Here at AppFolio, we have a tradition to commemorate major company milestones with the signing of wooden oars. Displayed around the office, these are daily reminders of our accomplishments and help motivate employees to always do their best work. There is something exciting about signing your name on an oar; you’re part of something bigger than just your daily job tasks. We also hold a lot of offsite team get-togethers to get to know each other better and promote camaraderie. These are just a few examples of the simple ways we work hard to keep employee happiness a top priority.
Every company can benefit from traditions similar to this; whether it’s signed team photos, posters, or whatever means something significant to your business. (A bit of AppFolio backstory: our company’s first team outing was a river rafting trip, hence why oars hold a special place in our founders’ hearts.) It doesn’t have to be a physical object, either. Your celebration can be an activity that includes everyone in the office: a dinner, wine tasting, horseback riding, paintball, you choose! It’s important to celebrate achievements and hard work, and it’s equally important to do this outside of the daily office environment.
Why is this so important? As property managers, you’re in the business of helping people: your renters, your owners, your vendors. At its core, property management is about customer service, and if you’re like me and encountered an unpleasant customer service agent in your past, you know it can really put a damper on your day. Negative experiences with customer service reps can leave you with a bad impression of a brand, causing many to resort to posting very unsatisfactory reviews online. So, employees who have a happier disposition, like their job and their colleagues, and are generally in a good mood will translate this into their interactions with customers. Happy employees = happy customers.
Here are some ideas for how to boost employee happiness to turn up the volume on customer service, which is paramount to the success of your business.
- Celebrate personal milestones. Employee birthdays, work anniversaries, new babies, new goldfish—any reason to have cake and ice cream is a good one.
- Do something good for the community. Your entire office staff (or a department if you’re part of a much larger organization) could volunteer for a good cause in your local area. Help out at a soup kitchen during the holidays, collect canned goods or toys, or run a marathon to raise awareness for an important cause.
- Reward your employees for their group or individual accomplishments. If you have a standout employee who leased X number of units that month, or a group of people who completed a big project on time, celebrate with a pizza party or take the employees out for a special lunch.
- Take breaks! Encourage employees to step away from their computers every so often. It’s not only good for the mind, it’s necessary for the body to heal from the damage caused by sitting too long. A quick 5 minute walk around the property or even small trips to the kitchen area can do wonders for productivity.
- Decorate the office. When you spend up to 8 hours of your day (or more!) in the same office space, sometimes just a change of scenery can improve morale and productivity. Try sprucing up the white walls with some artwork or sprinkle plants around. Save up for that new coffee maker everyone has been asking for or healthy snacks for those busy times. Make the office comfortable and a place where people look forward to spending 40 hours a week. It’s also more inviting for your renters and owners when they stop by. Have comfortable chairs for them if they have to wait longer than normal, and offer a beverage/cookie station.
- Introduce a dog-friendly workplace. This one can be tricky, because not everyone loves dogs and some people have allergies. But, if you have a consensus that everyone would welcome animals, allowing employees to bring in their pet can be rewarding. AppFolio is a dog-friendly workplace and it helps keep the spirits up when there is an adorable four-legged furry friend to say hi to when you’ve had a busy day. Use caution with this one, though. Maybe start with one or two dogs and see how it goes, and only allow dogs that are agreeable. Make sure you have a written policy, and only allow dogs in the office if your properties are dog-friendly, as well.
- Ask your employees for feedback. Odds are you won’t know your employees are really unhappy until they quit on you, so ask early and often how to improve the company culture and office morale. Survey your employees once a quarter. More importantly, act on some of the results and show them their feedback is being heard. It helps to explain why you can’t accommodate certain requests, too.
- Foster professional growth and education. Many of your staff might have gaps in their skill set or want to further their knowledge of systems and programs. Offer time off or pay for classes or certifications to further their education in certain business-related areas. This not only makes employees happy; their expanded skills and knowledge benefit your business as well. It’s a win-win.
- Have a good time. Using your best judgement, try to have a little fun in the office. Tell jokes, lighten the mood when people seem stressed, send daily inspirational emails, smile, laugh. Hard work and professionalism are extremely important, but not at the expense of happiness. This is especially important for upper management and CEO-level employees to make themselves available and visible to the rest of the team.
“Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” (Vince Lombardi)
If your staff feels appreciated and happy that their efforts are contributing to the company as a whole, they will be more loyal, hard-working employees. Your entire business will benefit from making employee happiness a top priority.
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