Can your agency's company culture survive a crisis?
Agent Rainmaker’s Sally Lawson, CEO and Founder, shares her five characteristics of a company culture that can thrive in a crisis.
The lettings industry has a lot to contend with. Government legislation changes in the buy to let industry are limping along, and the property market - along with the rest of the economy - is fraught with uncertainty. When many were breathing a sigh of relief after surviving a global pandemic, along came the cost of living crisis, a tumbling economy, and yet another pending recession.
However, letting agents have shown their resilience, time and again, and there are things that can be put in place to protect against future shocks. Agents can take stock of their company cultures - not just their properties - to evaluate if they could actually successfully navigate another crisis, whether internal or external.
What does company culture have to do with a crisis?
We’ve all had to flex and adapt in recent years. Research is now showing that firms with a strong corporate culture outperformed those with less of a focus on employee wellbeing when it came to riding out the storm.
In fact, one study showed 69% of the world’s senior leaders credit much of their success during the pandemic to culture - saying it enabled effective ways of working.
Now, mid cost-of-living crisis, landlords are under financial strain from rising mortgage costs and a staggering 45% have indicated they may try to sell up if the Bank of England’s base rate continues to rise.
We’re also seeing a shortage of properties, the journey of the Renters’ Reform Bill through Parliament, and almost half of landlords are concerned about the prospect of a housing market crash.
It’s pretty tough being a letting agent right now, right? So why make it worse for yourself with a poor workplace culture?
How does a good company culture help in a crisis?
The right culture can make all the difference to how your agency performs during a crisis. The natural instinct is to go into protection mode, battening down the hatches and working frantically behind the scenes to limit the damage and return to normal as quickly as possible.
But closing down communication channels can actually cause more harm than good. Communication never stops - quite often in these scenarios it actually increases - but if you’re not giving them clear and consistent information then all they’ve got to rely on is rumours and speculation.
It’s vitally important during a crisis to communicate the facts and the issues surrounding them both quickly and clearly - to employees - and to the outside world. Having the right company culture already in place which benefits from effective communication channels will help when the proverbial hits the fan.
It’s equally important that employee loyalty doesn’t derive from a culture of fear. You want employees to rally round in a crisis because they believe in their work and feel valued, part of a bigger picture.
An employee afraid of losing their job may be loyal on the face of it, but if it’s for the wrong reasons this in itself can financially impact a business due to issues such as disengagement and stress.
How do you achieve a great company culture?
Of course, culture has to be built up over time. If it’s not in place when a crisis hits then there’s no magic button you can press to fix issues that you’ve ignored or created over the years by overlooking the importance of a positive working environment.
It’s a complex topic, of course, and very individual to each agency. But generally, thinking about the following five facets of culture is a good start:
- Support: do you know what concerns your team have? Is there anything going on for them that you could assist them with as their employer? Are they looked after well at work?
- Positivity: a common core set of values like mutual respect, gratitude, trust and integrity go a long way. And you must, of course, lead by example.
- Inspire: share your mission and vision with the team, involve them in the bigger picture and nurture teamwork. And also make sure you’re aware of their vision for their future, and how you can help them get there.
- Communicate: Quickly, clearly and consistently. And not just during a crisis. Build the trust of your workforce now, so they’re already behind you when you need them.
- Empathy: ninety-four percent of employees think empathy is an essential quality of a healthy workplace, yet only 31% of UK workers say their company provides explicit training on empathy for managers.
Would you rather employees communicate to the outside world in a crisis that they feel unvalued and have no clue what’s going on - or that they be championing your efforts to keep them in the loop, projecting a unity within your agency to be proud of?
Company culture is everything. That’s why 85% of world leaders say their culture is an important topic on their leadership agenda.
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