Residential Magazine

Every Generation Can Play a Role in the Mortgage Industry

Younger workers who click with older ones can only make this business stronger

By Carolyn Frank

Just as the millennial generation is settling comfortably into positions of ever-increasing importance in the mortgage industry, the next wave of workers — dubbed Generation Z — is beginning to enter the workforce in growing numbers.

That brings entirely new challenges for managers. Five overlapping generations of employees are now working at mortgage companies across the nation — from those still in their teens to senior employees who are age 75 and beyond.

Envision managing workers with such a wide range of ages and experiences, differing communication styles, dueling stereotypes and misconceptions. Now, imagine doing that as core staff members are retiring, value systems are colliding with legacy hierarchical

structures, and technology is revolutionizing the mortgage business.

There are ways to settle millennials and Generation Z into the mortgage industry and get everybody working on the same page.

Differences by generation

Let’s take a look at these five generations. The profiles presented here paint a broad picture of the general characteristics that define each group. Of course, the personalities and work habits of individuals within these groups vary widely.

Silent generation: These are workers who were born in 1945 and earlier. They are considered hardworking, loyal and respect authority. They’re disciplined, motivated by job security and retain great institutional knowledge.

Baby Boomers: This group is generally defined as being born from 1946 to 1964. They are considered ambitious, relationship-driven, and are motivated by being valued and seek to make contributions while also being rewarded financially. Although they’re great sources of knowledge, they can sometime suffer from the “Not Invented Here” syndrome and, consequently, may have a tendency to resist ideas from the outside.

Generation X: These are people born from 1965 to 1980. They generally enjoy autonomy, flexibility and maintaining a work-life balance. They are entrepreneurial, experienced, confident, self-reliant and skeptical. They too can be motivated by having their work valued.

Generation Y: These are the millennials, born from 1981 to 1996. They need more guidance than Gen Xers and want to connect and collaborate. Generally, they’re optimistic, expect flexibility and are tech savvy and are heavily into social media. While they too can be motivated by workplace culture, they can be over-confident and self-absorbed.

Generation Z: This is the generation born in 1997 and later. They’re generally ambitious, collaborative and entrepreneurial. They expect transparency, are motivated by constant feedback and mentorship. They seek personal growth and meaningful work. They were born with technology and are often more pragmatic than millennials.

Challenges and aspirations

Author Jean Twenge takes a deep dive into those last two generations in her latest book, “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us.”

Gen Zers know they are entering an increasingly competitive world, but they lack the outside bravado of the millennials, according to Twenge. They want security in an unsecure world. They are more focused on work and more realistic than millennials, grasping the certainty that they’ll need to fight hard to make it. Their work ethic is a little stronger, too. Some have inferior social skills.

These observations are taken from four public databases that ask the same questions of the same groups of young people each year at the same age. The results, based on some 11 million anonymous responses since 1976, track trends across the generations, from the same points of time in their lives.

Managers who can provide security and continuing nurturing will find themselves with the hardest-working group of young people to come along in a decade or two, Twenge notes. Those who have been cheerleaders for millennials will find they are more like therapists, life coaches or parents for this next generation, she writes.

Gen-Y and Gen-Z workers want to know that the job has a clear career path — if they can advance, preferably quickly, according to Twenge. When considering the timeline for promotions, make them more frequent. Instead of a big leap every two years, consider smaller advancements every six months.

Another source, the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, finds that these two younger generations have strong opinions on what business and corporations should achieve. The survey finds that millennials and the emerging Gen Z want industry to make a positive impact on society and the environment. They want companies to pursue innovative ideas and make creative products and services. They also put an emphasis on inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

Younger workers need positive reasons to stay with their employers. They need to be offered the realistic prospect that by staying loyal they will, in the long run, be materially better off — and as individuals, develop faster and more fully than if they left, Deloitte reports.

The 2018 study results showed that millennials believe business leaders are not effectively addressing these critical issues. This provides enlightened businesses with an opportunity to fill what young workers see as a leadership void and set new courses to building loyalty, trust and reducing turnover.

What can be done

So what does this mean for mortgage companies? What should leaders in the industry do with this information? During these tumultuous times, the mortgage industry can be a positive agent of change and improve its image as having the potential for providing long-term careers.

To get there, start reviewing external data and best practices and then conduct an internal survey to build your own plan. Identify the skills that are most important to the future success of your business. Ask employees to rate how confident they are about their individual skills in each area, on a 1-to-10 scale.

Have a separate question where they are asked to rank those same skills in order of importance to being successful in the company. Comparing the two can help determine future training curricula.

What company values and attributes do they rank highest? How do they rank the effectiveness of different means of communication used internally by the company? What other areas should be considered?

What social media channels do they use and how frequently? Then, have them rank each area of communication and social media channels in order of importance to the company’s success.

Companies need to develop plans to demonstrate they are committed to helping every individual grow. The Harvard Business Review has many case histories on the importance of continuing education and mentoring. This includes reverse mentoring — where millennial and Gen Zers mentor older generations about such things as technology.

Studies show that the multi-generational workforce responds positively when individuals are actively involved in decisionmaking. The major steps companies can take include research, brainstorming, specific planning, resource allocation, analysis, fine-tuning and launch, with ongoing tracking.

In the research and planning stages, engage everyone. Let boundaries and hierarchies go. This helps

generate more ideas and enthusiasm for your action plan, since people will see their ideas being implemented, even if not in total. Give abundant praise, particularly to millennials and Gen Zers.

Provide specific timelines for action and regular updates to all. Transparency is highly valued. Make course corrections as required. Repeat the survey at regular intervals to track progress. Add new questions as the younger generations advance in the organization.

Where the organization comes up short, set measurable goals for improvement. The training should include more personal interaction and require

phone-free sessions. One creative approach that fits with younger generations is to use short, entertaining videos to reinforce key lessons and facts.

Make sure everyone understands why they do the work they do, and how it impacts the bigger picture. Create shared values. Develop in-person and online training programs. Provide regular feedback. The approach demonstrates an important trait valued by the younger generations: You are interested in their future and committed to helping them grow.

• • •

Involving every generation ensures the sharing of institutional knowledge, best practices and reinforcing core values and organizational pride while adding new technology intelligence from younger generations. Harnessing the power of multiple generations can build a more collegial environment, enhance collaboration, create better-defined action plans for training and career development, and help organizations grow with an energized, results-oriented culture and stronger team ethic.


  • Carolyn Frank

    Carolyn Frank is chief human resources officer at Guild Mortgage, where she oversees the company’s HR and learning-management functions. She has more than 20 years of human resources experience with a strong background in employee relations, talent development and workforce strategy. Prior to joining Guild, she held HR positions with Genoptix, Amylin and Johnson Outdoors. 

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