How to Motivate Property Management Teams

Satisfied employees are the key to success at your residential communities.

If you want to operate a successful residential community, focus on making your employees happy and motivated.

“Property management is relationship building,” said Alan Kessman, regional manager at Universe Holdings. ”We don’t manage property. We manage people.”

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When property management companies lose staff, they must place more responsibility on a smaller amount of employees, leading to burnout and instability within the group and at the individual buildings. Additionally, employee turnover wastes time and can be costly in the long-term. The average cost to replace a salaried employee is six to nine months of the employee’s salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Today, every industry is focused on attracting and retaining employees, but property management companies have reason to be more concerned than others. According to the National Apartment Association, the overall average employee turnover rate for property management staff is 33 percent, much higher than the average national rate of 22 percent.

Leading property managers offer these guidelines for motivating and retaining employees.

1. Communicate With Employees Regularly

More than anything, employees want to feel valued in the workplace. Therefore, it’s vital for employers to listen to staff members to identify what drives each of them. It may be salary and benefits, growth opportunities, recognition for achievements, or a satisfying company culture. 

“You never want your people to feel like what they are hearing from the executive team is lip service,” said David Deitz, founder & president of Birchstone Residential. “As such, we regularly have conversations with team members about what they are feeling and thinking.”

Engaging employees in conversations about what they expect from their positions and what they are looking for in the company will help make employees comfortable to voice their concerns and opinions. Further, an environment that prioritizes, where leadership acknowledges when changes need to be made, will encourage employees to make constructive suggestions and offer new ideas. You can have these conversations through weekly team meetings, one-on-one chats, or even anonymous surveys.

Take the time to get to know each of your employees and what they bring to their teams.

2. Take Interest in Their Growth

Situated in Woodland Hills, Calif., Alura apartments offer stainless steel appliances, wood-style flooring, in-unit washer/dryers and fireplaces. Image courtesy of Decron Properties

When managers show interest in an employee’s career path, they demonstrate a desire for them to succeed personally and professionally. If employees have a clearer vision towards reaching their goals, they will be more inclined to work hard and stay with the company.

You could try creating challenges for their teams, such as who can close the most leases within a given time frame. Creating a bit of healthy competition will strengthen teamwork and showcase that leadership can provide a fun environment while also reaching goals. The winners can get a bonus, a free lunch or an extra day off during the week.

“Ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to make people feel valued and that they have a chance to grow and have a voice within the company,” added Deitz. “And if not, cultivate feedback to find out where you’re falling short and aim to address it as quickly as possible.”

3. Improve Training & Development

When working to retain employees, property management firms should revisit their training and development opportunities as well as their performance recognition programs. According to Grace Hill’s 2020 Multifamily Benchmark Report, 70 percent of small organizations offered professional development to employees in order to offset turnover rates, while 64 percent of medium companies did so, followed by 58 percent of large firms.

“Sometimes in this business, you become a community manager because you were the best leasing agent or assistant manager,” said Rula Almquist, managing director of Residential Properties at Decron Properties. “But that doesn’t mean you know how to manage people. It means you know how to do the tasks of your job really well. So putting together leadership training is very important.”

If you plan on offering growth opportunities and training to employees, the programs should be well-known throughout the company. The Grace Hill survey noted that 6 in 10 companies do not require property managers to have credentials, but they would offer to pay for managers to pursue certifications if they wanted them. However, less than 25 percent of employees were aware that this option was even offered at their organizations.

4. Set Goals for Each Team

Formerly known as Marlowe Apartments, The Retreat at Thousand Oaks is located in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and features a barbecue area with cabanas, billiards, complementary WiFi and a pool. Image courtesy of Decron Properties

Also, be sure to have specific goals set in place for each team and that those are placed at the forefront in order to utilize everyone’s skills successfully.

“You need to be specific with goals, deadlines and monitoring progress. If you constantly have a high turnover then that’s bad leadership from the top down,” said Kessman. “Don’t lead your team blind. As a leader you have to adapt to your people, not the other way around.”

5. Recruit From Within

Property manager Jack Kohler oversees six buildings with a strong team of three employees, Abraham Ganceda Rios, Dave Ryder and Siraj Kamaldeen (left to right). Image courtesy of Universe Holdings

Property managers shouldn’t be too hard on themselves if they run into some turnover at their organization. It’s normal for employees to move onto other opportunities even when they are happy with their current position. The important thing is to keep spirits high and adapt to the challenges faced along the way.

Focus on finding quality talent to join the team and placing these new employees into roles that are best suited to their skillset. The strengths-finder method, which puts people into positions in which they will succeed, by matching them with their natural capabilities, is one effective technique, Deitz noted.

“Rather than aiming to reshape a person’s shortcomings and placing them in uncomfortable situations, strengths-based organizations detect a person’s key strengths-based attributes and work to maximize them,” he said.

When looking to grow teams, most firms rely heavily on referrals. If you know your employees are working hard and bringing strong qualities to the group, wouldn’t you want to find more people like them? Ask around the office for recommendations from team members and that may lead to finding quality talent.

6. Adapt to Change

Located in Northridge, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, The Lodge at Porter Ranch features one- to three-bedroom pet-friendly apartments. Amenities include a spa, fitness center and pool. Image courtesy of Universe Holdings

Employee retention has been quite the challenge since the pandemic hit, so it’s important to incorporate different strategies to make employees comfortable in their current work environment. Using Zoom and FaceTime weren’t typical in the workplace in 2019, but now they are critical to maintaining the workflow. Employees can work on specific training exercises at their own pace and conduct property tours and site visits without leaving home.

“Establish an employee engagement committee to recognize, motivate and communicate with your staff and show them how important they are to your success,” said Almquist. “This is a great way to motivate your team and created an environment which inspires them to work for each other and develop a workplace where they want to stay.”

Read the September 2021 issue of MHN.