Thought Leadership

Building Tenured Multifamily Teams

by Maritza Riquelmy-Romero

While we are mid-way through 2022, it appears that hiring and associate retention will dominate multifamily conversations for the year. Turnover rates for the industry were high even before the pandemic and the Great Resignation, but the current workforce landscape has left owner/operators scrambling to staff property teams. 

Unfortunately, there simply isn’t an adequate pipeline of prospective multifamily associates to backfill positions at the rate they are currently being vacated. The once reliable turnstile of fresh associates ready to replace departing onsite team members just doesn’t exist anymore, and most operators don’t have a bench of talent ready to step up. 

The adoption of new recruitment and hiring strategies could create a small competitive advantage, as we all compete for the same limited pool of candidates. But optimizing new associate recruitment won’t solve the problem.

Given the current hiring challenges, the primary focus for operators should be maximizing associate retention, establishing a workplace culture that employees don’t want to leave and thereby curbing the cycle of turnover. Overemphasizing hiring – particularly by offering incentives and wages not extended to current team members – can leave existing associates feeling neglected and alienated, driving them to look elsewhere for work and perpetuating the issue. Emphasizing associate satisfaction is the key to developing a tenured onsite team. 

The truth is, change is difficult and associates generally prefer to stay put when they feel like they are in a positive environment. So, how do we create a culture where associates feel valued, supported and part of a larger corporate family that puts employees first?

Solicit associate feedback

Competitive wages and benefit packages are merely the building blocks for associate satisfaction. Team members also need to feel engaged in their work and know that their voice is valued and respected by the company.

We’ve found that regularly gauging employee sentiment and satisfaction levels enable us to react and address any potential pain points for employees before job dissatisfaction sets in.  Periodically scheduled stay interviews establish purposeful lines of communication and deliver the message that we appreciate associate perspectives and invite two-way dialogue. Stay interviews – designed to engage associates at key intervals throughout their employment and pinpoint potential issues – can be conducted digitally, in person, or both. 

The opportunity to take part in focus groups is another way we have involved and connected associates with the organization. With various departments and markets represented in focus groups, operators further demonstrate a desire for associate input while also identifying portfolio-wide employee concerns or isolated cases that require attention. 

Acknowledge input

It’s not enough to merely solicit employee feedback. Associates need to know it was received and how it will be used. 

Acknowledgement, whether verbal, written or through virtual meetings, is an important aspect of employee engagement initiatives. Through associate stay interviews, we are often alerted to potential training or tools our teams are lacking. Follow-up conversations are an opportunity to announce any planned response to feedback and thank associates for the insights that led to pending changes or improvements. 

We have seen that affirming employee feedback is valued and actually used to create an optimal corporate culture goes a long way to building unity and facilitating the sense of workplace “family” that drives associate retention. 

Respond accordingly

The acknowledgment of associate concerns is meaningless unless it is accompanied by a tangible response. Once employees know their feedback has been received, they expect to see action taken. 

When associates share that they feel incompetent or inefficient at a particular aspect of their jobs, what they’re actually telling us is they aren’t happy with their work. However, it also means we have an opportunity to boost associate satisfaction with a receptive response. By introducing training or deploying technology that resolves pain points expressed by employees, operators effectively bring the associate engagement loop full circle. 

When associates feel supported, productive and proficient in their roles, they generally express greater job satisfaction. When satisfied employees also feel empowered and engaged, operators are able to retain more associates, build tenured teams and effectively combat the multifamily turnover trend. 

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