Grant McFarland: Why Lenders Must Invest in Employee Professional Development

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PERSON OF THE WEEK: In the mortgage origination business, keeping employees motivated and engaged with their jobs is critical to a lender’s success.

So what strategies can lenders use to boost employee motivation on all levels of the organization? To find out, MortgageOrb recently interviewed Grant McFarland, operations manager for Churchill Mortgage, which offers conventional, FHA, VA and USDA residential mortgages in 46 states.

Q: When it comes to motivating employees, helping them find their purpose is a common theme. Do you think this is necessary and motivational for processors and transaction coordinators? If so, how can it be implemented?

McFarland: Motivating employees is critical to your success. Share your vision with the team so they understand what success looks like, where we are heading, and how we will know when we’ve arrived. What this means is getting your team to buy into the vision and creating metrics that you can show the team regularly to demonstrate the progress they have made and motivate them to continue.

Helping employees understand the vision of the company gives them a purpose for their work. All of our employees are part of a larger team that’s working towards one common goal. Each individual needs to have a good idea of what role they play towards achieving that goal and how significant that role is to the overall success of the group. Their personal growth within the team plays a huge factor in their quality of work and overall morale. 

Q: Ultimately, it is not enough to just motivate employees; organizations must invest in professional development. In fact, LinkedIn reported that 94 percent of employees would stay with a company longer if it invested in their career. What are some ways that companies can invest in their employees’ professional development?

McFarland: There are many approaches to this, and they will all be specific to the growth of your company. Some of the things that we do with our employees are:

Training: Training could be something as simple as classes on Excel, “how to write a professional email,” or training on income calculations. There are many different forms of training out there that your employees will appreciate. Also, training does not always need to be led by you. Look to your partners or other vendors to bring outside expertise to put your team in interesting and challenging positions to learn something new. 

Conferences: Our industry is full of conferences that you can send your employees to that will allow them to bond as a team and collaborate with other industry professionals. 

Books: Reading books together as a team is a great way to learn and create a closer bond within the team. Don’t make this too strict as most people don’t like being forced to read something – it shouldn’t feel like it’s extra work. This is a great way to introduce new ideas and concepts to your team without it coming directly from you. 

Personal growth: I know the question is specifically asking about professional growth but taking an interest in our people and asking what their personal goals are for the year or quarter is extremely important. It shows that you care about them beyond the workplace and want them to be successful in all aspects. Just having someone that can hold them accountable and that cares is huge in building trust. 

Q: One way to maximize your workforce is to provide them with the best tools to complete their jobs efficiently. Recently, Churchill Mortgage partnered with Infosys to create Churchill Next, driving a complete digital transformation within mortgage lending with significant process improvements. How will this partnership help Churchill maximize its workforce?

McFarland: Absolutely. Providing employees with the best tools for their job is essential to maximize your workforce and it shows your employees that you are invested in their success. One of Churchill Mortgage’s mottos is “people over profits.” This means we believe that by supporting our people, we will have a successful business and a successful business means we can continue to employ our people.

Creating Churchill Next is a long-term play to position Churchill for the future of mortgage banking and allows us to offer the best technology to our employees. Our goal is to create a mortgage process that works for our clients and offers a referable experience. 

We are attacking this in three areas: process mapping, automation, and the implementation of a global workforce. By creating automated solutions for tasks, we can drive downturn times and increase accuracy and quality. With Churchill Next, we are implementing a global workforce that will complement our team members onsite and allow them to increase their production – truly maximizing our team.  

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