Fair Housing Education - An Investment in Career and Company

Fair Housing Education – An Investment in Career and Company

Episode 11- JuvoHub Podcast

Our Host: Jonathan Saar from Market Me Social

Our Special Guest: Michael Coughlin

Michael Coughlin, The Fair Housing Institute‘s Vice President, works closely with FHI’s clients, consulting on training development, providing hands on assistance during training rollout and operations, and supporting our clients throughout the certification process. Through his wide-ranging experience with our customers, Michael has become an advocate for the value and importance of effective fair housing training for all employees of the housing industry. His extensive background in sales and customer service plays a critical role in the development and delivery of a successful long term training program for our clients.

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Show Highlights

Notes From the Host:

Fair Housing is one of the most important topics that we teach our team. It’s not just a once a year item. It’s a daily topic that as educators we are obligated to impress upon our organization. Michael Coughlin lives eats and breathes Fair Housing for all of his clients. Tune into his take on why this is so important and what the long-term benefits are.

Some questions we consider:

  • When someone is invested in Fair Housing education what does that tell you about that individual or company?
  • What is your take for on-going FH education?
  • Short term investment training vs long term investment – is it a matter of perspective?
  • What one actionable tip could you share that has served you well as an educator?

Be honest with your team, treat them like professionals, help them focus on how education will support their career

Michael Coughlin – Vice President The Fair Housing Institute

Jonathan: Hello everyone, and welcome to episode 11 of the JuvoHub Podcast. So just before we get into our show, I'm always grateful to take a moment and thank our sponsors for our show and for this episode. So our sponsor for this episode is REAL HR, a Higginbotham company, and I have known their leadership team for many years. Fantastic group to work with incredible. Dedication that they have towards all of their clients. It's just amazing. So they work a lot with human resource departments within the property management industry. So if you have questions or needs involving employee benefits, payroll administration, employee screening, these are the folks to talk to. And they are under the umbrella of their parent company, which is Higginbotham, which is a whole other level of awesome services related to insurance needs and benefits. So definitely check them out, real-hr.com. Again, real, R-E-A-L, dash H-R dot-com, and see it for yourself. In the show notes there'll be a link to their website. So be sure to check them out, we appreciate them sponsoring the show. So a big huge Juvo thank you to them. And so without further ado, let's get into today's show.

Jonathan: Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode number 11. I have the esteemed pleasure of having Michael Coughlin with me today, who is from the Fair Housing Institute. He is the vice president of the company and has over 15 years of sales and customer service. And when we were talking before the show, he gave me a little bit more insight about his role in the company and how he really works with customers to identify their fair housing needs, their goals, and help them come up with a solution. So today's show is going to focus primarily on Michael's take on fair housing. Why it's important for a company and how it's truly an investment in career and company. So, Michael, thank you for being here and welcome to the JuvoHub Podcast my friend.

Michael Coughlin : Jonathan, it's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Jonathan: Yeah, no, it's great. It's great that we get together. We haven't had on the podcast yet a guest to talk about fair housing. And we know in the industry, it is one of the most important compliance topics that are out there. And training and education is always an ongoing process for everyone who is in property management. So we look forward to having your take on it, what you've seen, and maybe some tips and things to share to help reinforce that. Why is fair housing education so important? Why is it a career item and how it benefits not only an industry professional, but for a company? So before we get into some of those questions, I love just to hear a little bit about you. What brought you into the industry? How did you get into this profession? Give us a couple tidbits about your background, if you don't mind.

Michael Coughlin : Oh, sure, I will. I guess the career was a little bit of a destiny for me. Because if you didn't know, my mother is a fair housing attorney. My stepfather is a fair housing attorney. And believe it or not, my sister is a fair housing attorney. So it is really a family business. Years ago, I joined onto Kathi Williams' law firm. She was in a law firm, her and Steven Edelstein, my mother and stepfather. And I just did a lot of day-to-day tasks. Scheduling, working with the clients, that kind of thing, anything they would need that basically didn't require a law degree.

Michael Coughlin : From there, we were able to identify a business, which at that time was called FHI Online. And that was providing online for housing training. Unfortunately, there really wasn't anybody in the law firm that could dedicate enough time to it to try to grow the client base, awareness, marketing, that kind of thing. And I saw an opportunity there. So I really just threw myself into it. And with the assistance of Kathi Williams and others we were able to grow it into a really successful business that is to this day growing both in clientele and awareness.

Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. That's cool. Thanks for that background. Big family business. You and I have the pleasure of working together with the Fair Housing Institute and-

Michael Coughlin : We do?

Jonathan: Yeah, man. Come on, man.

Michael Coughlin : Yeah, full disclosure everybody, me and Jonathan are friends, and he is very good at his job. So I'm a little biased, I just want everybody to know.

Jonathan: Well, I appreciate that, I appreciate it. Yeah, no, it's great working with you and seeing what you've done for the company and how much it's grown. And lot of that, I witnessed it personally, seeing your investment in the customers and in what they need for fair housing. So let's just talk about that for a bit. Because it's one of those subjects that, in all the years that I've been in property management education, I tell ya, it's when you start bringing up fair housing, people are like, "Oh man, that's that once a year thing that I have to do." But then you have a different culture, you have the other side, of someone who is very interested in it and sees the benefit. So, I know you've seen both, but let's focus on the positive. When you see someone who's invested in fair housing education, what does that tell you about that person or about that company? What kind of feelings do you get?

Michael Coughlin : Sure. Well, to provide a little background for the thought, if you didn't know, property management, honestly, is a really high turnover industry. There are just a lot of people in and out. If you've ever lived in an apartment complex, you probably noticed that the same staff that you signed up with is not the same staff you ended up with. That's just a part of the industry, there's no judgment there. But it does change the way that corporate looks at investing in its employees and the business itself. And I think unfortunately some corporations don't try to spend the time to properly educate their employees. And that's understandable if the employees are just going to leave or aren't going to stick around long enough working on hot properties.

Michael Coughlin : But when you see an individual, whether that's a leasing agent, that's a manager, that's a maintenance employee, anybody in the industry, investing their time into taking the training seriously, I think that sends a message to everybody that this is my career path and I want to go up. I want to understand how this works. Whether you're talking about fair housing training or really anything else in the business, but especially fair housing training, because it is complicated. But I want to understand how this works so I can do better for my own career as well as the company I'm with.

Jonathan: Yeah, I like that analogy. And you said that, it made me think of in school, there was those fun subjects and then there was the ones that weren't so fun. So math was never a fun one for me. However, I knew that if I invested, because it was so important to my overall education, my overall how I'm going to function as an adult, then it was absolutely critical. So I love that. That resonated with me on how someone who takes something that is a very legalistic and not the most interesting perhaps a subject, but they see the bigger picture for their career, and understanding how that can accelerate them into leadership roles and training roles and really helping take the lead for their company. Yeah, beautiful, I love that. Thank you.

Michael Coughlin : That's absolutely right, Jonathan.

Jonathan: Yeah, excellent perspective. So that leads to ... All right, let's get back, just for a second, to the more ... Sometimes it can come across as a negative approach to fair housing, where an employee is just like, "Okay, here we go. I have my annual class that I have to take." Whether it's an online class or whether it's a in-person seminar of some sort, no matter what. But then there's organizations that will not only provide that level of education, but will provide ongoing fair housing education throughout the tenure of the employee, throughout the calendar year. So do you find that that's beneficial? What's your take on the once a year approach versus the let's continue to reinforce that through follow-up training?

Michael Coughlin : Sure. Well, that once a year approach ... For everybody, it really is different. You even see biannual, or excuse me, once every two years, and some people that just want to do it once, period, it doesn't matter if the person's in the industry for one year or 20. But when you see that kind of approach to training, I mean, it's just, the writing's on the wall. They're not putting in the time. It is a check the box. It's just something on the list, they want to move on. Which is unfortunate, because obviously that's not going to spark the kind of investment and education that you would hope to encourage in that employee. They're not going to be taking it too seriously if the owner or the corporation in charge, whoever, the management company, isn't taking it seriously as well.

Michael Coughlin : So that's going to send a line of communication, intentional or not, down the ladder. And it's too bad, because I really love the approach of an ongoing education. This is not kindergarten, we're not going to just learn shapes and then move on from there. This is a growing, changing subject. And when people get involved with it, they'll realize that there's always more to learn. And since the law itself does change over time, you can know everything there is to know and you're still going to learn more in the next five years, because that law is going to change. The environment is going to change. And that, again, that breeds that curiosity, that breeds that investment in education that you want to communicate with all the way throughout your company.

Jonathan: Right. Yeah, that's awesome. A lot of things that you said-

Michael Coughlin : And Jonathan, I'm sorry if I could-

Jonathan: Go ahead.

Michael Coughlin : I'm sorry, I just wanted to expand on that, because I told you why it's good, but I didn't tell you what that looks like. And to me that looks like, we preach a lot about online training is a really good vessel for getting out, especially a company that's spread over multiple states. That's great. Especially if you getting that once a year. But what do you do moving forward? What else can you do? Obviously, staying informed with recent news and events is great. So being part of a newsletter or, excuse me, listening to podcasts like this, anything is helpful. But also doing periodical, maybe webinars or live training on specific topics that are more detailed, maybe a little bit more confusing. And you want to make sure that everybody in your company understands how to handle this complicated subject, because it keeps coming up. That's what ongoing education means. Not just taking the same course every year in perpetuity, but really expanding that education into live webinar training and different online courses that deal with those detailed, nuanced topics that you need to know more about.

Jonathan: Yeah, no, that's great. Ding ding ding ding ding ding. Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. There's no sense repeating the same all over and over again. Because you and I both know that even with the best of the best of the best of the best, whatever kind of training that you're providing, you're still dealing with retention levels. And there is no such thing as 100% retention, because our brains, it just, we're just not built that way. So we have to understand that there is going to be an absorption and that's why it's so important for follow-up education. Because to your point, you mentioned, okay, we can change things up. So today it's an online class, couple of months, maybe it's a webinar, maybe another month, it's ... Whatever is available to the company, changing those things up.

Jonathan: And I like what you said about situational training. So, here's a scenario and let's look at our policies. Now let's act that out. What would you do? So those are some different tips and things like that, that will help create an ongoing fair housing education. So it really takes some effort on fair housing educators for the training department really to look at that as far as their curriculum. So I think that was golden, Michael, the way that you explained that just helped the audience. And it helped even those who are, whether they're in the training department or first time listeners, maybe they're new to the industry, help them understand there's a lot more to it. Because it's such an intrinsic part of our culture and how we perform business that it really needs to be a highlight overall. So that's really, really cool.

Jonathan: So that leads to really just a bigger picture. And to highlight what the theme of the show is, this is an investment, this is an investment in career and company. So, share your perspective. What would be some thoughts, what would be some scenarios, or anything that comes to mind to help people? If you're in that category where I just need to do a one and done, but now I need to really start going down that road of making this a long-term investment. I'm the decision-maker for my company. How do you skip that mindset switch? Any thoughts on that to change those gears so to speak?

Michael Coughlin : Well, I think the first step really is thinking of it in investment terms. I don't think that a lot of individuals do that for themselves. And I don't think a lot of companies think about training as investment. It's really just, a lot of times they just think it's a check the box or it's a part of your operations. But just like every other aspect of a business, you are looking for a return on that investment. So if you start there, then they expand the way that you think about training. Now, that turns into two separate categories. So what is a short-term investment, a long-term investment, in terms of training?

Michael Coughlin : Well, with short-term investments, you're expecting to see those high returns right off the bat. And with training, you're probably only going to see that kind of stuff with sales and operations training, where you can actually train your employees and you can see the results right away. Because there's probably going to be some dollar figures actually attached to what they learn. If you have a great sales training program and somebody comes right out and starts filling up all those vacancies, well, man, you can put that right on the spreadsheet and there it is.

Michael Coughlin : But long-term investment training is different. You're going to see a lot more with safety training, compliance training. And it's usually not, let's be honest, it's usually not the sexiest topics. It's not the ones that the classrooms aren't going to be filling up to the brim with people excited to take it. But that's okay, because the truth is that there is a return on investment, it's just not as easy to see. It's going to take many years sometimes to see it. But the safety training, compliance, those lack of accidents, those lack of lawsuits, when people are really following the rules and they're understanding what they need to do, how to get ahead of the problems, those are more difficult to see in a spreadsheet. But they are very real and it could save you really an untold amount of money. We're talking about millions and millions of dollars for every single company in this entire country can be saved by proper compliance training. And fair housing is in that category.

Jonathan: Absolutely. Yeah, that's a beautiful way to describe it. And I love how you compared that with sales training. Because that's something that, boom, you're there, you're doing it every day. It instantly becomes repetitive, versus compliance. So let's take another compliance topic for a minute, like back safety or fire safety or something along that line, trip hazards. So that's not something that you are faced with every single day, but when it does happen, taking that back safety course could save you on workman's compensation. So it's definitely a [crosstalk 00:18:24] approach.

Jonathan: So the same thing like you mentioned with fair housing, it's like, "Okay, we want to avoid lawsuits. We want to avoid having our employees have to go through those kinds of headaches and our company to have to go through those types of headaches, and have a happier atmosphere overall." So that's excellent. So I hope everybody got that message listening to the show. It's just, it is definitely a long-term investment and should not be just cast off as a checklist item. I like how you use that. Don't just check the box, have that bigger picture. Yeah, beautiful man.

Michael Coughlin : And Jonathan, if I could really just expand on that, because that first part we really talked about the benefits of the company, right? Because in a lawsuit, nine times out of 10 what you're talking about, or in an accident, you're talking about saving the company money. But there's really benefits for the individual employee as well. Obviously there's an increase in the value of education. But it shows that you are willing to invest in their success in your company. We've all had those jobs at some point in our life where we worked and we felt like we really weren't a part of the company's family, that they weren't invested in our long-term growth. That we wouldn't be sitting in the big chair one day, where we didn't see that. And we probably didn't stay with them too long.

Michael Coughlin : But those companies that invest in their employees, whether it's in their safety, their education, their growth, those are the ones where you see those employees stick around. They want to be a part of the company. They want to move up the ladder and grow it from there. I think really just top to bottom the benefits are obvious, even if they don't translate immediately into a dollar figure.

Jonathan: Yep. Yeah, no, thank you for expounding on that. That was great. So what an amazing show. I really appreciate having you on episode 11 today. This is a great topic and I'm sure we could deep dive. But I know our audience had a lot of key takeaways, as far as how they can create a training program, what would that look like, what are some add-ons that they could think about to use within their training program to make sure that fair housing education is a solid component to keep their employees well-trained and allow for the company to grow, and for their careers to grow. So thank you for being on the show. So I have a question. I ask this for all of our guests and separate from the topic overall. So what one actionable tip could you share that has served you well as an educator?

Michael Coughlin : I think honestly, it's being honest with the people that you're educating. There is a lot of pressure as a trainer, as an educator, to oversell it. To say that everything that comes out of your mouth is the most important thing ever. Every topic that you're discussing is life or death. And to even try to pretend that every topic that you're teaching is just the hottest thing on the planet, that you're going to love it, everybody's going to love it. It's okay to be honest with them. We're dealing with adults here and they're professionals. It's okay to say that they understand that maybe this isn't the training, that this isn't the best topic, this isn't the most interesting topic for them. That's okay. It's okay if it's confusing sometimes. It's okay if they don't understand why they need to take it.

Michael Coughlin : Just work through it with them. Treat them like the professionals they are. Then tell them that this is something necessary. This is going to benefit you. And once they get that idea in their head, once they realize that this is a part of the job, this is going to help them, even if they don't like it right now, they take to it much better. They understand the ongoing growth, that it can help grow their career. So just be honest with everybody about what you're teaching.

Jonathan: Yeah, lay it out. This is what we got. This is what it is. Don't try and overfluff what is the substance. That's beautiful, honesty is key. Great tip, man. Thank you so much. So, can people connect with you? Do you have any preference? Can people connect with you on LinkedIn or any other social channels? What do you prefer?

Michael Coughlin : Yeah, absolutely. You can always find me on LinkedIn. I'm on pretty much all the social media, Twitter, Instagram, and I can get you the information. And of course you can always check out our YouTube channel, where we provide some training as well for the Fair Housing Institute. Reach out to me and I'll reach right back.

Jonathan: Okay. Thank you so much. I'll definitely be putting those items in the show notes and everyone who's on the show do check out the fairhousinginstitute.com for the list of the fair housing courses that they have available. Solid, excellent education that you can insert as part of your overall training curriculum. So once again, ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to thank Michael Coughlin, vice president of the Fair Housing Institute, for being here with us today. If you've enjoyed this show, take a moment to review it on iTunes or in any other podcast app that you use, and feel free to share it with your friends. We are grateful for all the support we've had. And here we are already, episode number 11. So we look forward to seeing you on our next show. Thanks everyone.

Michael Coughlin : Thanks everybody.

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