Quarter 1 2021, Volume 9 Issue 1

Acts Housing: Coming Together as an Organization for Staff Certification

For the past 25 years, Acts Housing has sought to empower low- to moderate-income families in Milwaukee and Beloit, Wisconsin, through homeownership. To further its mission, Acts Housing made counselor certification an agency priority and continues to support housing counselors through the certification process.

Three primary factors have contributed to Acts Housing’s certification success:

  • Investing in staff—Providing counselors with training, time, and support prepared counselors for the exam.

    To set an example for counselors and better understand the demands of getting certified, agency leaders started by taking the exam. After completing the certification process, managers with direct knowledge offered support and guided counselors through the process.

    Opportunities were created to allow counselors to participate in exam preparation activities during work hours.

  • Incentives and teamwork—Acts Housing leadership staff created an interactive study exercise to make exam preparation fun and inclusive.

    The trivia game used questions from training, practice exams, and other HUD resources. Trivia questions were posted around the office daily and certified counselors shared exam knowledge, tips, and tricks in preparation for the exam.

    Staff members working in real estate, rehabilitation, and lending shared their knowledge and became cheerleaders for counselors participating in the interactive study exercise.

  • Addressing fear and anxiety—Open discussions addressed the fear and anxiety counselors had about taking the exam. Without minimizing the importance of passing the exam, management found the following guidance especially helpful in alleviating counselor test-taking anxiety:

    • Every counselor needs to prepare for the exam. The test is about HUD regulations, policies, procedures, and resources.
    • Breathe, slow down, and trust in the training and exam preparation. Leadership staff encouraged counselors to avoid second guessing themselves and save questions they want to give more thought to until the end of the exam.
    • Counselors may retake the test. Leadership tried their best to ease the pressure naturally felt by counselors in passing the test on the first try. Managers assured counselors the exam could be taken more than once.

At Acts Housing, leadership took the challenge of getting their counselors certified and used it as an opportunity to come together and improve the culture of the entire organization.

Woman smiling at computer