As apartment and multifamily companies compete for a limited pool of candidates, here are seven best practices to create a competitive advantage as workplace culture is no longer enough to attract and retain associates.
By Maritza Riquelmy-Romero
Vice President of Human Resources
Richman Property Services, Inc.
Culture is incredibly important to an organization. But as the multifamily industry is rapidly discovering as it emerges from the pandemic, culture can no longer compensate for foundational needs when it comes to hiring and associate retention in the workplace.
While a relaxed dress code and a ping-pong table in the break room may have once indicated a fun and edgy corporate culture worth signing up for despite a slightly lower salary and lesser benefits, prospective employees now want it all. And they’re getting it.
With the hiring and retention challenges currently faced by nearly all industries, apartment companies included, job seekers are firmly in the driver’s seat. They don’t have to settle or sacrifice their work/life balance. They want an enjoyable workplace culture, as well as all the tangibles that serve as the cornerstones of a positive and fruitful employment situation. Now, it’s up to multifamily owner/operators to deliver.
As multifamily companies compete for a limited pool of candidates, here are seven best practices to create a competitive advantage:
1. Competitive Compensation
As competitive as multifamily has become in terms of recruitment, operators can’t afford to offer anything less than top of market wages and compensation. Whether hourly or salaried, associates know their value and have a baseline expectation for pay. While job seekers still seek out top companies and fun workplace environments, they aren’t willing to join an organization that doesn’t also meet their income requirements.
2. Bolstered Benefits
When pay is equal across the industry, operators can create a competitive advantage through their benefits packages. Especially for entry-level associates, comprehensive health benefits can be a huge enticement. Scaled company contributions, where associates earning less also pay less for health benefits, can help to recruit new associates because less of their earnings will go toward insurance coverage.
Increased vacation time, an extensive list of paid holidays and creatively structured time-off opportunities can also tilt the scales when a prospective hire is weighing job offers. Organizations are also going a step further, offering education reimbursement, rent discounts, pet insurance and sabbatical leave for tenured associates.
3. Comprehensive Training
New hires who enter their roles prepared to hit the ground running typically express increased job satisfaction in the early stages of their employment. Training programs that position new associates to contribute immediately and feel competent in their work can prove invaluable, both in terms of associate satisfaction and property performance.
But training shouldn’t cease after the onboarding process. Ongoing training platforms that keep associates up-to-speed with new technology implementations, renter preferences and company objectives also serve to increase associate retention. Employees who feel like they are evolving in their roles and provided with career development opportunities are more engaged with their work. And engaged employees are loyal employees.
4. Emphasize Retention
Recruitment and hiring often receive an inordinate amount of attention when it comes to maintaining a multifamily workforce. The real challenge in maintaining teams is not attracting new associates but keeping current employees in place.
Operators need to be cognizant of rising starting salaries compared to current employee compensation. By taking care of existing team members first, and not offering new hire benefits that aren’t first extended to active associates, companies can demonstrate a commitment to employee retention.
People don’t leave companies. People leave people. When operators can curb associate turnover, they create more cohesive and productive teams and forge deeper interpersonal connections. Associates working in an environment of continuous turnover don’t form the same connections with their coworkers, making it easier to leave. In contrast, when coworkers have been side-by-side for years, the workplace develops more of a family feel.
5. Solicit Associate Feedback
Culture and interpersonal connections are significant factors in associate retention. Operators can take employee engagement a step further by regularly soliciting associate feedback. When employees have a valued and respected voice in the company, it builds loyalty and grows associate tenure. Companies that poll associate sentiment and satisfaction through periodic surveys or other platforms for direct feedback develop more involved and invested teams.
It is equally important for associates to know that their feedback is received and incorporated into company decision-making processes. Two-way communication between associates and upper tiers of the company is vital to establishing an environment of trust and respect.
6. Maintain Flexibility
Associates at all levels of multifamily operations have grown accustomed to remote work environments in recent years and maintaining a flexible business model will go a long way toward attracting and retaining associates in the current job market. Operators who view the fading pandemic as a chance to revert to traditional methods of property management will only encourage employee turnover and hamper hiring efforts.
Operators who embrace opportunities for remote work or even introduce options for increased flexibility will find themselves in the favor of both current and prospective associates. Some companies have started rolling out hybrid staffing models and four-day work weeks to boost employee satisfaction.
7. Celebrate Associates
Company successes are built on the backs of associates. Taking the time to recognize the people who helped the organization reach a milestone or surpass previous performance levels validates their hard work.
Tangible rewards – bonuses, gift cards, an extra day of PTO – for significant achievements demonstrate appreciation and incentivize continued productivity. Direct recognition from the executive team confirms the visibility of individual or team efforts and promotes unity across the company. The gesture doesn’t need to be extravagant, but opportunities to recognize associates and celebrate their achievements must be seized.
While corporate culture remains a differentiator for multifamily organizations, it’s not the panacea it once was for hiring and retention. People seeking employment in the multifamily sector now demand a complete workplace package that includes peak compensation and benefits, as well as career development and engagement opportunities. Without that foundation to attract and retain associates, corporate culture begins to crumble.
About the author:
Maritza Riquelmy-Romero is a Senior level Human Resources professional with over 20 years’ experience. Maritza is focused on operational success through strong partnerships, leadership assessment and strategic vision development. Maritza holds a MBA from University of Phoenix, a Bachelor’s in International Human Resources Management from Eckerd College and is a certificated PHR from the Society for Human Resource Management.