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:
- “Silver Wavers” aren’t necessarily following in the proverbial footsteps of their predecessors when it comes to calling it quits.
- 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):
- 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.
- Health: Per data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people are living longer and healthier than before, allowing them to work longer.
- 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.