With so much competition across the multifamily industry, it can be a difficult task to retain employees. However, retention has proven to be invaluable for residential companies, large and small, when it comes to long-term performance. There are measurable benefits that come with high retention rates, including retaining institutional knowledge, saving on hiring costs and more productivity and consistency within the company.
There’s no exact formula for improving retention rates, but a lot of companies have been relying on a strong culture to keep employees happy and engaged. While building that culture isn’t something that’s achieved overnight, taking some of these necessary steps will pay off in the long run.
“When you get more engaged, motivated employees, you get so much more out of them,” said Natalie Diaz, chief of staff at Time Equities. “You get more productivity, more innovation, more new ideas, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
EVERY EMPLOYEE HAS A VOICE
One of the most important aspects of good company culture is ensuring everyone feels like they’re included in the conversation and their opinions are heard. This way, employees are more likely to stay since they feel like they can contribute to a company’s progress.
“Creating a culture where people can feel comfortable saying what they think and not being concerned with repercussions is really important,” noted Summer Haltli, a principal in charge of FCP’s strategy, operations, fund management, communications and company culture. “This open discussion contributes to our performance because people can vet a variety of ideas and feel comfortable bringing them up.”
Despite its size, Haltli said that FCP saw a 97 percent retention rate for its employees in 2021 and a 10-year average of 94 percent retention, which is above the industry average. She added they have an open investment process where everyone in the company is allowed to provide input on every opportunity.
Surveys are also a great way to keep your employees involved and make sure managers are hearing about any concerns. Companies can then create clear guidelines or plans to cater to what employees are looking for in their role. FCP did this, as well as hiring outside consultants to facilitate. From this, the firm learned that people felt there wasn’t a clear understanding of how to get promoted, so the company crafted an objective plan that defined roles and outlined formal career plans.
For Time Equities, Diaz said the company has looked at the micro and macro ways at improving company culture, which have been gleaned from various committees, employee surveys and more simply, one-on-one conversations. She added that the company-wide policies are informed by feedback from the employees, since they’re the ones who’ll be affected by it.
“I try to keep a really open process where I’m able to get feedback from a lot of people across the company,” Diaz said. “It’s important to me that what I’m hearing is from people from all different seniority levels, all different departments, all different backgrounds.”
TAKING CARE OF YOUR PEOPLE
It’s not enough to just listen to what your employees are saying. A healthy company culture is one that takes care of its employees. At Birchstone Residential, co-founder & president David Deitz said that the culture of service that he ingrained into the company from its founding in 2018 applies to his associates as well.
To make sure its employees are looked after, Birchstone Residential provides a health insurance package that covers costs at a higher level than the industry average and a 401K that’s fully vested from day one. With that, the company has enjoyed a 76 percent retention rate, even during the height of the pandemic, Deitz said, noting that people have joined the company from some of the largest, well-known firms in the industry because they hear about the company’s instilled culture and how much people are valued in their roles.
“I sleep better at night knowing that if a family member or a child needs medication or a surgical procedure, our associates can afford to have the best insurance in the country to cover themselves and their families,” Deitz said. “And I sleep better at night too knowing that people can come work for us for the next 20, 30, 40 years and retire with us, while walking away with a nice retirement nest egg that can help sustain them and their families.”
At Time Equities, one of the major steps they recently took was the passing of its first-ever parental leave policy. The idea for the policy came from the Women’s Equity Committee, which Diaz founded in 2018, and included input from employees who have children.
“Without a real policy that goes above and beyond, how are we going to attract and retain women who might have kids, why would they decide to work at Time Equities?” Diaz said. “To me, this was fundamental to our ability to attract and retain women, high-level women at that.”
Diaz said the committee is currently focused on revamping its performance review system by developing a standardized and comprehensive process to offer its employees a more equitable experience.
DON’T FORGET THE LITTLE THINGS
While some of these strategies do take time to implement, smaller things can also contribute to a company’s culture. These can include gestures such as getting better coffee for the office, creating a weekly newsletter for each team, hosting wellness events and game days. For example, Diaz mentions Time Equities’ plant-based lunches, mental health seminars and yoga classes. Over at Birchstone, employees have access to quarterly events like spa days, baseball games and even indoor go-karting.
On the other hand, having employees participate in volunteer and community events can also be a way to develop company culture. At FCP, the employee-led FCP Serves program has a signature campaign that provides school supplies and backpacks to its properties. But, the program pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic where FCP employees were helping residents with rental assistance, food deliveries and connecting them to non-profit services.
TAKING A HOLISTIC VIEW
While there are many specific ways to improve company culture, the idea is something that has to be adopted holistically. From smaller steps like creating company events to bigger, impactful policies like parental leave, a company has to fully embrace it to work.
“You have to engage staff where they are and you have to go from high-ranking people all the way down to your interns,” Diaz said. “You have to generate that buy-in, build a community and build networks, while ensuring that your workplace is inclusive so people feel comfortable sharing ideas and joining in on company events.”
But once you’ve established a strong company culture, employees will be able to identify more with the company and be more likely to stay. In turn, you’ll enjoy higher retention rates and all the benefits that come with it.
“The real benefit is that it enables us to have institutional knowledge, so you have the person that underwrote that deal and built those relationships in those markets providing continuity,” Haltli said, adding that this ultimately leads to better performance for investors.