Career paths can be more valuable to maintenance teams than following the dollar.
The pandemic and “Great Resignation” created many challenges for the rental housing industry, notably supply chain and labor shortages.
Despite historic imbalances and turbocharged competition, some apartment operators have demonstrated creativity and resilience to meet the needs of residents and clients alike.
In the Apartmentalize 2023 session “Conquering Today’s Top Talent & Supply Chain Shortages,” panelists discussed their agile strategies to overcome supply chain and labor shortage hurdles and how they made the best of a difficult situation.
Between the Great Resignation, long-term COVID impacts on standard work, technology influence, retention challenges and competitive wages, it’s no secret these factors have propelled the industry into the midst of a war on maintenance talent.
“Attracting new talent in 2023 is a different game and the post-COVID workforce is very different,” says Jacob Guynn, Regional Maintenance Director at Hunt Companies. “We have to understand the new labor force and think outside the box to recruit. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s critical for companies to be creative in how they’re thinking about hiring maintenance technicians.”
Maintenance turnover is an industry-wide issue, and it has been notoriously high for decades. On top of a challenging labor market (3.5% unemployment rate), increasing labor rates (20% increase) will remain competitive.
“We continue to lose technicians,” says Kamil Konopka, Senior Regional Maintenance Director at Liberty Military Housing. “We have to start thinking of ways to get new generations excited about maintenance. The core of that motivation is clearly defining a career path for them. Many people start out as techs and think they have nowhere to go after that.”
Money isn’t everything; a clearly defined career path while fostering development is the new way of motivating technicians and helping them move up within a company. There isn’t just one way to move up, and many options exist within the industry.
There are different ways to think about providing multifaceted value to technicians. A key to maintenance retention is providing more education and certification opportunities, on-the-job or third-party training and offering even more hands-on education experiences.
“Their success is our success,” says Martin McNeill, Vice President, Facilities at WinnResidential Military Housing Services. “We want to keep technicians busy, so they want to stay with us. But it’s important to keep a safety net for some contractors as well to ensure we meet production, service and turn requirements. If we don’t adapt with the market, we will be left behind.”
Another valuable tactic to retain technicians is supplying them with a platform to provide feedback and input. Employees need to have the ability to give their thoughts on what works and what doesn’t; they want to have a voice while feeling valued and respected. Giving technicians the space to feel heard leaves a positive impact on the workplace and helps foster a company culture that people want to stay at long term.
Morgan Dzak is an Account Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.