The importance of an apartment operator’s internal culture cannot be overstated. Simply put, a healthy corporate culture is vital to attracting and retaining high-quality associates who, in turn, provide prospects and residents with outstanding service.
A panel of industry experts spoke about culture during the “Impact of Culture on Retention and Recruitment” session at NAA’s Apartmentalize.
“Culture absolutely contributes to the success of your operations,” said Cindy Clare, Chief Operating Officer at Bell Partners. “If people don’t feel good about their company, they won’t work as hard and be as committed.”
While the specifics of each company’s culture may vary– some may, for example, emphasize innovation while others promote employee collaboration – one common element of strong cultures is that employees feel their voices are heard, the panelists agreed.
“If people feel they can speak out and won’t be punished, and you have ideas coming from all different areas, that’s when you see great results,” said Dena Calo, an employment attorney and a Partner at the Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr law firm.
Focus groups, town hall-style meetings and suggestion boxes are effective ways to let associates provide feedback, panelists noted.
It’s also critical that a company’s executives embody its culture in their day-to-day actions and interactions with team members. Calo said she’s worked with a company that purports to have a culture of “wowing” customers and team members with kind, supportive service. The same company also says it has an open-door policy for associates. Unfortunately, the owner is ill-tempered and can be verbally abusive, according to Calo.
In this case, the company’s culture existed ‘just on paper,’ she said. “No one wanted to go in and talk to the owner.”
Regular engagement surveys and exit interviews can give an operator valuable insight into the health of its culture, according to the panelists.
“We do exit interviews and we ask about culture to learn things we’re doing well and doing wrong,” Clare said. “You should look for things you can improve, but also look at things you’re doing well and how you can improve that strength.”
Operators also can’t afford to make the mistake of thinking their culture is something they can “set and forget.”
“Culture is not ‘this is our culture,’ and that’s it,” Clare said. “It evolves with changes in the industry and in your company.”