Hard times test our ability to make lemonade out of lemons. This particularly applies to employees — in this instance, property management employees. One of the main lessons we can take away from the pandemic is that there are superstars among employees. Some are front and center, while others are hidden gems that are discovered during trying times.
Hats off to the maintenance staff that bravely went into apartments of frontline workers to fix issues, the office staff that made sure residents with COVID had food and other assistance, and those that volunteered to help in myriad other ways. This is a long list of selfless behavior that goes beyond the call of duty.
Managing and retaining great employees requires managers to actively think of property management staff as a vital cog in the wheel of multifamily success. Taking care of them is not just a matter of giving them a paycheck every month, it is much more. Those who believe that paying their staff well should be enough to keep them happy will be faced with a dizzying web of employee turnover.
Employee turnover is pernicious, and not only will it burden other employees to assist in bearing the load, but revenue loss and renter dissatisfaction can also result. Keeping your property management employees happy should be one of your goals for success. Here are some points to remember in this regard.
1. Manager-Employee Feedback Loop
Open communication with employees is essential to maintain employee motivation and satisfaction. Developing an employee listening habit is just as important as a telling habit. Most managers have the “telling” side of the equation deeply ingrained, but smart managers will also add a “listening” side to the equation.
Employees can give managers great insight into improving operations and many other renter issues. These not only save money but can also improve retention. It is not uncommon to have employees discuss factors that affect their performance. A good manager should listen, pick up these cues, and act on them. Doing so will ensure employees know that their opinion matters and that the things that improve their day-to-day work, or their “happiness quotient,” will be considered. My advice to new managers is: “Listen, listen, listen.”
2. Employee Motivation
A great salary is not the only thing that keeps employees at peak performance and retention. A common complaint during employee exit interviews is that they are not valued. The employee value equation includes more than just salary — it also requires a sense of respect, and feeling that their opinion counts and that management have their backs.
If you have more than a couple of employees leave and their main reason is not salary, ask yourself what you missed. A salary is a quantifiable number. The rest is on the plane of human emotional intangibles. Defining these is very difficult, but by developing listening skills, astute managers can head off thoughts of employee resignation before they grow.
3. Team Dynamics
Scratch the surface of a happy work environment and much more often than not, you will see a harmonious, excellent team dynamic at play. Good management knows how to take star players and meld them together to become a superstar team. Even those that are not performing at the star level will up their game, and the organization wins.
My favorite example (and in the interest of full disclosure, my favorite team) is the Chicago Bulls. Pre-Coach Jackson, they had all the talent ingredients — Jordan, Pippen, etc. — but no championship. Coach Jackson fused them into a formidable team.
4. Healthy Competition
It is always good to have a few contests among the employees as motivation. Make these contests fun with prizes for the winners. They don’t need to be very expensive, but employees treasure winning them. Gift cards, silly gifts, lunch, etc., are all appreciated. If you can afford it, also have a memorable costlier gift like a three-day paid vacation to Vegas.
5. Praise Publicly, Correct Privately
Everyone loves praise. If you see an outstanding performance, make sure your praise is public. On the other hand, sometimes employees make mistakes. Rather than dressing them down in public, do so in private in a non-threatening, non-demeaning manner. Employees that are corrected in such a manner work diligently to improve.
Word will likely spread among other employees about how well the situation was handled. Was it handled like a “boss” or a “leader?” There is a big difference between the two. People have to follow a boss, but people want to follow a leader. A tangible difference with major dividends. Be a leader.
Hang on to your superstar employees and guide those who are not yet at that level. Your role as a manager becomes much easier as your employees become more invested in themselves and your business.
About the Author:
Veena Jetti is the founding partner of Vive Funds, a unique commercial real estate firm that specializes in curating conservative opportunities for investors.