Last modified on May 9th, 2023
By Paul Bergeron
Staffing has always been one of the property management industry’s most pressing challenges. However, attracting top talent today comes with new complexities, such as higher wages to combat record inflation, better work-life balance to help manage burnout, and more opportunities for growth to achieve bigger career goals.
Although many property management companies are evolving their hiring strategies and employment benefits, recruiting experienced candidates is still easier said than done, especially when there are more job openings than available people to fill the roles.
To help property management companies stay ahead in a fiercely competitive recruitment environment, we turned to industry experts for their insider advice. Continue reading to hear their insights on how to attract top talent.
Expand your competitive set beyond property management
With multifamily housing always in demand, the property management industry has frequently faced a limited staffing pool. As Ryan Severino, Chief Economist at JLL, explains, “We had a labor shortage even before the pandemic. Baby boomers were aging out of the workplace and the younger generations weren’t experienced enough to replace them.”
This trend was quickly amplified by other industries effectively luring property management employees away with higher pay, signing bonuses, and more flexible hours. This is something John Sebree, Senior Vice President and National Director of Multifamily for Marcus & Millichap, has seen firsthand. “The labor shortage is hurting onsite operations,” Sebree says. “You hear of maintenance techs making $22 per hour who are leaving to work for Amazon at $27 per hour.”
In addition, Kate Good, Partner at Hunington Residential, shares her similar experience. “We had a maintenance team member signed and ready. The day before his starting date, he told us he wanted a $5,000 signing bonus that wasn’t in the original agreement.” Good was forced to say goodbye, letting her new team member go before he even began.
One strategy property management operators can use to recruit employees is to recognize that the competitive set has expanded significantly over the last several years. This means looking at not just what other property management companies are offering new employees, but researching other industries, as well. Through a wider business lens, property management companies can stay attractive to top talent prospects in general rather than staying competitive within one specific industry.
Leverage your network to improve recruitment efforts
To help make sure available career opportunities show up in as many places as possible, Ashley Napoli, Vice President of Human Resources at Continental Properties, works directly with her marketing team on official placements. Additionally, she leverages her connections to encourage word-of-mouth efforts because she knows just how powerful professional networking can be.
As part of those efforts, Napoli partners with different industry organizations, technical schools, and universities to increase visibility and establish new personal connections. “We maintain a pipeline to potential hires by contacting them monthly to tell them what’s going on at our company and show them that it’s a great place to work.” Napoli reminds hiring managers, “You have to do more engagement than just two job fairs a year.”
Ask better questions to make more personal connections
Considered one of the industry’s best companies to work for, The Cardinal Group has consistently seen a quarterly employee turnover rate of less than 7%, a figure significantly lower than the industry’s average quit rate of 25%. In addition, the organization has seen a 40% annual increase in résumés received.
The reason for low turnover comes down to the company’s people — including its leadership — asking better questions, according to Peter Lynch, Chief People Officer for The Cardinal Group. Lynch elaborates, “Don’t walk in Monday and say to a person, ‘So, how was your weekend?’ Naturally, they may just say, ‘Fine,’ but that’s not enough. Try asking, ‘What was your favorite part of the weekend?’ to help them open up and share. That way, you’ve made a real connection, because you asked a better question.” Lynch summarizes why asking better questions matters so much: “You win the marketplace when you win the workplace.”
This same approach to forming connections applies to the recruitment process, too. Instead of asking questions around hypothetical behavior (“What would you do?”), ask questions around historical behavior (“What did you do?”) in order to better understand your candidates’ work styles. For example:
- What has been your most rewarding experience in property management so far?
- In what ways do you like your manager to show appreciation for your hard work?
- What professional achievements are you most proud of?
- What do you love about working in property management?
- If you had a magic wand and could take one thing off your to-do list, what would it be?
The answers to these questions can provide deeper insights into a candidate’s potential employment longevity. In addition, they will also help establish personal connections from the start and create a culture that attracts more top talent simply because you’re treating team members like individual people, not just role-fillers.
Offer greater flexibility
The last few years have been both personally and professionally exhausting for many people, and work-life balance and flexibility are now among employees’ top priorities.
To accommodate these new needs, Tracy Bowers, Executive Managing Director for RangeWater Real Estate, says her company adjusted its staff hours to include flex time in addition to traditional shifts. RangeWater also provided team members with ongoing virtual training and cell phone allowances to more robustly support work-from-anywhere routines.
Put improved hiring practices in place
The approach to attracting top talent has changed drastically and will continue to evolve as team members’ needs change. However, by implementing a three-pronged approach to recruitment and retention — evaluating an organization’s people, processes, and tools — property management companies can remain competitive, no matter what shifts the economy, labor market, or industry brings.
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