5 Surefire Ways to Empower, Engage and Retain Great Employees


Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash image from unsplash.com


By Grace Collins

Every manager wants to have a highly productive team, but to get there, employees have to be empowered and engaged. In fact, a Gallup study found that teams with high levels of engagement are 21 percent more profitable, as they come in to work with passion and a purpose. Therefore, managers need to know how to empower employees and make them an integral part of the company. That said, here are five ways you can boost your team’s engagement, and in turn, their productivity and retention. 

Show the path for growth

Entrepreneur claims that employees are more likely to be engaged if they see opportunities for growth. And while employees are responsible for their own personal development, managers must create a clear path for it. Be transparent and communicative about bigger roles your employees can take, along with opportunities on how to earn more money. If there is no clear trajectory for growth for an employee, identify their strengths and weaknesses and point out the possible paths they can take. By doing this, they will feel cared for and encouraged to find their own path.

Encourage a healthy work-life balance

While encouraging growth can motivate employees, make sure they don’t overdo it. Promote a healthy work-life balance by discouraging work talk after hours and on weekends, and be sympathetic to their needs and circumstances by implementing flexible times. Be open to switching schedules if needed and organize monthly outings for coworkers to develop friendships that go beyond the office. Ashley Stahl points out that having this balance can stave off burnout, and can benefit both the physical and mental health of an employee.

Offer great compensation and benefits

Providing ample compensation for a good quality of life is vital to keep employee turnover down. Additionally, employers should also encourage employees to think of their financial future and their retirement plans, or their 401(k). This may seem like something most employers push or even require, but on the contrary, Marcus reports that a staggering 62 percent of Americans have not set up a 401(k) plan with their current employer. Not only are they missing out on an opportunity to lower their taxable income, but they are also failing to set themselves up financially for the future. Thus, stay ahead of other employers by offering compensation that promotes financial wellness, and encourage your employees to contribute to their 401(k) by matching some (or all) of their contributions.

Provide ample feedback, coaching, and praise

Nurturing employee growth is both a benefit for them and the company, as the latter reaps the benefits from their productivity. Aside from giving formal employee feedback forms, managers should coach and mentor employees to ensure that their actions are aligned with the goals of the company. But don’t be too harsh—point out what they’ve done well first, then proceed to focus on the specific problem areas in their performance while giving actionable tips on how to do better. Moreover, don’t forget to praise them on a job well done when they do it, as CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting Cindy McGovern found that 20 percent of employees said that appreciation from bosses makes them happier in the workplace.

Talk less, and listen more

Employees will have their own ideas on how to improve processes that they want to share and contribute to the company. While it may be difficult to let go of routine practices, listen to their ideas and let them join in on the decision-making process where possible. This will make them feel like their input is valued, and will encourage them to continuously innovate and engage with their work.

Whether you’re in the insurance, real estate or the tech industry—these tips apply to workplaces across all verticals. Apply these to your business and watch as your employee retention and engagement increase.

Grace Collins is a business and financial blogger. She provided this content exclusively to the American Land Title Association. Send feedback to communications@alta.org


Infographics: How Phishing Works

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The Anatomy of a Title Claim


By Monica K. Gilroy

Uh-oh. Your title underwriter just emailed to say that a title claim has been filed against your company. You feel ill. But wait, “is there a DOCTOR in the house?” Yes! There is a Juris Doctorate in the house to share her decades of experience handling title claims with you.    

At the 2019 ALTA ONE, we’ll be discussing how to address, handle and triage a title claim from first notice of a claim to a trial.

The first reaction to a title claim is often panic. There are many remedies to cure those initial pains, such as document gathering and open communications with clients, underwriters and staff. We will discuss the things TO DO and NOT TO DO when a title claim is presented.

The number one reason why we get sick is because of unhealthy habits, like not washing our hands. Diagnosing the unhealthy habits of a title practice that lead to title claims is a way to cleanse yourself of future ills. Are you enforcing best practices in terms of obtaining releases of prior deeds and encumbrances, are you ensuring that fraud does not occur in a transaction, are you training your staff to be on the lookout for toxic issues within a closing? Staying healthy in your practice will be easy as we look at the causes for the common claims and how to prevent them. 

If the worse occurs and litigation is necessary, keep your commonsense temperature in check. We will talk about what happens in title claim litigation and discus the steps of the litigation process including mediation.

You will return home to share your new-found healthy title habits. You will be able to face the pain of a title claim head on, without the need for anything more than an aspirin at the end of the day. No more need for Marcus Welby, Dr. McDreamy or George Clooney in your life -well wait, maybe we will keep George Clooney just in case!

Monica K. Gilroy of Gilroy Law Firm LLC will address this topic during the education session titled “Anatomy of a Title Claim” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.


FTC Reports Millennials More Likely to Fall Prey to Fraud

Lots of people fall for scams. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says millennials are more susceptible.

According to the FTC’s new Data Spotlight, millennials are 25 percent more likely to report losing money to fraud than other adults (age 40 and over).

Millennials are 77 percent more likely than other age groups to say they lost money to a scam that started with an email. By contrast, they are slightly less likely than other age groups to report losing money to scams that started with a phone call.

This means people in this cohort are significantly at risk to falling prey to real state closing scams, such as wire fraud. This is one of the reasons why ALTA targeted metropolitan areas favorable to first-time homebuyers when it launched its online advertising campaign to raise awareness about wire fraud. Since June, ALTA has run ad campaigns in Birmingham, Ala.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Tampa, Fla.; and Seattle, Wash. So far through the digital online campaign, ALTA has delivered more than 10 million ad impressions to potential homebuyers in these six markets. ALTA plans to target consumers in Houston and Nashville during its next round of advertising.

Specifically, the FTC reports the top five frauds to which Millennials report losing money are online shopping frauds, business imposters, government imposters, fake check scams and romance scams.

The amount of money millennials report losing to scams is one key difference. Even though Millennials are more likely to report losing money, their median individual reported loss of $400 is much lower than what other age groups report.

Been hit by a wire fraud scam? File a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov. Want to help raise awareness? Join ALTA’s Coalition to Stop Real Estate Wire Fraud.



Your Office Is a Good Fit for Millennials


Show. Don’t tell.

Your words have more value when you use them to show people—especially job seekers—everything your company is about. Job posting phrases like “competitive benefits” “paid vacation” and the ever-generic “growth opportunity available” don’t move the needle these days for any employer, much less a company in an industry that outsiders know little about!

Don’t believe all the warnings you’ve heard about younger workers. They’re ready to work harder and smarter for you; they just want to know what they’re signing up for first. Your culture is probably more millennial-friendly than you think anyway. You care about your customers and communities, and want your workers to thrive. You just don’t know how to broadcast the message yet.

Fix your failure to communicate. You just need the tools to attract the best millennial workers who will embrace everything you stand for while propelling your business forward. Otherwise, how will they know how great a career in title can be?

At ALTA ONE during the education session “8 Legit Ways to Market Your Culture to Humans Under 40,” you’ll learn plenty of tips to help your company better connect with the generation of workers that will help you ride out the “silver tsunami.” Leslie, who heads up the compliance department at SoftPro, works remotely and believes that offering a flexible work environment and strong company culture are two important benefits companies can offer their employees.

Wayne, a pesky millennial himself who bought his car online without even test-driving it first (the horror!), has spent years helping title professionals talk to the modern customer, first as a part of ALTA and now as the founder of his own marketing firm. And he hates when you define your customer experience as “full-service.” #sorrynotsorry. Again, you should show your customers what the heck that means to you with just a few extra words.    

Wayne Stanley of Bowe Digital and Leslie Wyatt of SoftPro will address this topic during the education session titled “8 Legit Ways to Market Your Culture to Humans Under 40” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.


Redefine Your Customer Experience

Customer service

By Kosta Ligris

We are living in an exciting time of rapid innovation and disruption occurring in financial services, real estate and lending. And although we are constantly reading about buzzwords and terms like “Artificial Intelligence,” “Machine Learning” and “Blockchain”—one thing that has remained constant is customer service and creating a better experience for our customers and consumers.

Why do companies resist have a strategy on customer experience? Not having a strategy is a strategy, but one that I seriously advise that you re-consider. I can’t help but wonder what it was like to be Blockbuster Video, sitting back and watching Netlfix grow. How many retailers are now scrambling to react to Amazon? Countless examples exist of organizations that were unwilling to face the reality that the world changes—and that change velocity is faster than ever. It is certainly overwhelming to keep up with all the new products, services and platforms, but having a clear plan and vision of what type of organization you want to be is the first step to preventing your Blockbuster destiny.  

In this ALTA ONE Engagement Lab we will discuss how you Redefine (or in many cases – “Define”) Your Customer Experience. We will do this using an engagement workshops that asks lots of questions of ourselves and each other. Some questions to start thinking about include:

  • What are your organizations core values and how do they align with the expectations of your customers?
  • What does a strategy that focuses on the customer look like?
  • Why do we tend to get comfortable and complacent?
  • How do you measure & quantify success in customer experience?
  • What tools and platforms create the most efficiency and value?
  • How do you research what is important for your customers?
  • How do you translate your research, feedback and metrics into actionable items?
  • What are the greatest barriers to changing your customer experience?
  • Can you think of examples of companies or industries that have delivered an exceptional customer experience for you? (don’t just think providers for your business)
  • How do you blend greater efficiency for your team with a better customer experience? Can these two things co-exist? Why or Why Not?

Kosta Ligris, founder of the Ligris family of companies and an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will address this topic during the education session titled “Redefine Your Customer Experience” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.


Marketing to Your Commercial Customers

Comm business

By Amanda Calloway

During the summer between my two years of law school, I worked for one of the real estate partners at a large law firm in Atlanta. Most of my time involved listening in on conference calls, sitting in on client meetings, lunches and happy hours.

While I learned precious little about title or closings during this time, I came away from this experience with one very valuable lesson which I have carried with me throughout my career. Following each client call or meeting, the partner I was working for would have a quick re-cap discussion with me. This largely consisted of him recounting how well he’d interacted with the client, so that I could take note and model myself accordingly once I became a big shot commercial real estate attorney like him. While this seemed to me like self-congratulatory BS, something he said has always stuck with me.

During a discussion of how wonderful he was, he told me, “Amanda, you should always keep in mind that people do business with people that they like!” At the time, I recall having to resist the urge to roll my eyes while thinking, “If that’s the case then he would be his own best client … he certainly likes himself a lot.”  

However, as I’ve grown my own client base over the past 12 years of practice, I’ve found that this was great advice, ironically, from a not-so-likeable mentor. One of the keys to a successful commercial title business is repeat customers, the kind of customers who bring you every piece of business they’re involved in because they like working with you and your team. It sounds so simple, but what it takes to make them like you, I mean to really, really like you, is a bit more involved. 

In this Engagement Lab at ALTA ONE we will discuss how to:

  • L (earn about your target customers)
  • I (mpress with your expertise)
  • K (ill with customer service)
  • E (xpect future business)

LIKE your commercial clients, so that they will like you back!

Amanda Calloway of Calloway Title and Escrow LLC will address this topic during the education session titled “Marketing to Your Commercial Customers” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.



Maintain Culture as Your Company Changes


Congratulations! You’ve done the hard part; you swiped left and right so many times that you now have tendonitis of the wrist, but it was all worth it for the newest professional you have attracted to your team. But, wait? Was that really the hard part? Are you prepared to get through the 90 days of dating your newest, shiniest team member? Have you created an action plan for success so intuitively structured around your company’s culture that when the euphoria wears off, you don’t have to fill this role again?  

Swiping left and right at random isn’t a winning strategy for finding what you really want. Instead, we should find what truly fits rather than what fits for the moment. Finding what you want requires an intentional strategy that includes learning to let go of the options that simply won’t work. 

What’s your strategy to protect yourself, your image and your company when what was once shiny and new walks out the door onto their next adventure and you’re left holding it all together? We plan responses to clients on why they should choose to work with us. We plan responses to potential talent on why we’re the best fit. We even plan responses to defend our culture and business practices. And yet, we are never prepared to be our own publicist when we “consciously uncouple.”

We know it’s rough out there. The title industry is not much different than the dating scene. We poach and cannibalize while daters ghosts and troll. But perhaps all of this is an opportunity to be better tomorrow than we are today. Join us in this engagement lab to have a conversation about how to maintain a strong culture of collaboration and communication as we navigate both good and difficult change in our companies.

Julie McConnell of Mid-States Title Insurance Agency and Andi Bolin of Celebrity Title Company will address this topic during the education session titled “Maintain Culture as your Company Changes” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.


The Business Value of ‘Thank You’


By Cindy McGovern

Remember the last time a client, a boss or a co-worker gave you a handwritten thank-you note to let you know you’re doing a good job? Maybe someone at work has surprised you with flowers, an unexpected gift or a bonus. Has a vendor ever slipped you a gift card worth the price of a cup of fancy coffee, just to show appreciation for your loyalty?

It felt good. It might even have prompted you to keep up the good work. You might have thought back to that gesture when you toyed with moving to a different company or switching to a cheaper vendor.

That’s how others feel when you take the time to show them your appreciation. So do it often.

It’s true that some regulations and guidelines restrict you from giving gifts to clients. But your gesture of appreciation doesn’t have to cost you anything. It doesn’t even have to be a gift. Simply saying “thank you” can go a long way toward improving employee morale, retaining valuable staff members and keeping your clients coming back. In fact, in survey after survey, more than 20 percent of employees have said:

  • If they don’t feel recognized for doing good work, they have recently applied for a different job—compared with 12 percent of employees who do feel recognized.
  • More appreciation from bosses would make them happier at work.
  • They prefer written or oral “thank yous” over extra time off or gifts.

In our industry today, none of us can stand to lose a good employee. Saying “thank you” can help you retain your good employees.

Saying “thank you” is a simple but powerful gesture. And it can lay the foundation for a great relationship so when the time comes for you to ask someone to go the extra mile, that person will return the favor.

Here are a few no-cost ways to express your appreciation:

  • A handwritten or emailed note that includes a specific reference to something the recipient did for you or trusted you with can elevate a casual business relationship to a more important one.
  • After a crazy month, an in-person pat on the back for a job well done—again, with specific mentions of achievements—lets an employee know that you notice and appreciate hard work.
  • Returning a favor after someone has done one for you tells the other person that the relationship is not one-sided.
  • Some sincere words of appreciation can pick up an employee or coworker who is showing signs of burnout or depression.

Too often, we are running a million miles an hour, juggling umpteen tasks and, unfortunately, taking others for granted—even when we know we couldn’t get it all done without them.

We throw away the “thank you.” Or we say “thanks,” but it’s not heartfelt. Maybe you end every call with: “OK, great, we’ll get that done. Thank you so much.” But you’re just being courteous, not grateful.

Instead, be thoughtful about your gratitude. Think about how much your job depends on your clients, customers, co-workers, managers and others. Thank them, and mean it.

As a small business owner, I hand-write thank-you notes on fancy paper and mail them in time for Thanksgiving delivery each year to some clients, employees and vendors —even some former ones. It feels good to show people how grateful I am for their support and trust. And I hope that they feel good when they realize that I appreciate and remember them.

That kind of follow up not only sets you up for positive results with these people in the future, but it signals that the professional relationship you want reaches far beyond a single transaction. It says you care enough to stay in touch. It says you are truly grateful for them.

Cindy McGovern is CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a San Francisco-based consulting company that specializes in helping title companies grow their businesses. Her book, Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work is available for pre-sale at drcindy.com/about-the-book/book-specials/. At checkout, enter ALTA2019 to pick up your autographed copy at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas.


RESPA 411:  Be Confident that You’re Complying with RESPA


By Holly Bunting and Ken Trepeta

Do you know the Dos and Don’ts to promote your business compliantly under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)?  Are you operating (or have you considered operating) advertising agreements or joint ventures with real estate brokers and mortgage lenders?  What kinds of arrangements are catching the attention of regulators? We’ve got the RESPA 411 for you at ALTA One in Austin, Texas. 

It’s been eight years since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took over the responsibility for regulation and enforcement of RESPA. Enforcement of RESPA was a hot topic in the early years of the agency. Many companies all but ceased these kinds of arrangements when Director Richard Cordray led the CFPB and advanced novel interpretations of Section 8. With the DC Circuit’s 2018 affirmation of Section 8(c)(2) as a valid exception permitting payments for services performed, companies have renewed their interest in advertising opportunities and strategic partnerships. Now’s the time to ensure you understand what is acceptable and unacceptable conduct under Section 8 of RESPA. A focus on your company’s compliance today with promotional activities and sponsorships, advertising agreements, co-advertising and affiliated business arrangements will go a long way in avoiding enforcement in the future if the tides turn to headline-making settlements and litigation under Section 8 of RESPA. 

Join us Oct. 23, at ALTA One for a one-hour session to drill down on Section 8 of RESPA. In addition to a refresher on the basic prohibitions and exceptions under Section 8, we will discuss what to do and what not to do related to advertising agreements and joint marketing, sponsorships and other promotional opportunities, and affiliated business arrangements. Even if your company does not co-advertise, sponsor events, or own an interest in a joint venture, knowing the legal landscape is important to operating a compliant title insurance business. 

Holly Bunting of the law firm Mayer Brown and Ken Trepeta of RESPRO will review the latest cases and enforcement actions on RESPA, affiliated businesses and marketing services agreements during the education session titled “RESPA 411” at ALTA ONE in Austin, Texas. Click here to register.