Last modified on May 9th, 2023
By Paul Bergeron
Property management businesses are evolving their approach to operations, especially in terms of staffing and training. Hiring, onboarding, and retention processes look vastly different today than just a few years ago, thanks in large part to changing employee needs, a widening talent pool gap, and sharp increases in recruitment competition from both inside and outside the property management industry.
Through all the changes and growth, several key staffing and recruitment themes have clearly emerged. Property management companies need to invest in the next generation of property management talent by implementing processes and providing the tools necessary to do jobs more effectively and efficiently — ultimately creating long-term opportunities for both your teams and your business.
To dive deeper into these themes and explore what they look like in practice, we met with property management executives to learn how they have adapted their approach to hiring, onboarding, and training. The following tactics can help you manage your teams more successfully.
Appeal to today’s tech-savvy workers
Property management team members no longer just prefer to have access to the latest technology — they now expect it. According to Dror Poleg, an economic historian, speaker, and best-selling author, this isn’t unreasonable. “Technology is now becoming table stakes. To have the best tools in place in terms of property management is now basic. You must be able to do that.”
Modern, industry-specific software should not be offered simply as a shiny lure to attract the next generation of employees: It could actually be a make-or-break for attracting the best talent possible. Jordan Levine, Co-Founder of Pelican Property Management, sees firsthand that team members who value technology are naturally driven and want to accomplish more professionally, both of which ultimately benefit your business, too: “The current workforce does not want to be in the business of data entry. People strive to be efficient and to solve the real problems they face, and our future workforce is going to be looking for AI (artificial intelligence) to complete simple, day-to-day tasks. Those are the kind of strategic people we want working for us.”
In addition, today’s team members not only see how technology can help them do more high-value, high-impact work, they actively embrace it. Stacy Holden, AppFolio’s Industry Principal and Senior Director, confirms that 95% of Gen Z and 93% of Millennial employees would be willing to automate parts of their jobs: “We need to recognize that technology isn’t just something they desire, it’s something these employees demand.”
Invest in thorough onboarding
After finding and hiring great employees, the next crucial step is bringing team members on in the right ways that set them up for success. In fact, organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new-hire retention by 82% and productivity by more than 70%. Unfortunately, it’s clear that most companies today don’t have strong programs in place, with only 12% of employees saying their organization does a great job onboarding employees.
Not only does a lack of proper onboarding increase new hires’ risk of leaving, it can also exhaust existing employees, as Paula Munger, Vice President of Research for the National Apartment Association, explains: “Because it’s so hard right now, a lot of our owners and operators are having to hire less-experienced people. It leads to a vicious cycle where people doing the training are taken away from their work, and they get burned out because their own work then piles up. If you invest time and resources in training and an employee goes elsewhere after six months, you have to start the process all over again.”
The best solution is to thoroughly invest in creating a new-hire program, one rooted in consistency during the onboarding process and one that prevents both learning breakdowns and extra work for existing team members. As Stacy says, an essential action is to digitize the entire process and provide multiple resources and ways to learn, both individually and collaboratively: “If we can provide needed technology in different formats, we can meet our employees where they are; this can help keep teams aligned and productive. When people can watch a video, read instructions, and chat live with someone in tech support, their training experience becomes easier and better.”
Retain employees with a company culture that engages them
Once new hires are up to speed and trained in their respective roles, consistently engaging them is key to keeping them. This ultimately comes down to your company culture.
Based on findings from AppFolio’s 2022 Hiring and Retention Report, employees who say they’re not satisfied in their current roles are significantly less likely to have positive views of their company culture. Specifically, just 43% of at-risk employees agree they enjoy their company culture, compared to 76% of employees who say they’re not at risk of leaving their jobs.
As with having the right technology in place, company culture isn’t merely a nice-to-have — it’s something employees both want and expect. As Steve Cadigan, Talent Strategist and Work Culture Consultant at Cadigan Talent Ventures, sees it: “Culture is the most valuable competitive advantage you have in a world of massive choice for employees today, in a world where they’re telling us they’re thinking about leaving and where we’re seeing more resignations than ever.”
A healthy company culture can also engage employees by showcasing the bigger picture of how their efforts contribute to the entire business. When it comes to purpose, Dror says it shouldn’t just be part of your organization, it should be woven into everything you do, too: “We want to integrate it into our offerings so people understand who we are, what we stand for, how we think about them, how we think about the planet, and how your choices make an impact on the world. There’s room in real estate to do that.”
Defining your organization’s “North Star” — its core mission — guides business directives and aligns everyone to a bigger purpose. It can also overcome internal cultural challenges and help employees feel more connected, even when working together yet separate. As Stacy explains: “It can be difficult when people are working functionally as teams but physically in different states. Keeping employees connected on what they need to do and how to do it as well as how engaged they feel is a challenge. Your business needs to support people to overcome circumstances and maintain the desire to come to work every day. That’s a sign of a healthy culture.”
Follow a blueprint for maximizing teams
Ultimately, solving property management’s hiring and retention challenges requires an updated approach to providing its people with the right tools and processes for success.
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