The multifamily housing industry is facing a talent crisis. The annual turnover rate for multifamily property management staff is unsustainably high, around thirty-three percent to be exact. The average national rate is just twenty-two percent. Leaders in multifamily housing know the bleeding is expensive. Replacing a lower-paid employee can cost sixteen percent of their wages. Finding new, higher-paid professionals can cost six to nine months of their salaries.
Many property management staff cite burnout as their primary reason for moving on. Though I dislike hearing them say it, I know their complaints are valid. Property managers are asked to wear a lot of hats, all at once. They would be far less susceptible to burnout if they could only hire and retain more staff to cover the diverse range of their demanding and often essential responsibilities.
The challenge is reversing this vicious cycle. The solution is obvious, but a hard pill to swallow for many owners. Both experienced property managers as well as newcomers who are still deciding their career paths repeatedly say they would be more likely to remain in their jobs if they only received better training and professional development. Managers want to expand their skill sets and advance their careers. Newcomers want a satisfying onboarding experience and more mentorship from upper management. Without those opportunities, the talent goes elsewhere. You can pay them well but if you don’t give them a path to make more you are missing out on the most motivated candidates.
So why isn’t the multifamily housing sector pouring money into talent retention? Well, money is not the problem. The industry has correctly surmised that investing in talent pays off. It boosts retention, builds morale and delivers better services. The industry would probably be investing more if not for the main impediment to workforce learning: time.
Every year our property management consulting firm conducts a survey for our Multifamily Benchmark Report to gauge worker sentiment. This year, more than half of the property managers said there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to receive the training and professional development they need. Making time is difficult, to say the least. Today, however, there’s no reason that technology can’t be harnessed to dramatically reduce the time required for training, including virtual sessions and online training that can be deployed anywhere.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the shortcomings of any property management organizations—and at the same time paved the way for their solutions. Multifamily housing firms and property managers raced to launch training and professional development to deal with the tsunami of public health measures, privacy issues, legal changes and other disruptions that have occurred throughout the pandemic. Property managers understandably wanted direction as the risk to their lives increased at work.
But less than half of employees felt as if their companies had more ground to cover in terms of COVID-19 prevention, according to our report. Why can’t they receive this training online, thus avoiding a potentially unsafe gathering and still receiving needed information to answer their questions and provide guidance on how they can safely perform their jobs?
Federal and state housing rules, sexual harassment and diversity are other areas where many property managers feel they need more training, especially younger ones who are assuming the roles of existing managers now aging out of the industry. If employers put themselves in the shoes of their millennial employees they can better understand why someone might resign. Younger generations are very mission driven and want to feel a connection with their job. If they feel as if their work is infringing on their morals or that they are not doing right by their residents, it could be enough to push them out the door. Much of this comes down to proper, standardized training and, thanks to these same generation’s proclivity for the internet, can be done better than ever online.
Professional development and training create other opportunities for retention, too. Property management firms in 2020 struggled to ensure that staff followed all policies and procedures, from mundane issues to COVID-19 protocols. But, according to our report, half of those firms have no way to track or monitor whether employees are complying.
Proper training creates that link, making it easy to identify who has received training and passed their tests. Again, technological solutions make it easy to administer programs and exams. It also gives employees a chance to offer feedback on their training and other issues that affect their work daily, allowing them to contribute their knowledge to a team effort, develop a sense of belonging, and increase morale.
There’s also a flip side to this training. Almost sixty percent of property management employees we surveyed told us that employee recognition was a key tool to improving retention. Working hard amid a pandemic, facing unprecedented dangers and legal questions, it seems reasonable that many property managers would appreciate acknowledgement and other rewards for following procedures.
Training and professional development provide companies with metrics for employee recognition. Not only can employees receive kudos and other benefits from completing their training, but they can also be rewarded and showcased as top professionals in their companies. It’s a fabulous means of communicating you company’s vision and creating a feedback loop for employee satisfaction.
Technology today makes it easier than ever to hire employees. But many organizations forget that it can also help train, motivate and retain them as well. Technology on its own is not enough. Attracting the brightest new talent requires recalibrating an organization to focus on the people inside it, each individual one. Only then can employees find both the monetary and physiological benefits that they need to create a fulfilling, long-lasting career.