The Real Deal New York

Former Town exec Melissa True is now leading agent development and recruitment at Elliman

Agent retention has been at the forefront of brokerage’s concerns
By Meenal Vamburkar | November 12, 2018 08:00AM

Melissa True and Steven James (Credit: Facebook)

As agents increasingly hop from one brokerage to the next, Douglas Elliman is doubling down on recruitment and retention efforts — and enlisting former Town Residential executive Melissa True to carry out the mission.

True has joined Elliman as “senior manager of culture and careers” in New York City, the brokerage said. In the newly created role, True will focus on boosting agent productivity and helping grow headcount at New York’s largest brokerage, which has roughly 7,000 agents nationwide and about 2,500 in New York City.

“There’s a pretty big need for it in the industry,” True told The Real Deal. “Agents are our number one clients.”

A prominent aspect of the job will be making agents aware of all the marketing and technology tools available at the firm — and helping find ways to use them more effectively. Busy agents often don’t keep up with every new announcement or make time to learn about the tools, True said. But the hope is that the efforts will create an environment that keeps agents at Elliman.

“It’s become a forefront of everyone’s concerns in our industry,” True said. “To keep the current agent roster engaged and excited.”

Elliman’s hire comes as it’s become more competitive — and more expensive — to attract agents and keep them. Earlier this year, Realogy’s NRT division, which includes the Corcoran Group, Citi Habitats and Sotheby’s International Realty, reported a $40 million increase in commission expense, largely due to recruiting and retention. Meanwhile, Compass has become known for its aggressive recruiting — with its recruitment head noting, “When we want someone, we go after them from every angle possible.”

While a recruiting push will be part of True’s role, the firm didn’t provide specifics about any growth goals. She’ll be working alongside Steven James, president and CEO of the firm in New York City, and brokerage head Howard Lorber.

True was a founding member of the executive team at Town, where she was managing director of careers and culture and one of Andrew Heiberger’s key allies. She was laid off from the firm in March, before Town shuttered the following month.

True’s previous experience aligns with what Elliman has been seeking, James said. Her work at Town included a company-wide professional development program. At Elliman, the approaches will vary from one-on-one sessions to broader training classes. With too structured a process, “you tend to lose people,” she said.