Last modified on October 26th, 2023
By Marc Frenkiel
In recent times, the corporate world has witnessed a significant shift in employee retention strategies. As a result of the Great Resignation, forward-thinking companies are making conscious efforts to create an environment where employees feel seen, heard, and truly valued.
The property management industry, which has never been immune to the challenge of attracting and retaining talent, has had to adapt as well.
In a recent AppFolio Live Educational Session, Megan Eales Monroe, Senior Content Marketing Manager at AppFolio, and Chiccorra Connor, President and Founder of the wildly successful property management consultancy Occupancy Heroes Incorporated, discussed what steps the most successful property management companies have taken to overcome staffing challenges for greater operational efficiency and, ultimately, greater profitability. Attendees also had a chance to ask questions and share some of their strategies.
Here are the top takeaways from the session, which also serve as actionable strategies for you to incorporate into your business
Embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion
The events of 2020 forced many companies to confront hard truths about inequality and discrimination within their organizations. Employees worldwide have demanded change, pushing companies to act. Many have been driven by a genuine commitment to positive change and the realization that inaction was no longer an option. The greater focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives has been a significant driver in retaining talent.
In Chiccorra’s view, “one major reason why turnover is slowing down is due to the fact that more employees are feeling more seen and heard. [Companies] knew that employees around the world were demanding change and that they had to do something fast. So companies committed to listening to their employees, and they’ve been focusing heavily on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and companies began to implement change, and that change is reflected in the survey numbers.”
The survey numbers Chiccorra mentions come from the 2023 AppFolio Property Manager Hiring and Retention report, which found that only 9% of all staff surveyed were thinking about leaving their company and/or the industry compared to 25% in last year’s report.
Treat your employees like valued team members
A key revelation discussed in the session is the fact that employees often leave because of issues within the workplace. A lack of respect, unresponsive management, and a toxic work environment can leave team members feeling unvalued. Companies have started making efforts to improve workplace wellbeing, addressing issues that may have caused dissatisfaction in the past. The growing emphasis on mental health and self-care has had a profound impact on employee retention. Many employees are now more willing to walk away from situations, places, or people that threaten their well-being. In response, companies are adapting their policies and culture to support the mental health of their employees.
According to Chiccorra, “people are recognizing that it starts with them and that they must be willing to walk away and release themselves from situations, places, and people who threaten their sense of self-respect and self-worth. This may mean leaving oppressive jobs and professional environments, exiting low frequency relationships, or drastically changing their lives altogether. And in realizing this, they’re opening themselves up to more options. And because we all know that there is a definite [staffing] shortage in this industry, we’ve got to do what it takes to keep our people happy and sticking around. Most employees are about some give and take. So they may not be satisfied in some areas, but they’re willing to stick around as long as they feel as if they’re valued and they’re heard.”
One session attendee noted that she hosts weekly lunches where team members get to pick the cuisine. It’s small, symbolic things like this that create a sense of community and belonging, which can lead to big change.
Support career development and pathways for professional growth
Supporting team members in their career advancement and skill development is essential. Companies are now actively engaging in mentorship, training, classes, and conferences to help employees build customized career paths. Setting clear goals, communicating career pathways, and providing resources for skill improvement are becoming standard practices.
Chiccorra suggests taking the time to find out more about your team members’ greater ambitions:
“Ask them which higher level roles they’d like to pursue. Then work with leadership members to set up programs for team members to shadow executives, learn new skills, and ask in-depth questions about the role. This is going to motivate employees to pursue their goals. It’s also going to help them decide what they want to work towards, and if it’s a different position within the company altogether, then another option is to start job rotations within your company.”
Encourage work-life balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for employee well-being and job satisfaction. In an industry like property management where residents often expect 24-hour, immediate service, work-life balance for employees can sometimes feel elusive.
Session attendees answered a poll about how they feel about work-life balance within their own companies. About one-third answered “Great — I have the flexibility I need.” Two-thirds were split between “Okay, could use some improvement” and “Not good, needs major improvement.”
According to Chiccorra, the most successful companies encourage efficiency, task prioritization, and regular breaks. By emphasizing the importance of a balanced life, organizations can ensure that employees remain energized and motivated. She adds:
“Consider giving employees a day off every week. And I know that’s scary. Every time I say that, people cringe. And I understand that. It may seem like, oh my gosh, this result is going to create so much work for the other team members, and things are not going to get done. But I’m speaking to this from experience. When you give good employees an extra day off, they work harder to complete their tasks so that they’re not faced with a heavier workload when they return. And it really works out for everybody.”
At the end of the day, property management is still a demanding job that carries great responsibility. Work-life balance is only possible as long as the work is getting done, which is the perfect segue into the next tip/takeaway from the session.
Technology plays a vital role in reducing employees’ workload. Implementing software solutions to automate tasks that don’t need to be done manually allows employees to focus on higher value, more stimulating work that contributes to the company’s growth. According to Chiccorra:
“Good technology will reduce everyone’s busywork. A lot of the day-to-day in property management can be automated with technology. So we should implement technologies that can do tasks that we should not be focusing on so that we can spend time on the items that will help us to grow our company’s revenue. So once we know that we can delegate lower level work to programs and spend our time focusing on those big ticket, goal-oriented tasks, we can spend time on things that truly make a difference in our business.”
Pay for performance
Rewarding employees based on their performance is a winning strategy. Bonuses, commissions, and performance-based incentives can motivate employees to excel and stay committed to their roles. Here, too, Chiccorra speaks from experience:
“I can tell you that with our firm, we travel nationwide increasing occupancy, and our team is paid solely on commission. They have a very small salary, and then they’re paid according to their performance. They’re knocking it out of the park simply because they’re paid on performance.”
The landscape of employee retention is evolving rapidly, with companies realizing the importance of creating a supportive, inclusive, and rewarding work environment. By embracing diversity, prioritizing mental health, fostering career development, encouraging work-life balance, automating busywork, and providing incentives, organizations are paving the way for long-term employee satisfaction and success. As businesses continue to adapt to these changes, they are not only retaining their valuable employees but also fostering a culture of growth and excellence. If you’d like to watch the recording of the full educational session, you can find it here.