How To Keep A Talented Assistant Motivated

Imagine this scenario.  Your assistant has worked with you for about a year.  You like them and they get along well with your team and the office.  At this point you trust them to complete all of their job duties and when necessary to go above and beyond to help you.  You believe that they are loyal and you feel good about their performance. Then, all of a sudden, or perhaps over the course of time, you notice that things are slipping through the cracks.  Projects are taking longer to complete and your assistant doesn't seem as focused as they used to be.  What happened?

motivation2.jpg

Putting the possibility of personal challenges aside, and assuming that the two of you really do enjoy working together, there are a few common reasons why an employees' performance may diminish overtime.  In this article we address the most common reasons for an assistant's decline in productivity and provide simple solutions for each.   

Training

Really good assistants want to continue to learn and grow.  So, if your assistant isn't performing at the level you should reasonably expect from them, take inventory of the training they have received since they began working with you.  Have they received all of the training they need?

The training your assistant receives affects their performance in two ways.  First, if an assistant is not properly trained they will struggle to perform up to your standards.  Less obvious; however, is the fact that when a high performing assistant has mastered all of their tasks and responsibilities they may begin to under perform simply because they are bored and they lack new challenges.  Most assistants don't become complacent on purpose; they may simply begin to lose their attention to detail because they believe they have reached mastery over their tasks, or because they now find themselves with too much time on their hands.

 Solution: If you believe your assistant has mastered their current job responsibilities talk to them and ask if they are ready to take on new challenges.  Ask them to identify classes they can take to master a new subject or send them to an assistant training course to help them refresh and update their administrative skills.  A great class can be very motivating and may help to refocus your assistant.

Feedback

Your assistant needs to know how they are doing in your eyes so that they have a way of gauging their performance.  As an agent you always know how well you are doing because your job produces measurable results.  An assistant's job is not so cut and dry and therefore they need to evaluate their success in other ways.

Solution:  One very important way assistants measure their success is through your feedback.  Let them know when something isn't done correctly and hold them accountable to results.  At the same time, let them know when they have succeeded in your eyes.

If fair and consistent feedback is not part of your management style try raising the level of communication you have with your assistant.  Let them know that you are paying attention and that you care.

Career path

Very few people are content to do exactly what they are doing right now for their rest of their working life.  Talented and engaged assistants need opportunities to learn, grow and make more money.  If your assistant feels like they are in a dead-end job you may eventually find yourself without an assistant or at least an unhappy and underperforming one.

Solution: There are two factors to consider when developing a career path for your assistant.  1) Your goals for your business and 2) Your assistant's goals for their career. 

Talk to your assistant; understand their goals and priorities and discuss yours. Create a plan in which both of your goals are met. 

You may find that your priorities are not aligned.  This doesn't always spell the end to the relationship.  For example, you may be happy with the size of your business and not want to grow any larger.  If your assistant wants continued growth and challenges then you may want to offer them the opportunity to bring in their own deals, or if they don't want to be in sales perhaps you can introduce them to other agents you trust who need part time or project help.  Your assistant may enjoy the opportunity to help a newer agent set up their office and to make a little extra money.  

Finances

Money is a big motivator for most people and feeling under paid is a common cause of underperformance. Many assistants are making thousands of dollars less per year than they did two years ago and like everyone else they face of ever rising costs. You may not be in a position to pay a higher salary and your assistant may not deserve to be paid more.  However there are ways to help your assistant feel good about what they earn and to help them earn more over time.

Solution:  Let's assume that your assistant earns a fair wage for the work they do but they would like to earn more.   And, we will also assume that you have addressed any poor performance issues and now you want to motivate them to go above and beyond.

Sit down with your assistant and identify new ways for them to earn money with you.  Here are some examples: 

  1. Refer business to you and earn a referral fee
  2. Hold open houses and generate Buyer leads
  3. Assist other agents in the office an hourly basis for additional income
  4. Create and manage an expired listing program or other new lead generation program (pay an extra bonus per lead generated)
  5. Set a sales benchmark and establish a bonus if that goal is met

If there is simply no way for you to provide your assistant with additional income you may want to consider rewarding their hard work and commitment to your business with a flexible work week arrangement or the option to work from home one or two days per week.  With rising gas costs working from home one or two days per week could result in welcome savings for an assistant.  

Summary

Like all relationships, agents and their assistants go through rough patches sometimes. A good assistant is worth investing in though.  If you are happy with the person working for you take the time to coach, mentor and reward them.  Done correctly, your guidance and support can nurture a relationship that will continue to transform your business.