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Putting employees to the test Featured

10:01am EDT July 22, 2002

What prompted you to start requiring these tests?

Turnover is extremely high in this industry with employment being as low as it is. We realize that one of the biggest assets are our employees.

Our primary focus is continuous education and to find more of a motivation for the employees to continually strive to bring their own level of understanding to a higher level. There is always room for improvement. Our motivation is not to penalize anyone; we expect everybody to pass. If you’re always trying to improve ... you can better serve the customer.

What were your expectations for these tests?

One, the goal was primarily to expand on the [employees’] knowledge. Two, and more important, is what it takes to improve. It’s more knowing how to research and how to resolve the issue in the most time effective manner. It’s a vast industry and you cannot be trained in a one-week time period. It’s so vast that there is no way you can expect one individual to know everything. Three, one of the unexpected benefits is that you do see a little more camaraderie within the office.

What kind of questions do you ask on these tests?

[The test covers] our procedures and guidelines as far as our licensing requirements, federal guidelines and real estate settlement procedures acts. The individuals must really understand what Innova Funding’s obligations are so that they understand why they are doing the items that we request.

How many questions do you usually ask on the test?

We ask five questions and one bonus. Some of those questions may have as many as 30 parts. Our final question is to name one thing you can do to improve Innova Funding.

How is the test administered?

It is transmitted electronically. It goes through our server and everybody receives it at the same time. They have 30 minutes to respond to it after they read it. People have to e-mail their response back and then I usually print them out and make comments. Then we will all sit down together and go over them as far as what the expectations were.

Have you seen improvement in employees’ overall work?

I see people taking the initiative to do some reading on next month’s topic and people are coming to me saying, “Hey, I didn’t know that.” What’s happening is now that the people are taking time to read and research, they are getting excited because it makes them more of an asset. They can do their job better and we can provide a higher level of service to our customers. All levels of employees are taking it very seriously. They do exceptionally well. Everyone has passed to this point on it.

How and when do employees prepare for the tests?

Studying here is fine but I would expect that people are also taking the material home to get more familiar with it. People are starting to prepare four or five weeks ahead of time. In this environment we can ask people to do reading and studying but it’s one of those things that is never going to take priority because of the amount of work to do. We really needed to find a motivation for them to take time away from their other priorities or adjust their schedule so they could continue to study everything.

What advice would you give other business owners for motivating and educating employees?

It is something that should never be overlooked and it should be very important. It ranks up there with business planning. We spend a lot of time training and keeping [employees] knowledgeable. We’re not throwing them out there in the cold. We really try to give them the tools to be successful.