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Built on Communication Coaching and Culture

company culture
January 2020

Driving employee engagement to elicit resident satisfaction is a positive.

More often than not, it comes down to culture.

Amazon failed to improve employee relations when it increased its hourly wage, said Pamela Roberts, Director of Product Marketing for Edge2Learn. Roberts warned of launching a new company strategy without first determining why you are making such a change and the impact it will have on the entire employee base.

“We [executive leadership] may think we know what everyone wants,” she said. “But we can’t assume that what we are trying to do—even as fantastic as it is for the company—is what employees will want.”

Panelists for the session, “Creating a High-powered Multifamily Housing Team: Combining Communication, Coaching and Culture,” at NAA’s Apartmentalize shared best practices to avoid the same misstep that Amazon took and ensure employee engagement and satisfaction.

Understand the Why

When implementing any new company policy or procedure, panelists recommend building an understanding of the “why” behind it.

Krista Washbourne, Vice President of Learning and Talent Development for Lincoln Property Company said, “The reality of the why is that you don’t know all of them yet. Leverage your teams to determine the benefit to them to make this change. Ask them why this is important for the company and for you.”

Surveys offer a means to not only get to know all team members, but also to gain a better understanding of how they feel about a new policy or procedural change, said Washbourne. Do this constantly, especially with off-site employees who aren’t seen on a regular basis. Ask questions about if they would want this new procedure in place, how they feel it could improve their job functions and if they would find any feedback from the new procedure helpful.

The survey feedback can be used to guide the strategic direction of the change. Leaders can be identified, and they can be empowered to champion the change.

Don’t Just Talk, Communicate

Once it has been decided to move forward with a new company policy or procedure, Washbourne says the communication of that change must be inspirational. She urges to tell them why you believe it will be better for them and share the benefits, inspire them and build the relationship.

“Inspiration is the one thing people want the most from their employers,” she said. 

Julie Doss, Director of Training and Customer Experience at Gene B. Glick Company, says the next step is making the change communication as relatable as possible.

“People don’t read long emails, especially about policy changes,” she said. “Use new and fun engagement tools, like video. Just imagine how boring an email about why maintenance teams have to wear booties all the time in a resident apartment home would be. Now imagine the engagement with a video featuring a maintenance supervisor performing a new song titled, ‘You Can’t Step There.’”

The Power of Thousands

It’s a Herculean task to onboard and maintain continuous training for a nationwide portfolio. Doing it successfully requires establishing and coaching a strong team that serves the roles of many more. You must have buy-in from senior leaders who model the desired behaviors. It’s important to coach leaders who can help develop skills, measure progress and create sustainability, and associates who take ownership and provide a supportive infrastructure to maintain success.

“We need to turn 22 trainers into 4,000 trainers,” said Washbourne. “Coaching is imperative to keep them engaged and improve performance.”

Lincoln didn’t buy curriculum, they created it using in-house experts in all facets of property management. Data showed a direct correlation between establishing teamwork through communication, coaching and culture and improved employee engagement scores and resident satisfaction for Lincoln.

After one year of working on full-circle training, the company achieved close to 100 percent on employee engagement scores and the correlating resident and prospective resident satisfaction were just as high. In fact, the company’s loyalty score was 3 percent higher than the national average and residents were more likely to renew (4 percent more).

Everyone, Everywhere

Companies with a strong culture have less staff turnover (13.9 percent compared with 48.4 percent), shared Doss. The key to building this culture is to enable team members to focus on their talents and help them determine how they fit into the big picture for their company.

Glick launched a Weekly Huddle program last year that strays from the typical meetings about what is happening at a property. These company-wide huddles take 15 minutes and focus specifically on building culture and customer service. They utilize a 52-card deck the company created with various questions and topics to engage the teams in a conversation.

“When we launched the Huddle program, we held a contest to help get the initiative implemented,” Doss said. “Each team recorded the huddle in action and the best submission won. Teams made up songs and were role-playing. People were excited about the huddles, but it also provided training with great new material!"

“It’s already helped teams build relationships and is helping to build an overall culture for Glick.”