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Strategies to Keep Students After Graduation

student staffers

Across the industry, student housing firms see value in keeping their student staffers. Find out how some leading companies are making the pitch to keep them on board.

The Preiss Company (TPCO) prides itself on organic growth. It will not hire new employees outside of the company unless all internal options have been exhausted.

For college students who worked for the company as leasing agents and as business, marketing and leasing managers, this policy provides an opportunity.

“Recent undergraduates have the first opportunity to be promoted and transfer to other TPCO properties,” says Adam Byrley, Chief Operating Officer at The Preiss Company. “Retaining top talent is an absolute focus of ours. Having these paths for growth within our portfolio allow for many of our recent graduates to stay on with our organization and excel in a career in property management.”

TPCO is not alone. Cardinal Group’s undergraduate students, who can serve as interns, leasing agents, and bookkeepers, are “our front liners and lead us in innovation, technology and idea generation,” says Shannon Failla, Director of Training and Transitions for Cardinal Group Management.

That’s why Cardinal is focused on retaining its team members as they near graduation.

“You always hear about how costly it is to lose a team member,” Failla says. “At Cardinal, it is more than just money that takes a hit... it is our culture. The value to us is ROC or Return on Culture. Our undergraduate student team members are ultimately the face of our organization and keeping them involved with the company is invaluable. Most of our student team members have worked for Cardinal for two or three years and have established camaraderie with dozens of our leaders onsite and at headquarters.”

Keeping student associates onboard after they graduate is not just a priority at firms such as TPCO and Cardinal. Across the industry, student housing operators are figuring how to retain their top student staffers.

“A common challenge in the industry is engaging community assistants to continue with the organization and property management long term,” says Whitney M. Kidd, NALP, Industry Principal: RealPage Student.

Offering a paying job is often enough, if the student has the right major.

“They generally want to stay on if their degree program is fairly generic,” Byrley says. “For instance, business, marketing and hospitality majors love to stay on in property management. It’s much harder to keep someone with us who was in undergrad for mechanical engineering or architecture.”

A key for retention at Cardinal is finding out that a student may potentially want to stay onboard after graduation.

“The mistake I see time and time again is that team leaders are waiting until four weeks before someone graduates to have ‘the talk,’” Failla says. “We are a company (that is best managed based on) feedback and our teams are taught to have conversations (with our employees? that talk about (career?) growth regularly, not once a year.”

University Student Living identifies students who are stellar performers as part-time leasing specialists and involves them in projects, such as rolling out a new marketing campaign or event planning. 

“We then share successes across the country and highlight they spearheaded the efforts via weekly conference calls and prizes awarded for meeting their goals,” says Barrie Nichols, Vice President of Marketing and Leasing at University Student Living.

If the standout student is a graduating senior, University Student Living will highlight job opportunities, both at their current community and others within its portfolio. The company tries to mentor them and let them know they are part of a family organization.

“We provide scholarships for our residents and employees are able to participate in another scholarship program,” Nichols says. “We offer a discount to our employees if they choose to live on site. We have quarterly town hall meetings with our senior executive staff for all site team members to participate in and highlight teams across the country.”

Cardinal will emphasize flexibility to students who may want to stay with the firm.

“A student wants to stay in their current market? Great, we have learning paths and summer development programs in Denver available to get them ready for that next promotion,” Failla says. “A student wants to travel or experience a new market? Great, we will schedule a call with our Internal Talent Manager to discuss nationwide opportunities.”

Once, that conversation happens, Scott Montgomery, Cardinal’s Internal Talent Manager, says the company has laid the groundwork to retaining associates by cross-training them on several onsite positions.

“We also invest in initiatives such as our Summer Development Program, which allows a number of our students even more exposure to opportunities within the company,” he says.

For more on the latest news and trends in student housing, join us at CampusConnex in Orlando, Feb. 12-13. Registration opens on Oct. 12!