Creating Happy and High-Performing Associates


Stephen Prochnow, Executive Vice President - Property Management

It’s clearer now more than ever: happy and high-performing associates are essential to a rental-housing company’s success.

When onsite teams and other associates throughout a property management company feel supported and are committed to their jobs, the ripple effects are immense. Happy associates begat happy residents. They also make their coworkers more energetic and more productive, and can build an atmosphere of creativity and innovation that benefits both the company and its residents. They reduce the expense and headaches of high employee turnover rates.

So, how can a rental-housing company build an organization in which team members thrive and are fulfilled? Below are five general recommendations.

1) Supervisors have to operate in the sweet spot. Over my years in multifamily, I’ve determined there are two major causes of associate unhappiness. One occurs when team members feel their supervisor is disengaged, unsupportive and hard to reach. The other cause is the opposite situation: an associate is micromanaged by an untrusting boss.

There’s no one golden rule about how often a supervisor should interact with team members, but associates should always know that they can reach their boss when they need to and that their supervisor will have their backs when the situation calls for it. Some team members may need a conversation with their supervisor every day, while some people may require one chat per week. Great supervisors are responsive to the needs of their associates and their communities.

2) Sharply define performance expectations and your company’s areas of focus. Associates do best when they know the metrics and benchmarks that matter most to an organization’s leaders. This gives them a way to know what they should be working towards and how they will be evaluated.

At Mill Creek, our team members know that we emphasize customer satisfaction, financial performance, online reputation, associate engagement and lead management. We’ve got custom-made scorecards around those areas that we’ve had for years. We also regularly publish community and regional portfolio performance metrics for all associates to see. Our team members appreciate the transparency and the chance to engage in some friendly competition. We use this as an opportunity to celebrate top-performing communities but also as a chance to lean in and help those communities that may be lagging. Associates at lower-ranking communities know that we’re not going to shame them and understand we will work diligently with them to improve.

3) Create a culture in which hard-working associates aren’t afraid to fail. Associates want to be part of a company where they can work hard, try new ideas and not be afraid to fail. When engaged and caring team members know they won’t be reprimanded if a particular initiative doesn’t go entirely as planned, that creates an atmosphere in which associates can develop and thrive.

4) Provide enhanced educational opportunities for excellent performers. Hard-working and caring associates want to grow. They want to move up. Rental-housing operators do themselves a big favor when they clearly spell out what team members need to achieve to be successful and prepared for further responsibility. Mill Creek has implemented formal training programs that allow assistant community managers and assistant maintenance managers to get the coaching and guidance they need to be successful at the next level. These programs have been a big cultural win for us and have prepared excellent associates for additional responsibility.

5) Show your appreciation. Department-wide contests and associate appreciation weeks are simple but powerful ways to build team member satisfaction. So are fewer formal acknowledgments of success and achievement, such as simple marks of praise during a company meeting. Who doesn’t enjoy being recognized and rewarded for their good and hard work? When associates feel their efforts are insufficiently acknowledged and appreciated, that’s a surefire recipe for discontent.

In the final analysis, rental-housing companies simply must prioritize the satisfaction, engagement and performance of their associates. The benefits of happy and high-performing team members are too great. And the consequences of unmotivated, disengaged team members – such as unhappy residents and under-performing portfolios – are too severe.

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