I Love Leasing Blog

"Making the Workplace Efficient for Today's Property Management Professional" by Kara Rice on SatisFacts


You may be familiar with Gallup’s disheartening stats on employee engagement: According to their comprehensive survey of more than 80,000 participants, nearly 7 out of 10 American workers are not engaged in their work. What does that mean, exactly? Well, Gallup defines engagement as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” Clearly, we want involved, enthusiastic, and committed individuals greeting our prospects, attending to residents’ service requests, and overseeing all aspects of community operations. But if nearly 70% of workers nationwide are not engaged, chances are good we have a lot of disengaged folks in the mix in our workplaces.

What does disengagement look like, anyway? Well, there’s a wide range of disengagement. On one end of the spectrum, you have the “passively disengaged” -- those who have mentally checked out of work, and are merely punching the clock. Think of the passively disengaged as hamsters who have found a cozy spot to hide, avoid detection, and pass the time while collecting their paycheck. They’re not doing much overt damage but they’re contributing the bare minimum, which is damaging to the organization in terms of lost potential.

More sinister are those who are “actively disengaged”. You’ll find the actively disengaged causing more collateral damage. They are miserable and hell-bent on spreading their misery like a contagious virus, infecting coworkers and residents alike. Actively disengaged employees are toxic to your workplace productivity, profitability, and reputation.

With most workers dissatisfied, it may seem as if engaging your team members is an impossible task. It isn’t. However, it does require focus. Here are five data-driven engagement strategies that will make a difference.

1. Good Managers Matter

The number one driver of employee satisfaction is the relationship an individual has with their direct supervisor. Gallup’s data shows that at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores is attributable to the manager alone. And, Forbes magazine reports that most employees who voluntarily depart an organization do so because of a disconnect with their immediate supervisor. Yet, our industry pours the bulk of our learning and development efforts and dollars into training entry-level employees and all but overlooks our supervisors. Organizations who are truly committed to boosting engagement must continually grow the leadership and managerial skills of all supervisory roles, including community managers, maintenance supervisors, regional managers, and executive team members.

2. Create working conditions that work

If you ask someone what they hate about their job, they’re likely to complain about something that could be easily fixed. For example, a groundskeeper once told me that his job would be better if he had a vacuum cleaner that worked. This person was responsible for cleaning numerous carpeted hallways every day, but the vacuum cleaner had been broken for months and there was no money in the budget to replace it. He was forced to use a straw broom to sweep the carpeted hallways instead, which took much longer and was far less effective. No wonder his morale was flagging! Find out what ‘broken vacuum’ problems are defeating your employees’ efforts to do good work, and fix them.

3. Help associates see their purpose

Associates are unlikely to be engaged if they don’t feel like they are a part of the big picture, or worse yet, don’t even know what the big picture is. Supervisors must clearly articulate the organization’s purpose and goals, and help their team members connect the dots and see how their individual efforts relate to the overall organization’s performance.

4. Keep the troops in the loop

According to Gallup, engagement is highest among employees who meet with their manager at least once per week. Millennials especially crave connectedness, as many are accustomed to the constant feedback loop provided by parents, teachers, and their peers via social media channels. Ideally, supervisors should strive to connect with each team member daily. Daily connects can be short and sweet; even a quick call or text message will provide informal, ongoing communication.

4. Build a culture of camaraderie and celebration

 Put systems into place that encourage and enable frequent, positive recognition of work well done. Recognition should come not just from supervisors, but also from peers. Research by the O.C. Tanner Institute reveals that robust recognition programs pay off by boosting employees’ drive and determination, improving their work relationships, and building stronger connections to their organization. One of the simplest ways to get started on peer-to-peer recognition today is by establishing or using your existing corporate social network as a place to share ‘attaboys’ for everyday effort.

The research shows that improving employee engagement will have numerous positive impacts, including lower absenteeism and employee turnover, fewer safety accidents, increased innovation and creativity, and markedly higher levels of customer satisfaction. In short, employee engagement matters to your property management workplace…a lot!


About the Author
Kara Rice has spent the past 25 years pursuing her passion for employee engagement and development within the multifamily industry. With roots in onsite community management, in 1999 she co-founded Grace Hill Inc., the industry’s leader in online education. Kara oversaw their eLearning content and marketing efforts for nearly 20 years. Additionally, she was part of a leadership team that created a work culture renowned for innovation, enthusiasm, and camaraderie. In 2016, Kara launched Experiment Learning & Talent Development, a consulting firm focused on strengthening the knowledge, skills, and performance of the multifamily industry’s greatest asset: our people. Reach Kara at kara@experimentltd.com.