5 things to start the year out right 

1 Fix your No. 1 problem from 2021  

This is probably the easiest issue to identify, but the hardest to solve. The reason being is you probably have kicked the can ignoring the problem for an entire year. It’s something that has bugged you on an ongoing basis. It takes up your brain space on the drive home in your car. I bet you’ve talked to your significant other, especially when you get home and have a glass of wine complaining about this issue. Oftentimes, it’s a people problem which relates back to No. 5 Evaluate the team. 

For some appraisal departments, the biggest annoyance in 2021 might be a legacy (or lack of) an appraisal ordering platform. Consider YouConnect  if your No. 1 problem in 2021 involves these words: cobbled together, no bells or whistles, manual process, redundancies, piece meal, random Excel files or duct tape platform.  

2 Double down on processes 

If you take on a new reviewer, for example, provide them with onboarding playbooks. This serves to do a few things, it takes a significant amount of time off your hands, properly informs the new employee your expectations and provides a resource for them to follow. If they come back with a mountain of questions and you feel that the playbooks are well presented, then you probably have a different problem. 

Position statements are a game changer to your appraisal department. It doesn’t matter if your employees are new or veterans, a position statement spells out exactly their duties. Spell out tactical and strategic duties, list everything you can think of. It will be a (surprising) lengthy list. 

Be on the lookout for employee frustrations that are often not verbalized, “Why are they making me do this, this isn’t my job.” Sit down with your employees and explain to them why you’re having them sign these position statements. These 3 – 4 page documents are an excellent way to clear the air, manage expectations and worst-case scenario, provide a great outline for the exit interview without getting personal. Email me if you want some sample position statements. 

3 Join FIVA  

If you work for a bank and deal with credit or valuation, then FIVA (Financial Institution Valuation Advisors) is an excellent resource. An example would be appraisal managers bouncing ideas off each other providing peace of mind that what they’re doing at their bank is the correct way to handle certain things. FIVA’s goal is to elevate, communicate and educate with meaningful discussion and shared peer insights.  

Topics discussed are based on your input. For example, the next FIVA meeting in 2022 is regarding a hiring strategy for appraisal departments. We all know that hiring in today’s climate is a significant challenge not just for banks. Our panel of experts provide real-world tips to effectively find the talent that you need.  

4 Hire a VA  

If you’re an appraisal manager or chief appraiser at your bank, just dealing with your inbox can be a significant problem. Lost productivity reacting to an inbox is not best practice. Yes, your emails need to be responded to but you may find yourself spending 50% of your day being controlled by your inbox. 

There’s a better way, hire a VA (virtual assistant). An effective VA doesn’t necessarily have to be outside of the US. The quality of the resource has improved significantly. The companies that provide VA try to meet your expectations. If the VA is not working out, you can then ask to be provided with another VA.  

Many appraisal departments have a tight budget that wouldn’t allow VA hire. You might be surprised at the good quality support you can get at a very cost-effective hourly rate. This would be appreciated by the C-Suite as a less expensive alternative to an FTE. It may also bridge the gap if your department is currently experiencing significant appraisal volume spikes, which is the case for many banks right now. 

5 Evaluate the team 

Going into 2022, take an honest look at your team and determine their individual value to your appraisal department. Priority No 1 is to identify any team members that exude a negative influence. Communicate with your staff to determine if and what extent an employee might be bringing down the rest of the team. It’s important to separate the person from the position. Take a coaching posture, not Game of Thrones attitude.  

Sometimes it’s easier to ignore the bad apple since they produce and re-hiring can be a challenge. However, this person’s attitude needs to be addressed ASAP to avoid the rest of the staff believing that bad behavior is acceptable. As the appraisal manager or chief appraiser, don’t worry if this problem employee will leave. Ask a bigger question, “What if they stay?” Having them work from home is a short-term fix, but you’ll likely regret dragging this problem into 2022. 

Here’s to a better 2022. Cheers!