How to Build A Culture That Trains and Rewards Talent
By Erick Waller
One company cut its property management staff turnover by nearly 21 percent compared to its historic average. Find out how it happened.
As head of The NRP Group’s property management division, I oversee 472 employees. One of the biggest challenges I face is finding and retaining qualified associates. Day-in and day-out, the people side of the property management business is usually the most complex and rewarding.
In an effort to create a company that people truly want to be a part of, we’ve developed innovative tools and processes to tackle the twin challenges of retention and recruiting. Our efforts are still in their infancy, but we have already seen some impressive results during the past 24 months. Based in part on our approach, we achieved the reduction of property management staff turnover by nearly 21 percent compared to our historic average.
While part of that success can be attributed to hiring high-performing, high-potential people who embrace the values of our high-performing culture, we also do everything in our power to properly onboard, train, mentor and motivate employees in order to retain our A+ players and to preserve our values-centered company culture.
Making the Career Path Visible
Career paths are at the center of our employee experience. At NRP, we believe having a strong supervisor who helps chart careers is the best retention tool, whether an associate is a Millennial, a Baby Boomer or anyone in between. Regardless of whether it is your first job, or you are three decades into your career, everyone wants to know if they are moving in the right direction and what the next steps are keeping their career moving forward.
Based on team feedback, we formalized and branded our program and called it the Associate Enrichment program and we use it to create a realistic career growth path for each individual. It prepares employees for promotion by outlining what skills they need to add to their repertoire to reach the next level. This is a new initiative that focused on the career paths of our community managers that exposes managers to what the role of regional manager entails. The curriculum includes advanced capital planning and financial statement training, communication and time management, advanced property management system training and best-practices on managing multiple sites.
We are currently in the process of developing similar programs for leasing associates and maintenance technicians and hope to roll out both programs in early 2019.
The onboarding program is a critical success component but we know the initial phase isn’t enough. All associates attend onboarding with our Learning and Development trainers for one-to-four days (depending on their role) before employees hit the ground running at their property. At the onboarding, they learn all about NRP, our process and internal systems.
Because we know the initial onboarding isn’t enough, we listened to our employees and recently created a new role and program to go beyond our first onboarding phase and improve their experience – the NRP Associate Ambassador role and the Next Day Program.
Associate Ambassadors maintain close ties with new associates throughout their first few months on the job, systematically checking in with them, answering questions about NRP best-practices, and assisting with any potential issues or barriers they may face.
The Next Day Program is a training outline for the first 90 days on the job. The minute someone is hired, we have a pre-set learning curriculum for them. A groundskeeper will have a three-hour curriculum and a property manager might have a 27-hour program, depending on their seniority level, to continue their learning and development. In addition to the pre-set curriculum tailored-to-position, the Next Day Program includes a comprehensive checklist and new associate programing that the hiring supervisor follows for the first few weeks of the new associate’s career with NRP.
Training and Teambuilding
Training doesn’t stop after those first 90 days. Because we’re always looking to prepare staff for the next level, we have developed a training program called NRP Learn, which uses industry online courseware as a baseline and incorporates many NRP customizations.
We’ve also found it effective to couple learning with a fun activity of some kind (one of NRP’s core values is FUN), which helps enormously with teambuilding. NRP Management organizes monthly, quarterly and yearly events for associates, bringing together people working in different parts of the country. We do both smaller, regional events for employees and also a once-a-year, national two-day summit for our property managers and maintenance supervisors. These focus on continued education and leadership training and include a guest keynote speaker. We recently rented out several suites for a Cleveland Indians game for one event and we expect nearly 100 associates from all over the state to attend.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
At NRP, we’re all about celebrating wins. We have an employee recognition platform that we use to give team members credit for a job well done. We do that by granting each other points that work like a currency at an online store and/or social recognition. Because the app works like a social network, it has helped us connect with associates working in the field and across functions and has created more of a sense of community throughout the whole organization.
Managers get a certain allotment of points, which they can reallocate for achievements like a sales team having a fantastic leasing week, a property team that went above-and-beyond after a flooding incident or even a work anniversary for a team member.
Effort = Results
All the effort to keep experienced, high-performers is worth it. The results are higher morale and retention of institutional knowledge at the property level, which leads to better and more consistent service delivered to residents on a daily basis. Happy team members leads to happy residents, strong property performance and a win-win for all stakeholders.
Erick Waller is a Principal at The NRP Group and President of NRP Management.