Building Teams by Building Community

Take time to give back to communities that surround your rental properties will build stronger teams across the entire organization

Taking moments to give back to the communities that surround your rental properties and offices will build stronger teams across the entire organizational spectrum.

By  Kendall Pretzer

Community doesn’t end at the property line. One of the amazing things about this industry is the chance to make lasting contributions and have a meaningful impact on the communities in which we serve.

A big lesson from the recent hiring and retention challenges is that employees possess a powerful desire to thrive in their careers, to go beyond a job and a paycheck. This presents owners and operators an opportunity to build lasting connections with their employees, which in turn creates success in hiring and retention.

As we turn the page on a new year and take time for reflection and goal-setting, organizations may want to take a step back from their normal day-to-day operations and create ways for their corporate and on-site associates to make a positive impact in our communities. Taking moments to give back to the communities that surround your properties and offices will build stronger teams across the entire organizational spectrum.

The Effects on Mental Wellness and Morale

The pandemic provided the nation’s workforce a window to reflect on their work-life balance, as well as their personal well-being. For some, this meant career changes, while for others it was seeking out ways to optimize their current role. Employee policy and culture have been placed under the microscope.

A study by Deloitte showed that more than 70 percent of employees said volunteer programs boosted their morale, 89 percent thought it improved the environment of the organization and 77 percent found it essential for their well-being. With these programs making your associates feel better about themselves and the organization, it’s one of the best tools for retention efforts. Happy and satisfied employees rarely leave their jobs.

Now more than ever, employers must navigate shifting employee expectations. Work-life balance isn’t just about less time at work for employees, but it can also be about finding professional and personal fulfillment. Community involvement can be a great tool to build company culture and employee satisfaction.

Volunteer Programs and PTO

Philanthropy and community impact can happen in countless ways. Owner/operators can help employees achieve their goals via a volunteer program or by granting employees the time to work on these or their own volunteer projects. In fact, more employees prefer time to give back over company social events, according to a study on workplace volunteerism by Deloitte. The same survey found that only 40 percent of companies actually provide those opportunities.

There are different types of volunteer programs that multifamily organizations can integrate to achieve their goals to build better teams and improve their communities, as well as their standing within those communities.

More and more companies in the multifamily industry are offering support and PTO for volunteering. In a small, recent LinkedIn poll, I asked about company volunteering policies. I was thrilled to find out that almost 50 percent of respondents said that their companies offered PTO for volunteering, and another 25 percent offered PTO for internal company volunteering initiatives. For example, MC Residential, the management arm of MC Companies, offers its employees 16 hours of paid volunteer time each year, which translates to more than 1,500 hours of giving back.

If you’re looking to build team connections, it may be time to consider employer-sponsored or employer-planned programs.

This is an opportune moment to engage your employees with their communities and to incentivize, recognize and encourage team members to give back in a way that speaks to them personally. Showing that a company cares about individual passions carries great benefits. One of Grace Hill’s Hero Impact Award Winners, Sara Ogle of Westwinds Apartments, was inspired by Red Nose Day to address child poverty in her community. She later expanded on that by creating RHCares, now a company-wide philanthropic movement for Westwinds’ parent company, Ripley Heatwole Company, Inc.

Making Connections and Building Skills

While volunteering may temporarily take your employees away from their structured workday, it will result in greater benefits in the future. A day-long hiatus that encourages an employee to remain, especially for charitable work, is always better financially for a company than the time and cost required to fill a vacant position.

Volunteer projects oftentimes require a significant level of leadership and collaboration, cultivating and showcasing the important skills of team members that may otherwise go unnoticed in a busy workplace. Identifying potential assets in associates that can be nurtured is invaluable to any organization.

The challenges in hiring and retention have put a greater burden on the current teams in multifamily communities. They don’t necessarily have time to get to know each other during work hours, particularly if they are in different departments or areas of the property. While new approaches to training and technology have helped counter some of this, companies will need to strike a balance that still promotes employee connection.

When associates spend time working together to build their community, they have a chance to build relationships with those they work with in various departments and at different career levels. Constructing stronger personal relationships improves the morale of everyone and provides insight into the work environment and sharing ideas. This can also foster mentorship and goal-setting.

Hiring and retention will always present some challenges for multifamily owner/operators, and providing a paycheck and benefits is no longer enough to meet those. Employees today want their well-being to be part of their careers and they want to work with socially-conscious companies.

Volunteer work and giving back aren’t just part of building your brand, they’re also necessary to build employee morale. Employees, especially those in younger generations, are seeking employers who are socially responsible and want to partner with their teams in order to make a positive, powerful impact.

About the author:

Kendall Pretzer brings more than 30 years of experience in property management and supplier solutions to her role as the Chief Executive Officer at Grace Hill. Kendall joined the team in 2018 after Grace Hill purchased her company, The Strategic Solution, bringing together policies and procedures with training. Today, she and Grace Hill champion making a positive impact in our communities in multifamily, as demonstrated in company initiatives like the annual Impact Hero Awards, Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In recognition of her dedication to the industry, Kendall was recently named a GlobeSt. Woman of Influence and one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in US PE-Backed Software by Calibre One.

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