Recent insights from property managers have shed light on the intense demands of their roles, so extreme that terms like “PTSD” and “trauma” appear with frequency in a property management Facebook group with thousands of members.

Property managers report that they often face emotionally taxing situations, from handling crime and mental illness to dealing with unreasonably demanding residents. This includes high expectations, especially in Class A luxury properties where residents may become displeased if amenities fall short of promises. Managers and maintenance staff on the ground bear the brunt of this pressure and these stressors contribute to the industry's 52% annual turnover rate among onsite teams.

Enhancing employee retention: insights from site teams

Property managers and leasing agents, drawing from their own experiences, provided recommendations for how senior leaders can help retain their teams in a high stress, high pressure environment. 

Recognition and appreciation

Celebrate work anniversaries and milestones with meaningful gestures – even a thoughtful note can make a lasting impact. For example, a heartfelt email from senior management can affirm an employee's value to the company.

Appreciate the dedication of your staff with personalized thank-yous and gifts that reflect their hard work, as seen with the thoughtful gift cards and notes shared by managers. 

When there is a property emergency that requires long hours and creates a high-stress environment, gift cards – even in amounts of $10 – and notes of recognition from management go a long way in making teams feel valued for their efforts. 

Take it up a notch by sharing success stories that highlight the crucial role site teams play in helping people find their perfect homes. Connecting daily tasks to real-life outcomes can significantly enhance job satisfaction. Consider featuring stories that highlight the accomplishments of your team in a company-wide newsletter or blog post. Looking for some inspiration? Check out Venterra Realty – they do a fantastic job showcasing their appreciation for their leasing team on their site.

Professional development and career growth

"What made me unhappy was the lack of career growth offered locally"

Address the need for career advancement opportunities, a concern highlighted by leasing specialists who yearn for growth without geographical constraints. According to Swift Bunny’s 2023 Employee Engagement Risk Report, “with only 34% of rental housing companies indicating they have defined career paths to advance within the company, the uncertainty employees feel regarding their professional development is understandable.”

In this industry, many senior leaders began their career in leasing. It's important to support onsite employees in crafting their own journeys to management positions. A great way to get started is by recognizing the strengths of each leasing professional and adjusting their roles accordingly. To enhance retention and job satisfaction, offer various growth paths – from sales-focused roles to operational responsibilities.

Morgan Properties stands out with programs that give employees the “clarity, confidence, and courage needed to advance their career.” They’ve received a top workplace award for professional development, thanks to initiatives ranging from new hire training to learn to lead programs. Their retention rates have significantly increased as a result of their investment in their employees' career growth.

Creating a supportive work environment

In order to foster a workplace that values both the professional and personal achievements of onsite staff, consider implementing scalable systems. Online catalogs offering personalized rewards and recognition for life milestones can be a meaningful way to acknowledge your team's efforts.

Take it a step further by integrating employee gifting platforms into your recognition strategy. Explore popular choices such as Loop & Tie, SwagUp, Goody, Snappy, and Awardco. These platforms go beyond simple recognition and contribute to overall satisfaction. 

Feeling unsure about where to begin? Start by providing new hires with company swag – whether it's a water bottle, hat, shirt, or mug. These small yet considerate gifts not only spark excitement among new team members but also transform them into brand advocates, proudly representing your company to residents.

What's even more exciting is the potential for a shoutout on social media! See how a Senior Community Manager at Bell Partners took to LinkedIn to express gratitude for branded swag. This showcases the tangible impact thoughtful gestures can have on both morale and brand advocacy.

Financial incentives and benefits

Research indicates that the average cost of replacing an employee is nearly 20% of their salary. With this in mind, it becomes crucial to offer competitive compensation packages that extend beyond the basics. By doing so, you not only enhance your ability to retain existing employees but also minimize costs associated with replacing dissatisfied team members. 

Crafting enticing compensation packages can include incentives for unit turns and leasing apartments, bonuses, and even the provision of a studio apartment in challenging climates, as suggested by managers themselves. One leasing specialist noted that because many of them own their own homes, discounts for living onsite could be translated to bonuses in their paychecks: 

"Management companies also consider the discount to live onsite as part of the compensation but many of us are actually homeowners. I'd gladly take that 25% off and tralste back into dollars in my paycheck."

Ensuring that your compensation aligns with industry benchmarks and current role demands is key, but going beyond the status quo is where companies stand out. Here are some innovative approaches being adopted by multifamily companies to take financial benefits to the next level:

  • Camden Property Trust: They extend financial benefits through education assistance, providing employees with up to $4,500 per year for continuing education. This not only supports professional development but also demonstrates a commitment to the growth of their team.

  • CWS Apartment Homes: Taking a wellness approach, CWS offers 'Fitness Bucks' to their team, allowing employees to allocate funds towards fitness-related activities, equipment, or items. This not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also showcases consideration for the overall wellbeing of their team.

  • WinnCompanies: Recognizing life's unpredictability, WinnCompanies has established an employee relief fund. This fund is designed to provide assistance to team members facing unexpected financial hardships, offering a safety net that goes beyond traditional compensation.

Leverage technology to promise resident-staff harmony

"The portal is key to faster response times while maintaining your sanity. We require that all resident needs come in through the portal. This causes them to really have to think about what they are willing to put to paper and the exchange becomes less ME vs. YOU and takes the human element of anger and requires them to convert it into, “I am angry over this policy, not at you personally." Kudos to companies like mine who are embracing the need for this to help take the burden of aggressive residents off the back of on-site teams.”

Understanding the challenges in resident-staff interactions, some companies leverage technology as a buffer to mitigate issues and enhance overall satisfaction. While it has its limits, harnessing technology like AI chatbots and other tools can address administrative burdens and serve as a safety net for onsite teams.

Here are some technology-driven solutions that can ease tension between residents and staff:

  • Resident Portal Apps: Platforms like ResidentPortal and Buildium empower residents to submit maintenance requests, pay rent, reserve amenities, and communicate directly with management all from their smartphone. 

  • AI Chatbots: Implementing AI chatbots allows onsite staff to provide instant support, contributing to improved resident satisfaction while reducing the workload on the team. 

  • Resident Feedback Surveys: Utilizing survey tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can help gather feedback from residents. This information can be used to identify areas of improvement and address concerns before they escalate.

Automate and reduce manual work

In reference to an overwhelming workload, one burnt out leasing specialist says: “They can also offer a personal assistant to come and help with uploading documents.” While personal assistants are not likely at the top of the list for site team hiring, there are services and tools that can help reduce the manual burden that they experience. 

TheGuarantors recently introduced its Zero-Gap Renters Insurance and Compliance offering, which automates the often manual process of renters insurance policy monitoring during both move-in and throughout the remainder of the lease. Jarrod Whitaker, SVP of Residential at RXR says that the tool has helped save his property management teams up to “15 hours, per property, per month.”

Empowerment and autonomy

Recognize the immense dedication of property managers who often put their personal lives on hold. As one senior assistant resident manager mentioned, for some, the job becomes their life,  and this level of commitment deserves recognition and support.

Take heed of advice from experienced managers who stress the importance of timely action and the ability to take charge during critical incidents, highlighting the need to empower frontline teams.

The multifamily real estate sector places significant demands on its onsite staff. The valuable insights shared by these professionals emphasize the vital importance of implementing comprehensive employee engagement and retention strategies that address a wide range of needs and challenges. Whether it's through recognition, competitive compensation, or professional growth opportunities, it becomes evident that a multifamily company's success is directly linked to how it supports and values onsite teams. By integrating these practical insights into company policies and fostering a supportive culture, multifamily leaders can cultivate a more engaged, satisfied, and resilient workforce.