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Keeping a Team Focus in a Challenging Year

 

Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared in the October edition of MReport.

Kelly Ann Doherty serves as EVP and Chief People and Communications Officer at Mr. Cooper Group. Prior to joining the company in 2016 as the SVP of Corporate Communications, Doherty was VP of Corporate Communications at Elevate, a financial technology firm. She also served as a public relations and affairs consultant for four years and as a strategic communication staffer for a Presidential campaign and within President George W. Bush’s administration with a tour at the White House in Presidential Personnel and N.A.S.A. as a political appointee.

M: How does Mr. Cooper attract new talent in today’s competitive market? 

Doherty: First and foremost, I think our people-first culture is attractive to new talent. Our transparent and inclusive culture is why, based on team member feedback, Mr. Cooper Group is a certified Great Place to Work and has earned the honor as a Top 25 Company to Work for two years in a row from MReport. We’ve learned that the best way to attract and retain talent is to understand our team members well and know what they’re looking for.

When we think about attracting new talent, we want to offer clear paths for career growth which is especially important for new job seekers. Our Home Advisor Team program, which blends customer relations and sales, provides long-term growth and development opportunities for team members coming into this industry with little experience. We’re also focused on telling our story to help potential recruits better understand who we are as a company. It’s important to understand your company’s employee value proposition, what sets you apart in the market, and be able to clearly articulate that message.

M: How has Mr. Cooper addressed the needs of its employees in reaction to COVID-19?

Doherty: Mr. Cooper responded early and quickly to COVID-19, and in March 2020, we transitioned nearly 97% of our staff to work from home with plans to remain work-ing remotely at least until 2021. I’ve learned that how we’ve responded to COVID-19 is very important. Flexibility has become a top priority, and we’ve had to adapt our training and onboarding programs. Transitioning our training to a virtual environment was not an easy task, but we’ve trained more than 4,000 people virtually—from call center staff to loan officers to processors—and have had great results.

We’ve also found that frequent communication has been extremely valuable. Early on, we remained transparent with our team members, sharing constant updates and bringing them into our process as we adapted to this challenging time. I’ve encouraged my team to communicate three times more frequently than usual to ensure that our message comes through. Over-communicating minimizes the potential that team members will fill the void with their own interpretation or assume the worst.

Taking care of ourselves and each other has also become important as we’ve all faced different challenges this year. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done to launch our Team Member Relief Fund, which provides cash grants to team members experiencing catastrophic and personal hard-ships to assist with the expense of basic life necessities. Mr. Cooper has a long legacy of helping homeowners in their moments of crisis, and now more than ever, it is so important to do the same thing for our team members.

M: How can companies develop unique employee benefits to compete in today’s market?

Doherty: In today’s very aggressive market, people are making job decisions not only based on a company’s response to the current crisis we’re facing but also based on the benefits they offer and the culture they have created. Workplace benefits send signals about what a company wants to be and how it wants to motivate its people.

I recommend offering perks that are unique to your company's values and mission. At Mr. Cooper Group, we strive to keep the dream of homeownership alive for our customers, and we wanted to be able to help our team members achieve that same dream. As a result, we launched a home loan program to offer our team reduced fees and discount-ed loan pricing for either a new home purchase or a mortgage refinance. We’ve also rolled out a down payment assistance program that was inspired by our own team members through a company-wide culture survey. By aligning benefits with organizational goals, you can offer your team members valuable and unique benefits that result in a greater sense of company pride.

M: How can companies create a strong pipeline of candidates?

Doherty: A lot of resources go into attracting the right candidates, so even if you aren’t hiring it’s important to make sure you have a strong pipeline. To find the right candidates, first I recommend, developing clear criteria. We’ve created interview guides based on our core values to help us find the right candidates. Understanding what your company’s value proposition is and finding a way to clearly communicate that to potential candidates is very important.

In order to remain competitive, differentiating the benefits that your company can offer is key. We’ve developed a host of unique benefits including down payment and mortgage assistance, adoption, and family planning assistance, generous vacation time, ongoing education, and more. We consistently evaluate what’s important to our employees in order to make sure their needs are being met.

M: What are some tips to providing a smooth onboarding process and managing training remotely?

Doherty: Onboarding new hires in a completely remote way can be a challenge and has been a challenge for many companies, especially at the start of the pandemic. As we work to bridge the digital with the personal, and to find ways of building camaraderie among team members, there are several things to keep in mind.

The small things count: It’s important to make sure that new hires receive a comprehensive welcome package, including the necessary technology equipment, passwords, instructions and support. Mr. Cooper Group is working on building a concierge service dedicated to the new hire process, which will ensure that all new team members have dedicated support desk numbers with access to people who can help them. A team member’s first days at your company can be very defining.

Build in time for training. Moving from the classroom to a virtual training environment can be a challenging task, and companies have had to find new ways to teach team members remotely. Manager “side-by-side” coaching can provide the extra support new team members need, including real time feedback and coaching.

Educate leaders. It’s incredibly important to make sure leaders can manage in a remote environment. HR can help by equipping managers with more education on how to effectively oversee these teams. Digital learning tools, like Degreed, offer virtual training and resources to help team members deepen their knowledge and expand their skills remotely.

About Author: Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams is a Texas-based writer and editor with extensive experience in news reporting, feature writing, and marketing. Her areas of focus include mortgage, default servicing, REO, real estate, and home design and remodeling. She currently serves as editor of the MReport and is past Executive Editor of DS News. She specializes in putting a human face on the stories changing the mortgage industry. She is an alumna of Texas Christian University.
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