How does Keller Williams nurture a culture that puts individuals first?
A Home away From Home
Keller Williams is the largest real estate franchise in the world by agent count and boasts the highest sales volume in the US. The company often highlights its unique culture as a key factor in its success, earning it the number-one ranking on Indeed’s 15 Top-Rated Workplaces: Best Culture list.
But with over 980 global offices (or “market centers”), more than 175,000 employees (or “associates”) and continued growth on the horizon, how does Keller Williams nurture a culture that puts individuals first?
We spoke with Ryan Anson, chief people and security officer at Keller Williams, to learn more about how culture impacts the company’s success.
KELLER WILLIAMS: A CULTURE BUILT ON SHARED BELIEFS
The Keller Williams website defines the term “culture” as “the result of organizing the goals of a business around solid, positive, core values, and then proceeding to cultivate them on a daily basis.” Known more broadly as a system of values, beliefs and practices shared by a group of people, the idea of culture is integral to Keller Williams’s success story.
According to associates, the company has built an incredibly strong sense of its culture across market centers. A Stanford University study found that 96% of associates believe the culture is unique and directly influences success, while nearly 90% describe it as “family-like.”
This may be due to the fact that Keller Williams has a codified company belief system, which is embedded at every level and introduced at onboarding. Shortened to WI4C2TS, it consists of the following elements: win-win, integrity, customers, commitment, communication, creativity, teamwork, trust, and success.
Keller Williams’s belief system offers a unifying template for action and understanding, reminding associates that customers always come first, trust begins with honesty and people drive success. This system itself is proof of the company’s commitment to the belief that everyone achieves more through teamwork.
As Anson explains, finding employees who share this belief system helps provide common ground and a shared worldview across market centers.
“There’s nothing in [the belief system] that focuses around fads,” says Anson. “It should be able to stand the test of time.”
In addition to the WI4C2TS, Keller Williams associates and market centers are united by three core values: “God, Family, then Business.” Anson says members of the Keller Williams community interpret these values in ways that fit their lives, yet the takeaway is universal.
“You have to take care of yourself, and you have take care of your family,” Anson explains. “And once you’re in a good place there — let’s get to work.”
NURTURING INDIVIDUALS TO ENSURE ORGANIZATION-WIDE GROWTH
Keller Williams’s culture centers on supporting the individual first, which creates the scaffolding for success at multiple levels: building up its associates has the ripple effect of supporting the organization as a whole.
This is illustrated by the company’s stated mission: “To build careers worth having, businesses worth owning, lives worth living, experiences worth giving, and legacies worth leaving.” And Keller Williams prides itself on providing award-winning training and support to help agents thrive in their market centers and beyond.
“We want people [who] want to be successful,” says Anson. This begins in the recruiting stage by identifying associates with drive and determination and continues throughout their careers with ongoing training.
“I wouldn’t be where I am professionally or personally without the education, coaching and mentoring my company has provided me,” says one associate surveyed in the Stanford study.
When it comes to supporting its workforce, Keller Williams puts its money where its mouth is: the company uses a profit-sharing model, wherein approximately half of its operating profits at market centers are shared with associates. This makes company growth a natural extension of individual, team and office success. True to the company’s belief system, it’s a win-win.
SUCCESS THROUGH BALANCE, POSITIVITY AND SUPPORT
Keller Williams’s culture helps associates help themselves at work and beyond. The company trusts them to manage their time and encourages staff to maintain work-life balance, positive attitudes and holistic well-being.
According to Anson, policies promoting work-life balance should be transparent, visible and equitable in order for a company to succeed. And he should know: Keller Williams also ranks first on Indeed’s Top-Rated Companies for Work-Life Balance list. The company demonstrates its commitment to this balance by allowing associates to make their own schedules, giving them ownership of their time as well as their earning potential.
Keller Williams is also committed to the well-being of both its associates and their clients. Purchasing a home is a major life event, and up to 40% of first-time home buyers describe it as one of their most stressful experiences.
The associate’s job is to make this process more enjoyable, and they are trained to minimize client stress by “taking the negativity out and really making it [the experience] positive,” says Anson. However, he adds, associates also find great meaning in their work; this is beneficial when things are going well, but this sense of mission can also help during those inevitable times when, for some reason, a client isn’t happy.
“We want you to find that ideal house because that will make your life better; that will bring you happiness,” explains Anson. “That’s where we get that emotional attachment to our clients.”
Through its KW Wellness program, the company provides tools and resources to help associates achieve comprehensive health of the body and mind, including stress-reduction techniques to foster positive attitudes.
Taken together, these efforts toward balance and well-being are an important part of the company’s culture, helping to promote happiness, satisfaction, and — perhaps most importantly — loyalty. An impressive 89% of Keller Williams associates believe the company will assist them in a time of need.
As one associate reports, “I always know that the people in our company have my best interest at heart.” And when employees feel their company is taking care of them, they are more inclined to give their best in return.
GIVING BACK BENEFITS THE WHOLE COMMUNITY
Engagement in local communities is another pillar of Keller Williams’ culture — and Vice Chairperson Mo Anderson embodies this spirit of philanthropy and service. Raised on a tenant farm in Oklahoma, Anderson worked as a music teacher before transitioning to real estate. She joined Keller Williams as co-owner and CEO in 1995, and the company has flourished under her leadership.
Today, Anderson leads by example, epitomizing the central tenets of the company’s culture. Every May, Keller Williams honors her birthday with a global day of service: on RED Day, short for “Renew, Energize, and Donate,” market centers identify areas of need in their local communities and spend the day volunteering.
In 2003, Anderson also launched KW Cares, a charity that supports agents and their communities in times of hardship, such as natural disasters or sudden emergencies.
For example, after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, KW Cares jumped into action. The hurricane’s aftermath coincided with Keller Williams’s annual training in Austin, Texas, which drew associates from around the world. As the crisis on the Texas coast grew dire, Keller Williams transformed its training into a large-scale relief effort, sending 3,000 associates to volunteer in storm-ravaged areas.
WORKING TOGETHER FOR A STRONGER CULTURE
At Keller Williams, associates and leadership embody a culture that fosters growth through both independence and interdependence. This starts with the belief that success begins at the individual level, with tangible benefits that ripple outward to the local community and the company as a whole.
This unique culture is upheld through universally shared values and core beliefs, as well as a commitment to put them into practice by supporting associates in all facets of their lives. Given the top rankings Keller Williams receives on Indeed’s culture and work-life balance lists, the strategy is working.