Paul Rayner is Managing Director of Prowest Real Estate in Willeton and Chairman of the Professionals group in Western Australia. Having started his career in real estate 24 years ago, he’s known at least one of his current staff for just as long.

I recently caught up with Paul to discuss his secrets for retaining staff. Read on for his thoughts on employee satisfaction, fairness, and what makes an employee worth keeping.

Q. How would you describe your staff turnover over the years?

I have had three key teams over a 24 year period.  One staff member has been with me since inception. My key teams average 7 – 12 years with me.

However, I have had a number of other employees who were with me for relatively short periods, the shortest being 3 hours.

Q. What’s the importance of happy staff to a manager or director such as yourself?

I don’t pay the top wages, never have never will. All my staff know this. However, I have helped a number of them become very wealthy as a result of their relationship with me. I try to add value to my staff that more than makes up for the “extra dollars they can get elsewhere”.

My ability to add that value is why staff stay. What that value is differs for each staff member, but it has to be there or they leave.

Q. What do you think are the most important factors in keeping staff happy? Which is the most important?

Fairness, honesty and consistency. If I had to make it one thing, fairness would be the key. If staff can see that you treat everyone fairly – customers, suppliers, competitors and staff – they believe that they will also be treated fairly when it comes to their own issues.

The other key is being available to my staff at all times and valuing each of them for their individual skills. I don’t treat all staff the same, but I do treat staff consistently.

Q. How does this fairness influence staff retention?

You don’t own your staff. They stay because they want too. If you treat them well they stay. However at the same time you have to require a level of performance. They are rewarded, acknowledged and valued appropriately. That’s fairness.

Q. How would you describe the relationship between you and your staff? Is there something different about your working relationship with the staff you’ve employed the longest as compared to staff who’ve moved on after only a short period?

The ones that move on don’t want to be fair. They want to be supervised like an employee and paid like a manager.

I want people to work with me, not for me. My staff  have to be nice people, but they also have to have an internal locus of control, i.e they take personal responsibility of their success or failure. My job is to coach them and help them succeed. If they don’t have the application and personal motivation required for the job, my role is to point this out to them They can then elect to address it by becoming more diligent, self disciplined, skilled or motivated. Or they can elect to chose another career path. I am not responsible for the successes nor the failures in my company. I am there to help them achieve their potential. Those that have succeeded have done so by their own effort and application. Those who have not succeeded have failed by their own efforts.

Another key to my staffing is that I don’t want a bunch of clones of myself. They each have their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. My job is to help them get in contact with people who will respond best to their strengths whilst using the office systems to cover their weaknesses.

Q. I’ve just recently become a full-time employee, and personally I’m interested in how I can keep the job I love. What approach should employees take to make themselves indispensable/worth keeping?

If you have a job you love you will never be unemployed. People that are passionate about anything are not working for a living. They are fulfilling their dream and their destiny. We all have skills and passions. If you can find a position that allows you to grow and develop these passions and put them to use daily, you will not only keep your job, you could and should end up owning the company, or at least a part of it.

You can find out more about Paul from his Professionals’ agent profile. For more advice from real estate experts, see our previous Ask an Expert posts.