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Just over a decade ago, I wrote this post about the need for savvy operators to build brand loyalty with their residents because of the impact the great recession would have on apartment occupancy. Today’s battle for market share is all about talent. Companies are fighting to fill the holes in their teams with the best available people. Facing a tight employment market where recruiting is becoming more difficult, it is time to fine-tune your culture. When everything else is the same – wages, benefits, etc. – culture is the tiebreaker. Smart job seekers know this, and it is critical that your culture stands out. Be vigilant about course-correcting any cultural dissonance. Your existing team and your future team are holding you accountable for it.
Swipe Right for Culture
Now is the time for innovations in recruitment and hiring. Potential candidates speed date through the endless options for employment and if you want to be the company that causes them to swipe right, you need to think in terms of the team member experience and how you ensure that your company lives up to the hype.
Zero to Ten – Where is your pain level?
Every company has some form of financial review process. It is an important measure of business health. I encourage you to add a cultural review to your routine. Ask good questions. Listen thoughtfully to responses. What is the story behind the story? Where are the cultural pain points and what can you do to relieve them? What is the temperature of your current team members? How connected are they to your culture?
The current employment market is not a call to hire whoever you can get. Top talent is still available and those are the people you want to attract. Avoid the panic hire – the one that you knew in your gut wasn’t the right fit for the position or the company. That path leads to an inevitable painful exit which further tarnishes the opportunity for brand loyalty. It isn’t fair to anyone and shakes the confidence of your team.
I don’t have a magic wand to produce key talent in this unusual market. But I do know that it is my job to ensure that our culture is healthy. It is the sort of work that is harder to quantify but it pays the biggest dividends in the end. My parents’ generation favored the stability of lifelong careers at one company. Workers today are less afraid of uncertainty and want to do work that feeds their spirits and their bank accounts. Passion is the name of the game. You don’t have to change everything about your culture, but you do need your company to be who you say you are.
What are you doing to ensure your culture delivers on your brand promises?
We are all vulnerable to the current effects of the economic meltdown. Apartment communities across the nation will face some level of fallout from the situation, like it or not. From uber premium to boutique apartment communities, everyone will feel it. That is except for those who take real notice of the impending crises. Those who do will move to create an insanely and over the top focus on creating loyalty. And, not just any loyalty. It will be loyalty that rings to the core of the consumer you are trying to engage. My message here is this; you must act in the manner you wish to see in return. Loyalty is not about a card or even an incentive to pay your rent on time like I suggested a couple of posts ago. Loyalty is us, the operator, being loyal to our word as demonstated through our actions.
Inconsistency, lack of commitment or response are not an option in anything we do. We can’t waste our energies on fruitless activities or busy work. In the past we would could sit back and take orders as they came in the door. There was no need to give concern to the back door as our marketing efforts were producing enough volume for replacement. Advice: don’t be seduced by the idea that you can create enough volume to cover yourself. The world will deal you a very tough blow in 09′ if you believe that self talk.
In this new environment, the loyalty of the customer will be paramount to all that we do. The reason? It will become progressively more difficult to find replacement residents. Not impossible but definitely more difficult. That said loyalty should become the operating mantra for 09′. I would challenge every one of you to shoot for the moon in this respect.
We face a time where every community within a thousand mile radius of us will be offering some level of economic incentive to move in and many of your current residents will be inticed by that. Read: plan now.
Steve Yastrow in his book We: The Ideal Customer Relationship calls the economic incentive: transactional loyalty. He further suggests that it will add sales, leases in our case, to your competitors communities as well as ours if we choose to exercise it. But, it will leave you vulnerable.
The real loyality you are seeking is the loyalty to YOU. Be crazy and insanely passionate about the relationship aspect of this business. If you hate people, if you hate distraction, if you hate serving – get out now. Move on. Free up your own future before someone else does. 09′ is about relationship. Pause here: I know it’s always been about relationship but how many of us can say we truly and adamantly preach the mantra in our organizations? Truthfully? I stumble with it all the time. Especially when I am spent, tired and ready for the day to end.
Relationship will be huge for me in the way of blog posts this year – Huge! I hope to engage in some crazy amazing conversations around the subject and look forward to it with an open mind.