By: Lee Davenport, PhD
It’s in the numbers that offices and organizations focused on improving DEI and belonging leads to a more positive workplace environment. In doing your own research, you may have read stats and facts like these:
“Organizations that implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training are up to 21% more profitable than those that do not.”
“DEI training helps employees feel heard and seen, increasing employee retention and loyalty.”
Despite the benefits, a palpable sense of fatigue may form. Implementing DEI intentionally and consistently, especially if it’s a newer endeavor, takes constant effort and courage. Have you noticed that there’s some tension brewing in your brokerage? You know the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, but are you noticing that agents and office staff are visibly fatigued lately? There are a lot of factors at play here. First off, according to reporting by NPR, the ongoing pandemic is causing symptoms akin to a trauma response in many. Though always present, the call for social justice and reform reached a fever pitch in 2020. Add in the never-ending news cycle and exposure to the negative in the world and the personal struggles each person faces, and it’s no wonder there’s some fatigue going on.
You are not alone, my friend, if you’ve noticed that those around you are at a breaking point. For the last two and a half years, I have received calls and emails from exhausted brokers, managers and office administrators that have gone something like this:
We really want you to come and talk to our office about the fatigue they are feeling when it comes to implementing fair housing, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
When I get such requests, I advise these leaders to implement “energy boosters.” This kind of positive reinforcement is paramount to being a Fair Housing DECODER© (my term for any real estate pro that advocates for fair housing and also diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging since the journey to fair housing often starts with fair employment of diverse professionals). Of the five energy boosters I recommend. I find these two to be the most effective and easy to implement:
Energy Booster 1: Share Positive Stories From Clients
Let me show you what I mean:
I will never forget seeing the tears well up in my 90+-year-old, wheelchair-bound client’s eyes as we sat at the closing table. I thought something was wrong because this had not been an easy transaction. So as the tears began to slide down her checks as she signed the final documents to her home, I remember thinking, ““Oh crap!” Something must be wrong on the paperwork!”
I rushed to her side and asked her son, who was translating for his immigrant mother, what was wrong. He assured me nothing was wrong: she was crying tears of joy because she never thought she would be an American citizen or have saved enough money to buy a home, and here she was having accomplished both! When I realized the beauty of the moment, I could not stop the tears from flowing down my own cheeks.
I shared this with my office, and there was no dry eye in the place. Despite difficult transactions, this reminded me and those in my office why we have a mission (not just a legal responsibility) of voluntarily serving everyone no matter one’s national origin, race, color, sex, religion, familial status or disability. American dreams are being lived out in front of us. As real estate agents, we are perfectly positioned to help people make their goals of homeownership a reality, and sometimes, in the trenches of working toward diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, we can lose sight of how truly life-changing our work can be for our clients.
I want to encourage and challenge you (and your entire team) to start getting more client testimonies and verbally reviewing them together. There is power, encouragement, and momentum in such a collective moment of sharing.
Energy Booster 2: Award Team Members
When I first got my “pup” (she’s twelve now but still has the energy of a puppy), I was advised to take a newspaper to her rear end to teach her what she should and should not be doing. That only lasted a few times before I could tell she was ready to return to the pet store. I decided negative reinforcement wasn’t working for either of us, and changed course. I watched a few videos from a celebrity dog trainer and quickly realized that she might respond better to positive reinforcement a.k.a. rewards and treats. Boy, did that work! Within just a couple of days, she could shake paws, roll over, and even clean up her toys by putting them in her toybox. All it took was the acknowledgment that she was on the right path.
Our furbabies aren’t the only ones who need positive reinforcement!
Thus, one key component of overcoming fatigue is rewarding the individuals on our teams (or in our office, associations and chapters) with positive reinforcement when it comes to hiring diverse candidates, helping all team members belong and going above and beyond to help people from all walks of life with their housing needs.
For example, for one of the offices where I’d facilitated my Fair Housing DECODER© program, we gave out Olympic-style gold(ish) medals for those who voluntarily completed the in-person training associated with the program and NAR’s Fairhaven simulation. The medals were just a small incentive as far as cost to us, but for the recipient, a sense of accomplishment, inspiration and camaraderie amongst teammates was instilled. The renewed exuberance had everyone buzzing around the office, actively and creatively applying what the two training programs had taught them. Plus, since most of us can be competitive, there was extra fun in seeing who got the medals first.
I challenge you to consider the various awards and rewards you can establish for your team. One of the ways to keep morale high and commitment on track is to acknowledge and reward progress. The road to true diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is wrong, and everyone needs to know that they’re on the right track every now and then.
Dr. Lee Davenport is an Atlanta-based real estate coach who trains agents, teams, brokerages, and other business organizations on how to use today’s technology to work smarter. Join Lee’s free RE Tech Insider’s Club by visiting www.LearnWithLee.REALTOR.