As I write this, it is springtime, and signs of the season are everywhere you look with abundant flowers, blooming trees and shrubs, and pollen that covers just about everything. Many years ago, I owned a landscape company named The Lawn Ranger, and it provided me with a real appreciation for the rapid evolution of the spring season.
People who love to garden also seem to come alive this time of year. Choosing plants, preparing the soil, and carefully determining what conditions each plant will need to succeed. The smell of fresh-turned earth fills the air as the gardener carefully puts seed to ground in an act of faith. The belief that water, sun, and warm temperatures will do the work of generations and bring the seed to bear fruit.
The work of the gardener is never complete. Attention is turned to an almost fanatical process of watering, weeding, and battling pests. There are many methods to fight weeds, but few things are more satisfying than pulling out a pesky weed that comes out of the ground all the way to its roots. Some weeds come out easily but others (I’m looking at you, dandelions!) have long tap roots that resist removal. If you pull a weed at the surface but leave the root, it looks better for the (shockingly short) time until the weed reappears.
Cultivating Team Members
In the multifamily space, we serve a similar role – as the gardener is to crop so are we to our team members. The topics of competition for talent, rapid new hire turnover, and current team member retention are everywhere in multifamily. The pandemic acted like a pressure cooker on the front line and support employees, but it did not create the problem. High turnover has been an issue for the last several years, well before Covid-19 was added to the mix. The multifamily turnover rate was 33% compared to the average national rate of 22%.
Planning for the arrival of a new hire begins before the job is even posted. Setting pay rates that are competitive with the marketplace is a baseline requirement. Not the amount you paid the person who was last in the role – but what the market demands today. It is unreasonable to expect someone to work for less than their worth. Pre-start date communication and touchpoints, onboarding, peer-to-peer connections, and mapping out those crucial first weeks – training, support, and encouragement – help new team members find their way through the maze.
In the early days, new hires are quietly checking their experience against what was promoted and promised before they accepted the position. This is where we lose them. When we aren’t who we say we are. When our core values aren’t practiced every day – trust is broken and like those pesky weeds, it won’t be fixed with a surface-level solution.
There are no simple solutions to talent acquisition and retention, but the fundamentals are fairly straightforward. Competitive pay, intentional connectivity, serving a purpose higher than self and ensuring that your brand promises align with the actual cultural experience throughout your organization.
About Mike Brewer
My mission is to tease out the human potential in the multifamily space.