As we enter another year, people are on the mind of many apartment executives. Find out how they want to engage with associates and residents.
As the calendar turns to 2019, the job market is tight. Unemployment hovers at just below 4 percent nationally, forcing business across the county to come up with creative ways to find and retain talent.
The apartment industry is no different.
Asked to name their top priorities for the year ahead, property management executives continue to come back to one thing: Employees. While technology, marketing and resident retention remain important for these executives, they want to keep their staffers happy, while becoming a career destination for onsite professionals.
When listing her top five priorities for 2019, Kim Spahr, a Regional Vice President at Fogelman focuses heavily on personnel issues. She wants to develop Fogelman’s bench strength with Assistant Managers and spend more time working with Managers on financials to help them gain a better understanding of important issues, such as utility costs. “We are developing managers with mentoring instead of putting out fires,” she says.
From a broader corporate perspective, Fogelman’s Chief Administrative Officer Melissa Smith wants to develop an innovative culture. “We want to be open-minded to the expectations of the new generations entering the workforce,” she says.
Wood Partners is making employees a focus to start off 2019. That starts with the onboarding of new employees.
“We want to focus on quicker and more thorough onboarding for new employees – accelerate the learning curve of our new associates so they feel engaged earlier and are more attached to the company,” Steve F. Hallsey, Managing Director of Wood Partners, says.
Wood also wants to have more frequent communication with employees and more timely recognition programs to continue to lower its onsite turnover rate.
“We are rolling out a new employee wellness program to encourage our employees to get in shape, take care of themselves and focus on their personal wellness,” Hallsey says.
Career development and leadership training is yet another HR-related priority for the Atlanta-based company. “If we are going to keep people longer, we need to give them a career path and teach them how to reach the next level,” Hallsey says.
Employees are not the only group that management executives want to put greater focus on during the year ahead. In many markets, the competition for residents remains stiff.
The best way to retain residents is to provide excellent service. “We are going back to basics on site by providing the best possible customer-service experiences,” Spehr says. “With maintenance, we are working on preventative measures and customer service.”
At Capstone Management Real Estate Services, retention is also a big priority.
“We want to provide the highest level of service to our residents and create environments our residents desire to call home,” says Tina West, Chief Operating Officer for Capstone. “We recently embarked on the Ellis Touch Point Survey program and are using this as one way to stay engaged with our customers. Additionally, we are heavily focused on social media and online reputation seeking to respond to all customer reviews in a proactive manner with the intent to exceed their expectations.”
Communication is another key for Fogelman. Smith wants the company to be accessible and transparent to prospects, residents and employees with real-time communication. That can be in-person or through artificial intelligence (AI) or bot technology. It also wants to embrace brand influencers to tell its story and build social trust (because reviews still matter) and use social advertising to initiate better conversations with people.
“We want to be more innovative and creative by investing in creative promotions, graphics, photographs, videos and that captivate the attention of a new generation of renters,” Smith says.
Smith wants Fogelman to also fully utilize its technology platform and use data to solve meaningful problems. “We will focus on the biggest opportunities, not the easiest or most obvious,” Smith says.
While technology and communication are important goals for the year ahead, the basics of apartment operation remain important. West wants to maintain the highest occupancy in Capstone’s submarkets, focus month-over-month increases in collections and assure that all its affordable housing recertifications are not held up, which could impact client income receipts.
“Other goals and initiatives for 2019 are focused on training and onboarding, marketing and advertising strategies, effective use of technology to save on administrative time and allow for more face to face customer focus,” West says.
For others, the year ahead just represents another opportunity to improve.
“In 2019 our focus is just to do a good job,” says Vanessa Siebern, Vice President, FPI Management. “At FPI, we are committed to continuing to instill our core values, H.E.A.R.T, into our culture.”