Category Archives: Real Estate Financial Services

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Message

Dear Anderson|Biro Family and Friends:

First, please know that in these challenging times, the safety and well-being of our employees, clients, family, and friends is of the utmost importance to us.

Second, we are closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and we are working to ensure that we meet all of our customers’ dynamic hiring needs during this period of extraordinary demand for talent and beyond.

Our dedicated team is well prepared for this moment and have been working remote based for several weeks. This practice will likely continue into the near future. Thanks to the resources provided by our incredible technology partners, we have taken steps to ensure that our clients will not feel any difference in our commitment to serve.

Furthermore, we are doing everything we can to help reduce the risk of exposure and prevent the spread of the virus among our team members, clients, and contacts. To help minimize the risk of infection and community spread, we are encouraging all meetings and interviews during this time of uncertainty to be held by video or phone rather than in person. Like many of our partners, we have also instituted travel restrictions, eliminated non-essential group meetings, rescheduled face-to-face appointments with outside personnel, and are following other similar guidelines.

In short, we are ALL in this together! Please feel free to reach out if you have any concerns or just want to chat.


The Anderson|Biro Family


A Future Without Salary History

Now late-February, the annual January hiring kickoff is (hopefully) starting to translate to some promising resume submissions and candidate interview scheduling. Unemployment remains low and the market favors job-seekers, so those of us driving the hiring process already have our work cut out for us to find and attract in-demand talent. And increasingly, there’s another hurdle on our minds: Salary History Bans.

Why Ban Salary History?

Broadly speaking, salary history bans are policies that prevent employers from asking potential employees questions about their past salaries, benefits, and compensation as a basis for a new pay package. Salary history bans are increasingly impacting hiring practices in major real estate sector markets, including California and New York. Bans now affect hiring practices in 17 states and 20 localities, according to a running tally by HR Drive. More are slated to enact bans in the coming months, and several others are altering the terms of their existing policies. Last month, New York and New Jersey revised their statewide bans to cover all employers, expanding from hiring for governmental agencies. Last week, Philadelphia courts upheld the city’s ban despite pushback from local employers.

Salary history bans alleviate some potential awkwardness regarding compensation during the interview process. But their intended function is even more important: Salary history bans are designed to help to close the wage gap. Women and minorities often earn less than their male and/or white colleagues in equivalent positions, even when accounting for education levels and on-the-job experience. In real estate-adjacent industries, pay equality can be especially complicated.

If you caught our Pink Collar blog on women in the title insurance sector, you might remember that while women make up 74% of the production forces, they earn less than the median wage across the board. As we’re in the middle of Black History Month, it seems especially important to remember that redlining, or historically discriminatory housing and lending policies, hugely impacted the mortgage and housing space—not to mention the consequences that may have had for hiring in our sector.

Salary history bans are aimed at alleviating multiple sources of the wage gap, including historic stigma that female- or minority-dominated jobs intrinsically have less value. As Harvard scholar Laura Adler noted in her 2019 talk for the American Sociological Society, “the use of past salary can entrench inequalities over the course of the career.” That is, low past wages provide a lower baseline for future wages.

We also naturally imbue salary history with meaning—sometimes that a low wage signifies low productivity or skill-value in a potential employee. But even this perception can be skewed—especially when comparing the compensation capabilities of major corporations to stand-alone title shops or real estate brokerages.

If Not Salary History, Then What?

The bottom line is that there’s a reasonable case that salary history questions are, at least, problematic. On the other hand, asking about compensation history has been—and often still is—an important part of how we gauge a candidate’s fit. With 37 jurisdictions and counting enacting bans, we’re increasingly likely to run up against them in our hiring processes. The bans likely mean some strategic restructuring in how we approach the interview and compensation process. Promisingly, an emerging body of research suggests salary history bans benefit employers as well as employees. But how do we deal with salary history bans and the gap they might leave in our interview questions?

  1. Be Consistent and Transparent

Though it may seem like common sense, having regular and open compensation guidelines in place is still considered best practice by many. One such approach might be to adopt a tiered system for determining pay based on experience or instituting a company-wide benefits summary. Such resources can give both employers and employees a consistent reference for the interview process and beyond and may even reinforce equal pay for equal work and experience. With compensation policies spelled out, compensation can be related to an internal standard, rather than an external one like salary history. Even if such resources aren’t the right choice for your business, continuing to track how you uphold equal pay for equal work can still help to promote a healthy work environment for you and your employees.

  1. Take the Proactive Approach

Even as salary history bans become more popular, there are still more than 30 states and countless localities that haven’t adopted such policies. In fact, Michigan and Wisconsin have bans against salary history bans. However, even if your locality hasn’t yet instituted a ban, there’s a decent chance you might run up against one elsewhere, as employees increasingly relocate for or telecommute to work and as large corporations do business across multiple states or cities. Taking a proactive stance and removing the salary history question out of your interview process before its mandated can potentially cut down on confusion for you and anxiety for interviewing candidates. And if a salary history ban does find its way to you, your process will already be revised for the change!

  1. Ask Better Questions

As MarketWatch summarized in a January article, some promising early research has shown that employers screen their candidates much more meaningfully when they aren’t able to draw conclusions about skills based on past compensation. One of our go-to alternatives is, “What motivates you in the workplace?”—which may organically reveal compensation needs, but will hopefully encourage more meaningful reflections about what a candidate needs in order to be successful. Asking several open-ended questions encourages a candidate to more thoroughly illustrate their personality and their skillset. This can translate to a better fit for your team and your budget. Instead of focusing on a salary history ban as a restriction, it might be better to think about it as an opportunity to get to ask better questions.

  1. Know The Market

With resources like Glassdoor, PayScale, and LinkedIn increasingly offering salary insights, quick access to average salaries is easier than ever. These tools and many others can factor education, experience, and local cost-of-living in to general salary expectations for the role. Coupled with knowledge about the company’s compensation abilities and a general sense of going prices for a position, salary can be determined from a broader, more scientific source than a candidate’s personal experience. And this tip works for candidates, too! One of the most powerful pieces of information for a candidate to take to an interview is a knowledge of their market worth. Knowing how your salary—or desired salary—lines up with the going-rate can be an excellent negotiating tool; it takes some of the onus off of their personal background and puts it on the market itself.

Overall, the fine print of each salary history ban varies by jurisdiction. But in general, they prevent employers from asking potential employees about their prior compensation—including salary and benefits—in order to establish a baseline for their new pay. For now, salary history bans are here to stay. Taking an intentional and open-minded approach to the bans can be beneficial for your company, your hiring process, and all potential (and current!) employees. They’re intended to be a positive corrective to social inequality, and using these four tips can help you to be part of the solution.


Refashioning the Pink Collar

It’s on so many of our hiring documents now that we hardly think about it: “This employer does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Equal employment has only been law for fifty-odd years. In that time, women have continued to make strides in a business world that once only belonged to men. But workplace gender equality still has a long way to go overall. To that point, many of us are probably familiar with gendered professional challenges like the glass ceiling, the wage gap, or even sexual harassment. But what about the pink collar?

About the Pink Collar

In 1977, Louise Kapp Howe added “pink collar” to common workplace jargon. A prominent social reformist and feminist writer, Howe categorized pink-collar jobs of her day as low-skill, low-wage, or low-mobility positions and that were usually held by women. The term was intended as a counterpart to blue-collar manufacturing jobs that were traditionally male-dominated.

Today, most of us have “blue collar” or “white collar” fully in our vocabulary. Yet, “pink collar” remains on the fringes. Howe’s pink-collar workers would have held occupations like teacher, nurse, or secretary. However, its definition continues to evolve for the modern workplace and higher education levels. Though some social columnists have called for an end to the label, the pink collar is still associated with roles dominated by women. The modern pink collar especially includes jobs that emphasize soft skills like communication and customer service.

Wearing a Pink Collar in Title Insurance

The pink collar is particularly visible in the land title industry. In 2017, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that women accounted for 74% of all insurance clerks, claims professionals, underwriters, and paralegals.

If you look over your own company’s title curative, examiner, paralegal, or administrative teams, there’s a good chance you’ll find a similar distribution. While women make up a significant majority of the production force across the title and settlement sectors, they earned less than the median wage, on average, in each key position.

But why talk about gender in the title and appraisal space at this particular moment?

This January is striking many of us as an especially important occasion with the turn of the new decade. Coincidentally, 2020 is also the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, securing women’s right to vote. Women’s rights have continued to advance in the century since, but this momentous milestone can also serve as reminder not to take that progress for granted. As January hiring picks up, it seems only fitting to commemorate a century of women’s suffrage by thinking about how we employ women in title insurance and adjacent industries. Afterall, women account for well over half of the frontline professionals who make sure that our most valuable asset—our property—actually belongs to us.

Gender Equality During Hiring and Beyond

Thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, gender equality in the workplace is standard policy. However, it never hurts to continue to evaluate our workplace culture so that this policy is also our practice. Some ways to continue to promote a more inclusive workplace are to:

1. Be Aware of Gendered Language in Job Descriptions.

The language we use in job descriptions can subconsciously play to gender stereotypes. When we ask for “strong” leaders, “aggressive” salespeople, or to “dominate” a market, we’re calling on masculine-coded language to find our ideal candidates. Similarly, language that calls on applicants to collaborate, assist, or enact caring can appeal to traditionally-feminine expectations for nurturing and cooperation. Gendered language is often so natural in our daily and business vocabularies that we hardly think about it when we use it. But without even saying words like “woman” or “she,” we can alienate exceptional potential applicants—both male and female. Having a diverse group of proofreaders can help ensure that the language on position descriptions and official documents is inclusive for everyone in the candidate pool.

2. Offer Transparent Leave Policies.

Expectations for women to play traditional roles as caretakers and as mothers continue to impact them in the workplace. Assumptions that women will be more devoted to their families than their jobs impact them during and beyond the hiring process. One way to amend this trend is to reshape how we present absences at work. During hiring, we can strive to offer transparency about vacations, personal time, paid leave, and unpaid leave. We can offer all employees flexible work schedules and remote opportunities where those benefits are practical.

Additionally, Glassdoor found that Americans only use half of their vacation time, partly due to a “fear” of falling behind. So, as well as offering reasonable flexibility, we can also create a work culture that makes it acceptable to use that leave. In fact, universal parental leave has been shown to benefit women and men alike. Moreover, a push for work-life balance can improve mental health and increase workplace satisfaction.

3. Watch for Women in Leadership.

The door for women in leadership positions has been opening wider and wider. In our sector, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) stands as an example for equality in its upper ranks. Increasingly, the organization has seen female presidents elected to the Board of Governors, and four of ALTA’s six executives are women. Having qualified women in leadership positions can be one of many signals to female candidates and workers across the board that a company values women’s mobility. This doesn’t necessarily require a company’s total restructuring. Including female employees in interview processes, policy-making decisions, and even in planning teambuilding events can also be meaningful ways to show current and potential women employees that the company welcomes their voices.

4. Commit to Constantly Assessing Equality.

Perhaps most importantly, we should strive to foster a workplace culture that is committed to equality. Some ways to consciously and pro-actively promote a gender-equal workplace include:

  1. Combating sexual harassment by continuing to offer HR the resources and authority it needs
  2. Evaluating company pay practices to constantly ensure that we aren’t unintentionally contributing to the wage gap
  3. Offering gender sensitivity training to all employees in order to promote mutual understanding
  4. Offering resources for women to find solidarity with their peers around the real estate closing table.

Organizations like CREW Network for the global advancement of women in commercial real estate and the Women’s Council of Realtors are just two examples of resources for outreach and professional development in real estate-adjacent industries.

The bottom-line is that gender equality in the workplace continues to be a difficult and often-controversial issue. Women’s equality is only one particular piece of this puzzle. The experience of men in pink-collar roles and the significance of gender and sexual identities add layers of complication. Yet, as we enter another century of women’s rights, continuing to evaluate our hiring processes and workplace cultures can only benefit all of us—no matter what color of collar we wear.

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 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 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 and one of our team members will be happy to hear your thoughts.