Finding and retaining top talent is more challenging today than ever before.
Residential property management leaders know all too well the cutthroat competition for high quality talent in the apartment industry. Finding and retaining top performers is more challenging today than ever before because employees have more choices and added leverage. A key factor in recruiting and keeping your best team members is demonstrating how you plan to invest in them.
A number of surveys have found clear connections between professional development opportunities and employee morale and loyalty. One recent study from software analysis and review site Better Buys found that more than 90% of employees rated having access to career development as “important” or “very important,” which ranked second only to compensation.
How can you support your team’s career development needs and goals? By focusing on the three C’s of career development: Coaching, connection and collaboration.
Career development support should begin on the first day of a new employee’s job. Of course, it’s important to have any new team members participate in training and onboarding. Career and professional goals should be a part of that training process. The most effective strategies go a step further. Consider how you can connect your new employees to your existing top talent. This approach allows new employees to learn from peers as well as give your top team members the ability to grow as leaders and mentors.
This strategy offers a winning career development solution for both your newest team members and your rising stars. These benefits were a driving force in HHHunt launching its new Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) program. PAL leaders are selected for each job function in specific geographic areas, including everything from assistant community manager to leasing consultant and service manager to custodian. A key feature of this program is that PAL leaders are located at different communities in the same geographic regions. It’s important to provide this “outside” perspective for new employees so they feel comfortable leaning on their PAL leader. There’s no fear of a reprimand. This program ensures that the newest employees can learn from our best team members and excel in a similar way.
The PAL program offers advantages for PAL leaders, too. They receive additional leadership training and are eligible for a bonus by participating. The commitment lasts for six months, and someone can continue serving as a PAL leader if they so choose. A peer-based learning program is a powerful way to support career development for both your new team members and those who you want to cultivate for further growth.
In addition to coaching, residential property management leaders should prioritize ways in which they can connect with team members. Ditch those archaic annual reviews and evaluations; rather, engage in a two-way conversation and connection with your immediate reports.
These conversations may seem overwhelming, but they don’t need to be. Schedule meetings on a quarterly basis to discuss performance, career growth and professional goals. Leave money out of these conversations, as it can be distracting and dominate a meeting. You still need to discuss compensation and benefits with employees, but find another time to do that. These quarterly connections should
be laser focused on a team member’s success, struggles and plans for the future. Offer candid feedback and focus on areas for growth.
Creating a dedicated and consistent space for these connections will allow managers to better track performance and broader career goals of their team members. In doing so, you can more aptly address areas that need to be fixed and ensure that a high performer is meeting their potential. This approach also ensures that you can easily identify and track team members for future management positions.
Yes, these connections can take time. In my experience, these quarterly conversations each last for about an hour and require 30 to 60 minutes of prep time per meeting. However, you should only schedule these meetings for your direct reports
and then they should do the same for their direct reports and so on from the very top to the bottom of the organizational chart. The time investment is well worth the benefits. Since we’ve adopted this type of connection program at HHHunt, we’ve
seen increased employee loyalty, lower turnover and have generated a number of innovative ideas.
A critical component of the first two strategies also informs the third career development recommendation: To truly support your team, leaders and managers must be collaborative. You can’t simply tell an employee what to do or complete their career development goals for them. To be effective, team members must have buy-in for their own career development.
A leader or manager’s role is to nurture those goals and support their growth. Help show them the way and give them the tools to succeed.
My colleague Gabrielle Bouknight shared an important and collaborative career development tool in the May 2021 issue of units: Professional Development Plans. These plans help employees outline their career goals during a specified timeframe. Mangers can support the career growth of their team members by actively participating in the creation of these plans. Offer suggestions and advice. Actively listen to what your employees share in your quarterly meetings. Someone may suggest a new skill set they’d like to learn or perhaps you’ve noticed a skill that requires improvement. It’s also possible that an employee may express that they want to try another career path, perhaps moving from a service team to the leasing team. Professional development plans create a pathway to meet these goals.
Investing in your employees’ career development is a sound business strategy. As residential property management leaders know well, your residents are only as happy as the team serving them. If you want to maximize your community’s success, you need to empower your team and support their career development. The three strategies outlined here offer immediate steps you can take to do just that.
Lance Goss is Vice President of Apartment Living with HHHunt, a diversified leader in residential real estate development throughout the Mid-Atlantic. In this role, he provides strategic direction for HHHunt’s apartment portfolio and oversees the company’s residential property management team. HHHunt owns and manages over 8,600 apartment homes in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland with another 1,580 units under development. He can be reached at [email protected].