In the last two weeks I’ve had similar conversations with the CEOs of some large and well-known independent companies.
Each of them reminded me how difficult it is to retain staff, even at a good upmarket company like Douglas & Gordon that was my experience when I was there.
We all know that dynamic young staff are an agency’s life blood, but agents wouldn’t function, or more particularly win and service instructions, without their experienced operators.
Problem is that they get older, expecting different things out of their weekends – like being with their families or making time to do the things they want. Inevitably there’s going to come a crunch point when they’re expected to work some Saturdays, and it usually coincides with another, probably upmarket, brand offering a them a job where they don’t have to.
With tech ever improving there’s also the danger they go and start up on their own from home and take some of your best customers with them.
The CEOs I have spoken to cite staff retention as one of their top three problems, and the reason it’s such an issue is the uptick in demand for weekend viewings.
This demand isn’t going to go away and I’m not sure that judging a buyer by their willingness to come out during normal working hours is going to cut the mustard any more.
Most hard-working families operate six days a week and only have a day a week to sort domestic stuff.
Younger buyers and tenants have embraced change in other industries and will look to do so in ours.
It’s been thrown into relief seeing that the way some clients have used my new business, by giving their negotiators two viewings each weekend until they get used to it.
They say it’s a complete success, staff largely have their weekends back and make money out of the viewings they’ve arranged.
They also use the viewings wisely, even as open houses. Staff love it, applicants love it, clients love it and agencies are making more money.
Many upmarket agencies use weekend staff where they can to relieve the burden on staff, so it’s not as if using non-branch staff is a disincentive to the buying and renting public.
Indeed a survey we recently commissioned found that 81% would have no problem being shown round by an independent person.
Senior staff and weekend working is a festering issue for many and is usually not sorted with cash: it’s a life/work balance thing.
Even Richard Branson is getting in on the act by suggesting many need to see work as fun, and could do a week’s work in three/four days.
Employment power used to rest with employers, but increasingly it’s the other way around.
It’s not showing any signs of going away and, from my ever-increasing contact with all sorts of agents, is becoming a bigger and bigger issue – solutions exist, but perhaps innovation needs to be looked at from a different angle.
* Ed Mead is co-founder of outsourced viewings service Viewber