Transparency is key to managing staff remotely

It has been a challenging couple of years for the mortgage industry. Brokers across the country have worked hard to build up their businesses against the increased scrutiny of the Royal Commission, to find themselves adapting to the restrictions and economic uncertainty of COVID-19.

At a recent online round table, MPA Magazine editor Rebecca Pike spoke with four industry experts about the ways brokers can keep their business momentum going strong while working from home.

Managing staff remotely

Keeping in regular contact with staff is something managing director and finance broker for Loan Market Sarah Thomson has been prioritising throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.

She says it can be challenging to ensure each staff member has the right workload while working from home.

“Sometimes there will be days when we have one staff member that’s totally overloaded and another one that’s not.”

Connecting regularly with staff via Zoom and Google Hangouts has helped her identify who may be in need of more help during certain times.

She says it is interesting to see how understanding and patient clients are at the moment when brokers run late for phone appointments.

“Clients are incredibly aware of the time efficiencies that everyone’s under.”

“Everyone’s in the same boat so that understanding has been really good.”

Providing assurance through transparency

Otto Dargan, managing director of Home Loan Experts, says providing staff with a level of certainty is both essential and a massive challenge right now.

“Be aware that your entire team is really anxious,” he says. “The first thing to remember is that in times of uncertainty, people look to certainty. That’s really hard, because as a leader, you don’t have any certainty that you can give.”

He says he has addressed this challenge by providing certainty around the process the company is going through.

“In particular, staff are very worried about their income,” he says. “The right approach is to be very transparent. What I said to my team is that if we are in any trouble, then I’m going to talk about it openly. I’m not going to hide it. I’m going to let you know.”

He says having an all team meeting at least once a fortnight ensures you are in regular contact with staff and that everyone is on the same page.

The challenge of training staff remotely

Training offshore staff is another challenge while everyone is working from home says Mark Davis, principal – investment lending manager at The Australian Lending and Investment Centre.

“We’re such a business now that’s quite complex that we really rely on training next to each other at work.”

He says devising a training program that can be done from home is a challenge the company will be working on over the coming weeks.

It’s time to step out of the closet

For Kevin Singel, senior advisor at Pivotal Consulting, it is important to be open with clients and staff about the new work/life balance you are maintaining.

“Because we are not working face-to-face it becomes more important to be, what I say, out of the closet.”

“Be open with the world around you about who you are and how you’re making this work.”

Taking time off during the traditional work day to attend to the needs of family is something that we should all accept as a way of life during this period, he says.

“Be open and candid about the balance you’re striking and at the same time be more disciplined than usual about setting those day to day goals for yourself.”

By setting daily goals and tackling the most difficult ones first thing in the morning you can create sense of accomplishment that keeps you rolling throughout the day. It’s also important to reach out to colleagues and peers and communicate how and when they can get in contact with you.

“Set the expectation similarly with others – that you want to know what you can count on with them.”

He highlights how important it is for everyone to have contact with one another within this socially isolated environment.

“Your colleagues need the connection with you and the reaffirmation of the care and collaboration that is part of your relationship with them.”