What Follows Employee Onboarding?

By Paul Willis |

February 22, 2022 |

Updated March 4, 2022

4 minutes

Calculating the ROI of Industry Education

The scenario is maddening but all too familiar: A new associate is hired, arrives for their first day and is essentially forced to learn on the fly, absent formal training or incremental onboarding process.

But in a time of explosive housing growth, rapid tech adoption and the glaring need for high-performing
associates, the importance of proper training has never been more apparent. A panel of experts at the Apartmentalize 2021 session, “What’s After Employee Onboarding? Calculating the ROI of Industry Education,” discussed the long-term merits of effective training and the potential effects on the bottom line.

“Property management is already challenging and it’s only for people who are made up a certain way,” said Sloane Cerbana, Director of Career Development for the Washington Multifamily Housing Association. “After the last 18 to 20 months, even some of those people are saying, ‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore.’ So it’s even more important for us to dig in deep and take care of the people we worked so hard to get.”

A recent Swift Bunny study indicated multifamily maintenance teams experience a 55% annual turnover and onsite leasing teams a 52% rate, which is much too high for operators striving for consistency.

Asked which aspects of a company make it appealing to work for, 52% of Millennials—a hefty portion of today’s workforce—cited opportunity for growth, which surpassed the financial/earnings component of 44%. And 35% said robust training and development are compelling.

“They are going to start envisioning their future, and they need to see it with you,” Cerbana said. “You don’t have to promise a promotion, but you have to let them know there is opportunity for growth and you’re along for the ride with them. If you’re not part of that conversation with them, they’re going to start envisioning it someplace else.”

That underscores the importance of the initial three- to 24-month stage in which companies must provide role clarity and opportunities for growth, according to Cerbana.

On the front end, clear communicated plans for 30-, 60- and 90-day increments of the onboarding process help set the structure. The concept of cross boarding has also become a key component and involves treating promoted associates the same way as a new associate, because they are in a new role.

This comes at a time when competition for talent is increasing, as millions have left the workforce during the past 18 months.

“It’s not just our industry anymore—it’s everybody that needs talent,” said Dr. Debbie Phillips, President of The Quadrillion, who recommended an integrated workforce strategy. “Ninety percent of talent directors said that they needed an integrated talent strategy, yet only 26 percent of companies were tying it all together.”

So how do companies bridge that gap? One way, Phillips said, “is to shed the old-fashioned notion that someone without industry experience cannot be a high-performing associate.”

“It can actually be more beneficial,” she said, because an outsider introduces diversity of thought and can introduce best practices from other industries. As such, multifamily should hire for potential rather than skill set, because hard skills can be taught.

Panelists also recommended implementing training methods that not only enhance the technical skills, but also the soft skills of new associates. Soft skills, such as accountability, time management, problem solving, emotional intelligence and self-motivation often carry more impact than proficient technical skills.

The panel encouraged teams to explore internal, local and national training and credential programs, and to partner with local apartment associations.

“If you're not involved with your local affiliate, reach out to them,” said Stephanie Lloyd, National Sales Executive for J Turner Research. “They have so many great resources. Your credentials are important and these affiliates offer the opportunity to get those certifications. But also for suppliers, this offers a chance to get to know the owner/operators and create that bond and relationship.”

With the high cost of turnover and fierce competition for high-performing associates, adequate training has become more critical than ever. As such, apartment operators who dedicate focus to high-level training are experiencing the benefits with happier, more productive teams.

“A satisfied associate says I love my work,” Phillips said. “An engaged associate says I love my company.”


Paul Willis is a Content Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.