Recruiting and Retention in Affordable Housing

Solutions for tough times.

3 minute read

The tides of the talent pool for affordable housing are changing. Onsite associates are working with less, but expected to do more, and keeping teams motivated has never been more pivotal to community success than it is today.   

Panelists of a 2023 Apartmentalize session about recruiting and retention in affordable housing discussed effective strategies for affordable housing communities and identified opportunities operators can seize to build and develop long-term teams – even during tough economic times.  

Recruiting and retaining the right associates is vital to fostering successful and thriving communities. Some of the initial tactics that companies can leverage to make a big difference in both recruitment and retention efforts include refining the company message, creating a marketing package, embracing technology and developing comprehensive training programs.  

When it comes to effective recruiting, time is of the essence. Every moment counts and can make or break an application. Employers must be smarter and more efficient about the recruiting process to attract the best candidates.  

“Companies have to keep candidates moving. If a candidate contacts us, we need to respond to them within 24 hours and interview them that week because they will otherwise find something else,” says Kimberly Hurd, Executive Vice President, Property Management at KCG Companies. “It’s important to have an applicant tracking system in place to see how long applications have been sitting. If applications are not monitored, employers ultimately won’t be able to measure recruitment and know how effective it is if it’s not being tracked.”  

Employers also need to think outside the box of where they attract their talent. The answer is not always online. For example, panelists suggested developing referral programs to recruit residents, family members and friends.  

“We can’t sit in our offices and search for candidates any longer. We need to be out there recruiting and networking,” says Tami Fossum, Executive Director of Operations at Legacy Residential. “Use your circle of influence to recruit talent. There are so many skills to this job, but who understands residents better than an actual resident? We should be training our residents to work in property management. They know what it’s like.”  

Leadership and management also have a notable impact on associate retention, and positive influence from both is central to keeping talent on board long term. A key message that should be conveyed to teams is that they’re part of something bigger. 

“Companies need to have something that people want, and a big piece of that is the opportunities that associates will have,” Fossum says. “We already are serving the community and doing good work, but we don’t talk about it as much as we should. We don’t remind teams enough that they are part of something bigger.” 

Getting team buy-in and keeping associates motivated is the next piece of effective retention.  Training and written standards are key to career development, along with fair wage transparency. Panelists discussed how crucial it is to be proactive on fair wage analysis and provide the documentation and data to support it. After all, there will always be another company willing to pay more. 

“It’s important to explain the ‘whys’ to teams – it’s not just because,” Hurd says.  

Other benefits to consider for retention tactics include providing associates with volunteer hours, paying for their tuition and providing a variety of training opportunities. Something as simple as email recognition from the company owner can also boost associate morale, make them feel valued and foster an environment that supports employee satisfaction and growth. Recognizing the value of associates' contributions can significantly enhance retention rates and contribute to a high-caliber company culture.  

Morgan Dzak is an Account Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.