As agents head into one of the most challenging political environments in our history, they need management who has their best interests at heart. Many in the real estate industry are poorly prepared to hire, employ and handle the customer service needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
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Knowledge is power, and learning to be a better advocate for your team and your clients will never go out of style. Good intentions are a great start, but now that office culture is back at full capacity, you might be wondering what you can do to help make the environment a better place to work and a welcoming place for the clients you serve.
Meaningful change requires effort from everyone. Here are eight ways you can jump-start, reinforce and grow advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community in your office.
Do: Acknowledge there is room for improvement
In a recent LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance study, nearly 20 percent of respondents shared that they experience high levels of unconscious bias within their local real estate industry, almost double the 11 percent who report similarly about their own company.
America is changing as well. Since 2012, the percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or something other than heterosexual has increased to a new high of 7.1 percent, which has doubled in the past decade.
According to a poll by Gallup, 1 in 5 Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ — and that number is only expected to go up, as people who identify as LGBTQ+ could make up 10 percent to 15 percent of the adult population “in the not too distant future,” with Gen Z and millennials comprising an increasing share of the adult population.
Do: Help create a transparent office policy
Forget the copy and paste method of office management from the past. Your team needs a streamlined policy for the treatment of LGBTQ+ clients and colleagues, explained to them by a professional. Clear expectations need to be set, and a code of conduct needs to be enforced. This includes updating policy to protect the rights of transitioning team members. Diversity, equity and inclusion must be your initiative’s central focus.
Don’t: Get stuck on the politics — make sure that everyone knows they are welcome
Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for aggressive and unprofessional online activity from your staff and agents. The recent updates to the Code of Ethics should be a perfect example of handling this. The online behavior of some agents is out of control, and many brokers turn a blind eye. Don’t just put the policy out there. Follow up and enforce it.
Do: Keep church and work separate
Religious beliefs do not mean that any team member or employee has the right to create a hostile environment. Too many spiritual messages in company communication can create a toxic work environment. Your religious message may conflict with the beliefs of many of your team members who do not practice the same faith.
Don’t: Shy away from LGBTQ+ issues
If you do not know how to create an inclusive environment, this is not something to DIY. Hire trained HR professionals to bring your team up to speed. Every office should have a Pronoun Policy and appropriate training to address team members and all current and future clients.
This is not something that you can put a rainbow sticker on once a year. Real and meaningful change requires regular dialog and communication.
Do: Introduce pronouns and a preferred name policy
First, the conversation should not be awkward. It should be informative. Managers need to get comfortable with the subject and how it works. One key part of successfully making changes in your office is authenticity. Team members need to see that this is important to the business, that it is not a point of frustration and that the information is valuable.
If you are looking to make a significant change in your organization, you have to open up dialog, and you have to set an example. There are many classes that you can take on platforms like LinkedIn that can help prepare you for finding the right resources for your team.
Create a staff directory that includes everyone’s legal name, preferred name, and preferred pronouns. This directory should have everyone’s contact information and be easily accessible. This may be something that you have to work with your website engineer to create if you do not have tools already in place.
Do: Put the policy into action
- Creating a policy that encourages everyone to identify their pronouns will generate an open environment. This should also be considered in updating CRM databases and any physical client intake paperwork.
- Incorporate neutral language in greetings. Instead of “Hey, guys!” or “Welcome, ladies!” use “Welcome, everyone!” to make sure all participants feel acknowledged, safe and included.
- Check out these additional personal pronoun guides and resources.
- If you make a mistake and someone corrects you, say “Thank you” instead of “I’m sorry” to own the responsibility for your mistake.
- Practice using someone’s pronouns so that you can get this right as soon as possible. Having to correct others who misgender them is exhausting for many transgender and non-binary people.
- Use “they” or “their” wherever possible, as opposed to “he or she” and “his or her” to include people who may not identify with gendered pronouns.
- Get familiar with your staff directory and model appropriate behavior for your staff, so everyone knows your expectations.
- Ask your team members to use their preferred pronouns in a custom email signature you provide and to fill out that section on LinkedIn. You can also make these options available in the company swag store when your team members order nametags.
- Avoid gendered restroom signage. This is an easy update that should again create an environment that reflects your office policy.
- Publicly support advocacy groups, community events, and regularly invite LGBTQ+ organizations into your office for informative speaker opportunities for your team members.
Do: Advocate for equity in compensation
It goes without saying that everyone is evaluating their income right now. Updated inclusion policy and compensation policy go hand in hand. Agents will be making sure that they are getting the best compensation plan possible for their bottom line. If you have not publicly talked to your team about updating compensation and re-evaluated your team structure with competitive rates, now is the time.
Part of creating equity on your team is ensuring that team members are financially compensated fairly and equitably for their work. Favoritism and old-school sales tactics will not fly in the modern workplace. Make sure that your team knows the compensation structure and that it is as transparent as possible. Ditch the head of the household argument. Agents and staff need to be paid fairly.
Showing up with a pizza and asking everyone to dig deeper and sell more homes in difficult times is not enough. Managers have to recommit themselves to making sure that their office is not just an echo chamber, but a room where everyone feels welcome.
Our industry’s love affair with “the good old days” has to stop. Tackling issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace will open up a whole new set of opportunities for your team. This isn’t a task to leave for another day. This isn’t a task that can wait one more year for when things settle down or become less busy.
When it comes to diversity and equity, your team needs its leadership to stand up and show them that change is not against tradition. The tradition of providing customer service for the whole client, and the tradition of taking care of your whole team, isn’t going away. That tradition will remain, but opening your heart to new, more inclusive business practices is something that all leaders should strive to build their legacy on.