulfillment. While Boomers are working longer, we suggest encouraging their involvement in a structured mentoring program. Mentorship opportunities provide deeper levels of job satisfaction to those toward the end of their careers, as well as, helping to attract the right type of fresh talent coveting career growth. Mentoring can also strengthen relationships within your team and help develop intergenerational awareness for both mentor and mentee. Much like putting together a top performing sports team, you need the savvy veterans to cohesively mesh with the rising stars. It seems that in Title, Settlement and Appraisal, being open to rostering both can be a winning formula.

Press 1 to Learn About AI, Press 2 to Ignore It

The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. There are websites administering this test online where individuals can chat back and forth with an unknown source and at the end, guess if it was a computer or another human. Similarly, it seems companies have been administering the same test on us with hundreds of unsolicited calls to our homes and cell phones. Unfortunately, these robocalls continue to fail miserably at winning our collective hearts and minds. Since the 1950’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistive software has made huge strides: it has won Jeopardy, beaten the great chess masters, and now it has turned its web camera on huge portions of the economy. The latest technology out there is looking to blur the lines between man and machine with a humanistic voice and software that could find us having pleasant conversations with our future robot overlords without even knowing it’s a computer. The same market forces driving automation within the manufacturing industry or self-driving cars within the transportation industry are also at work within the recruiting field. Great advancements are being made that could automate significant portions of the tracking, screening, assessment, and retention portions within HR and recruiting. With these advancements, will there still be a place for a human touch?

The latest AI technology designed for the HR and recruiting industry is able to handle dozens of different monotonous and repetitive tasks. Today, large firms are primarily using this technology to sort through and communicate with thousands of incoming applicants at lightening speeds. AI bots are pushing, scanning, parsing, and evaluating candidate applications in relatively brief intervals. These Bots can contact and interact with new and existing applicants via email, text, and some “verbal” dialog to extract additional required info and generate interest. Candidates can be administered logic-based competency games where their every move will be tracked and used as part of the evaluation.

AI software can also conduct video interviews, asking prepopulated questions while analyzing facial expressions and eye movement to record stress, inattention, anxiety, or numerous other involuntary pieces of info, up to approximately 25,000 different data points from just one, 15 minute interaction. The AI software does not have to deal with the same functional limitations that humans may have such as language barriers or the tendency for interviewers to “zone out.” Once a candidate finally makes it past the machine’s user adjustable scrutiny, machines are able to cross reference the calendars of multiple recruiters and hiring authorities to find coinciding open windows of availability, schedule calls, and set interview reminders for the humans involved.

But the machines don’t stop once a hire is made. AI software continues to go even further as it stays vigilant and tracks and analyzes performance and retention KPI’s such as tardiness, work output, social media activity, and PTO usage. A recent Forbes article discussing IBM’s AI system claimed that the company was able to predict within 95% accuracy if a team member is about to quit his or her job, thereby saving IBM over $300 million in turnover costs. Thus, it has been established that AI does and will provide insight into employees who may be ready for a new challenge or departments that are understaffed, perhaps eventually preemptively finding and suggesting candidates for current or perceived upcoming vacancies. For the time being humans will still make the choice of who to hire, but even that could one day face the inevitable adaptability presented by AI.

So, what is left for us air breathers to do in the above described automated dystopia? Firstly, it appears that most current AI programs within the HR and recruiting world are geared towards high-volume staffing and bulk applicant type environments. Fortune 500 giants have thousands of openings to fill and thousands more applicants to sort through, so automating any part of that process is a huge plus from a time, cost, and labor-intensive perspective. From what we are seeing with our partners, for most land title insurance, appraisal, and settlement companies that make far fewer hires each year, having some human hands in the mix early still makes a lot of sense. Additionally, in our experience, passive candidates are not typically applying online. Executives, middle management, and skilled front liners are typically not sitting through a robocall until they can press 1 to be considered for a role. How a regional sales person connects with a human being during a one-on-one interaction, whether in person or on the phone, is incalculable by a computer.

Whether first party (working directly for an employer) or third party (like Anderson|Biro), the experienced recruiter’s role is just as much about making the process simplistic for the hiring company as it is about connecting top talent with their organization. Once the greater public realizes that their eye movement is being tracked and analyzed during that robotic interview, the real talent out there in the industry is likely going to make hiring companies chase them just that much more. It may be perceived in the candidate mind as one more necessary hoop through which they will be expected to jump.

So, good news folks, similar to just about every other industry, AI is definitely changing the face of the recruiting and retention space. In our opinion, probably for the better. The key will be determining how and where to leverage its functionality. For now, AI is being used as a time saver and way to create additional leverage for recruiters and hiring managers alike. It is helping internal and external recruiters and hiring managers net more candidates, spending a little less time on menial tasks and more time on interviewing and building relationships with industry talent. We will continue to monitor the progress of our future AI overlords. At least for now, it turns out that having a human partner that occasionally breathes is kinda nice.  Eventually, we will likely see more and more synergies with the AI element and the people side of recruiting and retention and that will likely be a good thing for everyone!

Should you have any questions, please feel free to visit our website www.andersonbiro.com and one of our team members will be happy to hear your thoughts.

Blockchain for Blockheads

Throughout history new technologies have gathered like a storm on the horizon. Individuals and industries looked on with fear and excitement as the next new thing threatened to change everything, some for the better and others for the worse. Along the way, both parties have been right and wrong as promised revolutions have sprung up and passed. Some changing all, others changing nothing. We are reminded of the turn of the 20th century when the horse was left in the dust as the automobile zoomed past and truly revolutionized the world as we know it. Ford was famously quoted, “If I had asked people what they wanted; they would have said faster horses.” Farriers, stable workers, carriage builders, and horse breeders watched as their livelihoods were upended. Citizens doubted this new technology as roads were scarce and often impassable, gas stations few and far between. But like all new technologies, slowly but surely, society adapts and new livelihoods are developed to pave the path and fuel the way. The steady march forward is also littered with would be revolutionary technologies that failed. Great fortunes have been lost betting on the wrong technological “horses”. Sorting out which new technologies to embrace and when is one of the greatest challenges of the ages.

Many individuals and industries find themselves watching Blockchain gather on the horizon. Some look on in fear at this strange new tech that threatens the status quo. Many attempts have been made to try and explain Blockchain with thoughtful analogies and illustrations. We will attempt below to explain it as simplistically as possible and then dive into implications it may have within our beloved Title Industry.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain explained in one concise sentence is; an immutable record of all additions or changes to an information set that is universally accessible. In theory, anyone involved with the information set has access to the Blockchain and therefore they have access to everything necessary to authenticate and confirm all records. All details are not overtly displayed on the Blockchain, just an encrypted notation of the changes. Each person can see when something is added, moved, or modified though they cannot necessarily read what it is. If seeing a record change without actually seeing it is confusing, check out “Hashing”, as that is a whole other rabbit hole that we won’t go down here.

Along the way if there are any discrepancies, each and every person has access to the log that will show when, where, and which changes led to that discrepancy. The continually updated Blockchain is kept on each individual computer. This makes it theoretically impossible to forge or manipulate the record as this would require hacking and changing thousands of individual records. With thousands of sets of eyes watching over a universally transparent record, integrity is essentially ensured.

Implications to Land Title Insurance

The industry closest to many of our hearts which faces potentially great implications from Blockchain development is Land Title Insurance. No one really knows for certain what the ultimate effects will be on the industry, so the following is certainly not yet set in stone.

As you know, each and every piece of property in the United States has a “Title”, most sitting in some dark room in a county court house. Lately, great efforts have been made to digitize a large number of those records yet paper copies still persist. Blockchain evangelists dream of a day when each and every historical land record is uploaded digitally into a system and then connected via the Blockchain. This would instantly record each and every addition or change to every title across the country. Further, that system would be entirely searchable and authenticatable from anywhere. This would greatly change the risk profile associated with title. The Blockchain secures all additions/changes and essentially eliminates fraud. This could have a huge impact on the cost structure within the title industry.

Home buying and property acquisition will always remain a huge decision for both individuals and corporations. An industry built around servicing real estate transactions and providing peace of mind via financial protection will have its place.

PROS to adopting Blockchain

  1. It could reduce personnel costs and thus consumer costs.
  2. It could result in much faster processing.
  3. It could result in fewer claims, as it essentially eliminates inconsistencies and fraud.
  4. National standardized processes and laws could be enacted.
  5. Home buying would be faster, easier and more consumer friendly.
  6. Blockchain acts as a foundation for other revolutionary applications to build upon.

CONS and hurdles to the adoption of Blockchain

  1. It may potentially lead to many lost jobs.
  2. Attempting to build unified laws and processes across all 50 states could result in legislative gridlock.
  3. Physically uploading all records across the country could take substantial time and investment.
  4. Mandatory adoption by all industry professionals will leave some under protest and dragging their feet resulting in additional time and capital investments.
  5. Fear of an unproven technology.
  6. Sunk Costs from investments in soon to be obsolete technology will be lost.

So, Now What?

Ultimately, will Blockchain come barreling into the Title Insurance industry, knocking down the established ways and rebuilding a brave new Title world? Perhaps, but many a hurdle stand in its way. We’ve been promised flying cars and hover boards since the early 90’s, yet our cars remain on the ground and our boards are not yet hovering. When it comes to people’s homes and property rights, society as a whole is rather conservative. Many prefer not to put their “nest egg” in a new age space basket when the tried and true old basket has worked for hundreds of years.

The first time any one likely heard of Blockchain was in reference to Bitcoin and therefore the technology is intrinsically tied to cryptocurrencies. Media outlets and traditional financial institutions have widely publicized Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies swinging wildly back and forth in value, which tends to diminish consumer confidence. It may be unsettling when the public hears that the same technology used for unfamiliar, wildly volatile, cryptocurrency is being tied to their home titles.

Blockchain has huge implications far beyond the Title Industry and focusing too narrowly may miss the forest for the sake of a few trees. Global interconnectedness is the future of all information and Blockchain is a security apparatus to allow that to happen. Time and tech march forward. Today nearly everyone owns and operates a smart phone. A device which has demonstrated the amazing simplicity that a well-designed app can bring to life. Many people already entrust their banking, health information, and their entire social lives to apps and websites allowing them to update and track things instantly. The Title Industry shouldn’t fear change, but rather strive to keep up or risk being left behind. Embracing properly vetted revolutionary technology at the proper pace is imperative to meeting the demands of a modern consumer who needs and expects everything NOW at the touch of a pinky. How quickly Blockchain technology is adopted in the Land Title Insurance industry remains to be seen. We will be watching!

Should you have any questions, please feel free to visit our website www.andersonbiro.com and one of our team members will be happy to hear your thoughts.

Better Interviewing…Better Results

Most companies today are looking for a hiring edge. The spring competition for top talent in the land title insurance, settlement services and appraisal space is heating up fast and mastering a smooth and efficient interview process today, may help lead to better long term hiring results for your organization. To that end, we have outlined four simple tips + a bonus that you can use today to get the most out of each new interview.

1. You have two objectives in the first interview. First, at the most basic level, you must verify the candidate’s credentials and assess their skillset. If the position calls for concrete qualifications, don’t be afraid to ask the candidate to elaborate on specific examples rather than relying on easily fudged yes or no answers. Learn as much as possible about the candidate, assess their full skillset. Unfortunately, it can become easy to fixate on only the surface level, thereby taking a shallow dive into only that part of the candidate’s depth of experience.

Next, the first interview is really the best time to begin developing a comprehensive feel for the candidate’s personality or culture fit with your group. To the extent that it is possible, verifying cultural fit is arguably one of the most important pre-hire items to understand. You must determine whether or not a culture fit exists between the candidate and your organization or within a smaller team subset. If they do not fit your environment…don’t hire them! It may be a short relationship and turnover can hit your bottom line hard. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, the average cost to replace an employee is roughly 20 percent of their annual salary!

2. Allow the candidate to verify position and cultural fit from his or her perspective.  When it comes to recruiting talent, it is imperative to demonstrate your organization’s value and how you can help align candidate and organizational goals. To do this, you must ask pointed questions to understand why the conversation is happening in the first place. The majority of people take an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach to their professional lives. Whether it is a change in culture, a shift in responsibilities, or the desire to secure a larger role…understanding the candidate’s motivation to look for opportunity outside of their current organization is vital to discovering if your group is the right environment for them.

Frankly, this is your time to shine. If the candidate has the technical ability, they seem to fit your culture and they have legitimate reasons to pursue a new opportunity, be sure to highlight what you bring to the table and how it may benefit the candidate to join your team. An easily overlooked aspect of the interviewing process is ensuring that the candidate understands that your group can deliver what they want. Often, the very best candidates are interviewing you as much, or more so, than you are interviewing them! Therefore, consider tailoring your selling points to the individual candidate. Do you have a promotion they want? Can you compensate them commensurately relative to their value? Do you provide a remote program or flexible schedule to accommodate personal needs? Convey and emphasize your group’s strengths that may address these points! Help paint the picture of what the symbiotic relationship will look like moving forward and help the candidate see why joining you may be the best move for them.

3. Don’t talk about the Benjamins! It is imperative that you first establish your group’s value and also allow the candidate to establish their value. Getting to the money conversation too quickly can polarize both parties and kill an otherwise good deal. If the candidate does bring up money on the first meeting (BTW, this is probably a bad sign), it is best to let them know that you appreciate the question and would be happy to get into that at the next meeting. This strategy will ultimately put you in a better position to negotiate and most importantly, will allow you and the candidate to focus on verifying opportunity and culture fit. Once money gets injected into the conversation, this is very difficult to accomplish. AFTER it looks like both parties want to do business, then you may tactfully engage in the money conversation at the proper pace.

4. Be Clear about the Next Steps. Toward the end of the conversation, it is best to clearly communicate anticipated next steps and be explicit about what you will do and what you expect the candidate to do. If you are not clear on the next steps or need to think about the best strategy in terms of proceeding, it is best to share with the candidate that you would like to let the conversation settle in and that you will be in touch ASAP. We often hear from the candidate pool that some employers are not great about following up and letting them know what is happening. It is more than understandable that hiring decisions often take some time to sort themselves out. That said, be sure to set your candidates’ expectations with an anticipated time frame and be sure to follow up and close the loop if you are going in a different direction. Ultimately, this will create a better candidate experience and help create and maintain a healthy organizational perception with potential future recruits.

Bonus Tip – Keep an open mind and an eye to the future! We can think of numerous occasions when our clients spoke with a candidate that may not have exactly fit the role at hand only to deem that candidate a great fit for another role or developed a whole new opportunity specific to them. If someone comes to the table with a skillset that might be better suited on another part of your team, you may have stumbled upon proverbial gold. Essentially, you can redirect talent as necessary for additional hires that will ultimately save you future interviewing time and energy, thereby mitigating opportunity cost from an otherwise vacant role.

In closing, following these simple tips can help provide bedrock on which to structure a smooth and efficient interview process. You may certainly build upon the framework we discussed by adding your own organizational touch and style. As you know, the competition to find and land good candidates is intense in the title insurance and appraisal space. The initial interview creates a valuable first impression and you know what they say about those!

Should you have any questions, please feel free to visit our website www.andersonbiro.com and one of our team members will be happy to hear your thoughts.

Spring Forward or Fall Back!

You may be familiar with the old adage, “I’ll do it my way, it’s the way I’ve always done it!” Likely, you are also familiar with the sometimes-negative connotation that approach conjures. For many, when faced with a new or persistent challenge, doing it the “old” way is the default way. In business, sticking to only the status quo way of thinking can sometimes raise questions about a company’s level of innovation, adaptability, and/or its potentially stagnant culture.

On the plus side, sticking to the status quo is also easy…and comfortable! However, as a default mode of operating, some organizations truly want to do more than is required to simply exist. They are essentially innovators. These groups set the curve and force others to adapt to their methods and their transformative ways. Frankly, this mindset is of the utmost importance for your recruiting strategy to help maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Discussed briefly below are a few trends and strategies we are seeing innovators employ in the real world.

Remote/Virtual Offices
Adding Remote capabilities can be a major selling point for some candidates. Even with occasional travel to the office, a remote setup (amongst many other positives) can help alleviate punishing commutes for an improved quality of life. More importantly for you, by opening up the remote possibility, you are drastically expanding your potential candidate pool from which to recruit. This is especially important for regional or national Title, Appraisal and Settlement firms that enjoy access to a higher percentage of quality candidates. Of course, a face-to-face office setting is not easily replicated. Nonetheless, with applications like, Google Meet, GoToMeeting, FaceTime etc., along with the good old-fashioned conference call, there are multiple ways to stay in close communication with your remote team. Is there a cookie-cutter template that works for everyone and every company? Not in the slightest. And working from home is certainly not for everyone. That said, more companies are making the switch to a partially remote based team to capitalize on key talent that may not otherwise be available without remote capabilities. There are many examples of our clients looking to us for help in landing established talent in other parts of the country. Trust us…assuming the right systems are in place to facilitate and monitor a remote program, the talent is out there.

Focusing on Wants and Needs
From a cultural perspective, many companies have a recruiting mindset that boils down to “we’re the best around, the candidate should want to work with us!” And this may be true. Your company culture may be great, though likely not enough alone to move the recruiting needle. These days, it seems that most everyone puts an emphasis on culture. Arguably, building a strong one is now considered the norm, not the exception. When inviting a potential recruit to make a move, listen to what is truly important to them. Short of one being independently wealthy, most folks ultimately work to provide for themselves and their families. The factors that most directly correlate typically tend to be the very basics: compensation, healthcare, work/life flexibility and PTO. Fringe benefits are nice…though just that, fringe! Sure, that gaming table and health club membership may be neat things to reinforce your ‘work hard, play hard’ culture. Who doesn’t enjoy a good game of foosball? Despite this, people aren’t necessarily fighting rush hour and coming to the office to play Ping-Pong! They are most likely showing up to get a job done in an environment where they are adequately paid, respected, trusted, and challenged.

In principal, good recruiting can start in your own conference room. Maybe pull aside a mix of established and newer team members and have a chat. If you listen to what’s important to your current team and then target new recruits accordingly, you may be better suited to stay competitive from a recruiting standpoint. If you want the best talent, it may mean reevaluating your organization’s overall compensation structure. If that means instituting a fair and employee friendly benefits package, creating a flexible working schedule/location, or installing a stellar training program, so be it!

Training and Coaching
So, what about that training program? In the Title Insurance, Settlement Services and Appraisal space, establishing a strong training program cannot be overemphasized. To stay competitive, there really does need to be a nice mix of recruiting experienced talent and organic building. To grow organically, you must train new blood. You might say, “what if we pay to train them and they leave?” Followed of course with the common response of “what if you don’t train, and they stay?” Bringing new, competent talent into the industry is imperative to keep the train (see what we did there?) chugging down the tracks. Whether it is entry level or coaching up a current team member for a bigger role, it is imperative to continually teach and mentor the next generation. Millennials and Centennials are here to stay. Despite their bad rap, most of them are actually pretty darn talented. Proportionally, these generations will inherently serve in key roles with your group so you might as well train them the right way! Have open conversations with your leadership team on how your training program can be improved. Most people have a natural drive to better themselves, and empowering your current team to grow can actually help retain and attract top talent.

In summary, from a recruiting perspective, it can be a healthy exercise to at least consider looking to adaptation and innovation to help gain an upper hand on your competition. From tweaking traditional methodology to installing a totally new philosophy, it is the innovators that tend to be differentiators. And when you’re trying to attract top talent to join your team, don’t be afraid to be the one setting the pace.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to visit our website www.andersonbiro.com and one of our team members will be happy to hear your thoughts.

Maslow Helps Us Shine a Flashlight on Your Team’s Motivation

Happy New Year! Yet again another spin around the sun completed!  We humans have long honored this annual celestial journey through space. It’s become a tradition for many to look for a starting line for tackling a New Year’s task or initiative. Frankly, there’s no time like the fresh turn of the calendar page to strive for change and personal adaptation. To help accommodate, we may utilize various psychological theories to assign meaning and find new ways to create efficiencies, communicate more effectively, sell more homes, close more files, appraise more properties, etc.

When it comes to better understanding personal and personnel gains, we might turn to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for a little extra guidance on how human psychology factors into one’s professional growth.

A psychology class presentation at Valdosta State University, cited from Educational Psychology Interactive, (Huitt, W. 2007) deals with Maslow’s theories and his work with the hierarchy on human motivation. As the study highlights, Maslow worked to show that humans have a psychological hierarchy of needs, and to achieve the next level, more basic needs must first be met in ascending order.

The five levels proposed by Maslow are:

1. Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.

2. Safety & Security: out of danger.

3. Belongingness and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted.

4. Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.

5. Self-Actualization: to know, understand, see beauty and realize one’s full potential.

As we evaluate the five levels through a career based lens, we realize that many of us have an intrinsic motivation to climb this hierarchy. Some of us naturally reach higher levels. Others may require some extra help from those that have already achieved.

The goal here (with an assist from Maslow), is to get you thinking how to best leverage human motivation to achieve the next levels of personal and organizational development.

Level one, Physiological, is needed for basic functioning and is, for the most part, a given for America’s professional workforce. Fortunately, most of our colleagues in the settlement services space are able to secure food, clothing and shelter. Given that, there is no need to focus here for this piece.

At level two, Safety and Security, an individual may ask; “am I in constant fear of losing my job despite adequate performance?…Will my company pay me for the work that I complete?” This again falls into the standard operating category for most folks. They are able to pay for basic necessities and hold a stable job…enough for some people.  However, an employee at this level is potentially disengaged. They might come in, punch the clock, do their work with a blank stare, void of connection with their job and their coworkers. A team stacked with those operating at this level is obviously suboptimal, and as a leader, you may use Maslow’s hierarchy here as a guide to help motivate your team to take the next step for their professional growth.  Maybe help them connect with coworkers and build meaningful work relationships to further engage and strengthen their relative perception of safety and security. It may be beneficial to build these bonds in a nontraditional setting. If you address the exercise of establishing deeper connections only in a work setting, the team may not buy into the process. Instead, you might attempt to facilitate a more personal and social experience without the typical work dynamics involved, so that relationships can form more organically.

Speaking of connecting with others, this leads us into level three: Belongingness and Love. In the title insurance and appraisal workforce, this is where you will probably find the majority of gainfully employed and seemingly happy individuals. They enjoy relative security in their position, likely produce adequate results and feel a true sense of connection with their coworkers and work environment. They participate in teambuilding activities, actively engage with superiors and direct reports, and willingly socialize with teammates outside of the office environment.

To help foster level three and above, it is advisable that leaders strive to build a culture that welcomes and encourages a meaningful connection between team members beyond the necessary minimum for business function and productivity. These bonds provide a greater sense of meaning and can help someone change their way of thinking of their Monday through Friday to the glaringly disparate mentality of “I have to go to work today” to “I get to go to work today”. Establishing and reinforcing the latter comes with numerous organizational benefits such as increased productivity, higher retention/lower turnover rates, and therefore a better chance at sustained profitability.

Level four, Esteem, is where you will most often find your real movers and shakers in the financial services sector. The top producers. The “Rock Stars”. These are the folks that are adept at gaining recognition and perfecting their respective craft. They take pride in their work, consistently achieve goals, and essentially make the first few levels an afterthought. Other people want to connect and establish relationships with these types. Their roles are secure because, barring unforeseen circumstances, no employer in their right mind would risk losing them. To the benefit of themselves and also your organization, their time and energy is focused on being the best version of themselves. Getting to level four in the professional world may take extra individual effort and also strong support from your organization and leadership team. That said, if you like winning, it is advisable to develop, recruit and populate your team with the highest percentage as possible operating at this level.

The Esteem level is perhaps the perceived goal for most of the working class.  However, the rarely achieved fifth level: Self-Actualization, would be a great accomplishment for you and your team in most any circumstance. Self-actualized people are described as “being problem focused, incorporating an ongoing freshness of appreciation of life, a concern of personal growth, and the ability to have peak experiences” (Huitt, W. 2007).  To some, this definition may come off as overly spiritual or as a description of the Dali Llama’s traits….rarified air.  However, these people do exist and often hold key leadership roles in their respective landscape. They tend to have an answer for every situation. Their demeanor is almost always calm, cool and collected. They are typically also looking to help others achieve their greatest potential, whether that means reaching the level of Esteem or Self-Actualization. They are the tide that raises all sinking ships. The challenge is that there is no magic bean that allows a human to grow to a self-actualized state. It is a combination of a multitude of characteristics that allow you to realize your full potential. You must accurately assess who you truly are without outside influence. Focus on solving problems for the benefit of others and not personal gain. Find enjoyment by seeing routine tasks and experiences through new perspectives to appreciate the world around you. Utilize your personal experiences in these exercises to continue to develop and build upon your current self. Tap into the newly found creative perspectives to further impact those around you.

To summarize, people at the lowest levels are seeking information to help them cope with their life position and to help meet their basic needs and securities for a happy life. By helping these folks reach the next level, this is probably where you, as a more developed leader, can have the biggest overall effect on your organization. People at level three and four are looking for more enlightening information to continue to build meaningful relationships, and more empowering information to continue developing. At this level, you can really take out the scalpel and employ a highly tailored, individually focused approach. For those of you that have reached level five, congratulations!

Huitt, W. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to visit our website www.andersonbiro.com and one of our team members will be happy to hear your thoughts.

The Book of Business Sale!

It’s officially the holiday season in the Settlement Services space. An exciting time of year for all! It’s also a time to evaluate the performance of your team and begin budgeting for 2019. Whether or not your goals this year were achieved, one thing is almost always certain, you would probably like to grow your market share next year!

Therefore, you might ask yourself, “how do I efficiently enhance my top line?” Logically, you might then consider recruiting someone to your sales or leadership team with a “book of business” in tow. This can be a great way to make an impact. Realistically, the challenge of immediately transferring a book of business, though far from impossible, is perhaps more difficult than it once was.

There was a time when the sales or operations rep was the point of contact for many needs in a closing or appraisal transaction. The customer didn’t know or maybe didn’t even need to know who else made the behind the scenes magic happen. The customer only knew that if they called their contact with an issue, said contact would take care of it…and that was the end of it! Technology has changed the game. Tools like email, mobile apps, modern and efficient workflow processes, 24/7/365 connectivity and vendor system integrations have drastically altered many customer relationships. But…someone still needs to develop and foster new customer partnerships. When looking to add or upgrade key revenue generating or leadership talent, focusing only on landing a book of business is easy to do. It can also be a costly mistake.

So, what do you do about this on the recruiting front when shopping for sales or leadership talent this holiday season?

Maybe instead of focusing on how much initial impact a new recruit can have on your organization from a pure revenue generating perspective, you should also think of the long-term impact of the individual’s fit with your organization. The key is to identify and validate sales and leadership aptitude all while confirming a positive culture fit. Verify their industry knowledgebase and market presence. Look for past successes and confirm, to the extent possible, that you will be fine sharing some eggnog together at the company holiday party.

In most cases, if the recruit has a nice, consistent career history, and an established track record of “winning” in previous positions, they have the foundation to continue that momentum. When armed with proper tools, they will likely recreate their prior success in your environment, perhaps even more so. Just don’t count on that book of business to follow right away. What you can count on is that you took strategic steps to welcome an impact player to your operation and achieve your newly set goals.

Happy candidate shopping during this holiday season. Should you have any questions, please feel free to visit our website www.andersonbiro.com and one of our team members will be happy to hear your thoughts.