New Tricks

When it comes to employee training, Camden Property Trust has turned education on its head and done some learning of its own.

Editorial Director Suzann D. Silverman
Editorial Director Suzann D. Silverman

When it comes to employee training, Camden Property Trust has turned education on its head and done some learning of its own. With all eyes on the giant Millennial cohort these days, and Millennials enthusiastic but somewhat fickle—they want to learn all the time, but in all different ways, Camden has found—the REIT’s training recipe contains a mix of options. With an ever-increasing amount and variety of content to impress upon property managers, the company combines classroom learning with online training and one-on-one development on the job.

Training has always been challenging, even at the elemental level that not all subjects are best taught the same way. Even primary and secondary schools have changed their approach to teaching children, mixing traditional classroom lectures with more interactive alternatives, ranging from online components to team projects that require creativity, experimentation and innovation. Once out of the school environment—some many years out—and more focused on their day-to-day responsibilities, adults may be even harder to inspire, let alone instill with less exciting but necessary information. I believe the appropriate phrase for that mindset is: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Except you have to. Indeed, the necessity is greater than ever, given the increased emphasis on consistent performance across multiple properties and local management teams, improved responsiveness to residents, technological advances and financial impacts. To that challenging mix, add legal risks that are arguably rising—with sexual harassment currently in the national spotlight. And operators are more closely evaluated today, thanks to increased reporting through ENERGY STAR®, LEED and other performance rating systems, along with residents’ evaluations on Yelp and other social media sites.

With heightened training required of everyone from the corporate office to the property level, it makes sense to tailor training modules to the subject and evaluate the most effective alternatives for different educational goals. For instance, some information may be more thoughtfully considered in a private setting (such as an online course on preventing harassment) or better learned when applied on the job, with a manager nearby offering advice (on responding to a resident’s call, for instance, or learning to read a new type of HVAC meter). Other education is better obtained through an interactive exercise in a classroom (role-playing) or on GoToMeeting (workshop exercises on a shared screen) or by asking questions of an instructor. And online testing confirms that knowledge has been assimilated.

There are so many alternatives today, it pays to think creatively. It might even make learning fun!

You’ll find more on this topic in the March 2018 issue of MHN.