Have you ever wondered how successful companies manage to attain greatness? Author Jim Collins studied over 1,400 established firms for his book, Good to Great, and he discovered the secret isn’t money, technology or even fear of failure, but rather steadfast discipline, or “a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process – a framework kept each company, its leaders and its people on track for the long haul.”
In other words, organizations must continually commit themselves to the task of improvement. The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) expects salespeople and brokers to upgrade their skills and knowledge through continuing education: completing RECO’s Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE) courses and exploring additional professional development opportunities. RECO holds itself to similar expectations of continual improvement. That’s why last year, following a competitive RFP process, RECO worked with consulting firm CamProf Inc. to launch a formal and rigorous review of all aspects of the MCE program.
Overall, 2018 was a very good year for the MCE program. RECO introduced four new elective courses, and its work received some important recognition. RECO’s Advertising Compliance MCE elective was awarded the Brandon Hall Group’s Bronze in the “2018 Best Advance in Compliance Training” category, while the Real Estate Fraud section of the 2017 Update Course, and the Waterfront Properties course received Platinum and Gold Hermes Creative Awards, respectively.
It was an honour for my colleagues to receive these awards, but the real test of the MCE program is its overall perception by RECO’s registrants. That’s why every MCE course includes a feedback survey. RECO received 19,463 survey responses from registrants last year, and the results were extremely positive:
- 97 per cent indicated the content was relevant to their individual real estate practice
- 96 per cent indicated the activities gave them the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the topics
- 96 per cent indicated the content was interesting and easy to follow
- 97 per cent indicated the course was easy to navigate and understand
- 91 per cent liked the pace of the course
- 96 per cent enjoyed the flexibility of learning online at their own convenience and pace.
My colleagues and I were pleased with these results, but we decided the program could benefit from an outside evaluation. Since most of RECO’s registrants had completed the MCE cycle, RECO launched a review that included a specific examination of the technology platform and the possibility of adding new features and functionality, the relevancy and presentation of course content, the learner experience and course delivery methods, including the feasibility of classroom options as well as social and micro learning. CamProf sought registrant feedback through surveys and focus groups.
All RECO registrants who had taken the MCE program were asked to participate in a special CamProf survey a year ago. These results were also positive: 78 per cent of our registrants believed they were better informed about regulatory requirements after they took a course, and satisfaction with the content, delivery and applicability of our courses was 70 per cent or higher, depending upon the course.
The CamProf survey data informed RECO staff that two-thirds of respondents completed additional or supplementary professional development elsewhere – mostly through brokerages and local boards. RECO has always encouraged registrants to take a proactive approach to professional development, so this was very encouraging.
Real estate salespeople and brokers are eager to learn, but they want to learn on their own terms; for instance, 87 per cent said they want to complete the MCE program on their chosen device and many registrants mentioned in the focus groups that RECO could do a better job of delivering the information.
This is valuable feedback. My colleagues and I sincerely thank everyone – registrants and key stakeholders – who shared their thoughts on the MCE program.
RECO’s action plan:
RECO will initiate a series of actions over the next three years to take its MCE program from good to great. These include:
- Investigating the best options for providing in-person offerings, or virtual classrooms for registrants who wish to learn that way. This means drilling down by getting additional thoughts, opinions and ideas from registrants on specific MCE topics such as classroom learning, and then further refining that feedback through focus group discussions
- Enhancing the MCE program platform and improving the learner experience by making course materials easier to access through tablets, iPads and other devices, leveraging more system functionality to provide additional features such as an MCE reminder setting controlled by the registrant and looking at social learning platforms and collaborative opportunities – allowing the learner to have more control over the experience
- Defining and communicating the MCE program’s purpose of enhancing regulatory compliance and consumer protection, building a foundation for professionalism and spotlighting industry issues
- Connecting the registration and learning cycles so registrants can easily access the courses they have completed as a reference in order to reinforce learning and to make the process more straightforward
- Looking at opportunities to make MCE course content even more relevant and understandable to registrants by including more case studies and best practices when they are useful
- Providing registrants with more opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas on their learning needs; this could include building a ratings system into course evaluations, so registrants could inform RECO and fellow registrants about the difficulty or overall usefulness of a course.