The Great Resignation is approaching and all we can say is – are you surprised? For the past 18 months we have been bleakly staring at our faces over Zoom screens, feeling helpless as our mental health has dramatically eroded. And while the emergence of the Delta variant and continued political tensions add to feelings of uncertainty, most of us are starting to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. For many of us, that light is a new career path.
39% of human resource leaders are finding it increasingly more difficult to fill open roles, and experts are expecting a resignation rate to fall between 8 – 41 percent. This especially isn’t good news for anyone employing community and property managers – a role with a turnover rate 10% higher than average. So what’s a business owner to do? Should you just hold on to hope that everyone will stay with you and fall into panic mode any time an employee asks, “do you have a few minutes to chat?” Or are there tactics you can employ to be proactive in your hiring and retention approach?
To find out how leaders in the CAM industry create team cultures that keep talented employees, we sat down with David Priestley, President and Owner of Priestley Management Company. As a seasoned CAM professional with a turnover rate of less than 2 percent, Mr. Priestley knows a thing or two about keeping employees satisfied and motivated.
“I’ve been in the business for 31 years,” Priestley said. “In the first 5-6 years, my business was really just me. My kids were 1 and 4 at the time, and as I was building up a company, I missed a lot of milestones. I don’t want that to happen to my employees.”
Recent findings show that the #2 reason a person leaves a company is because of a poor work-life balance. As most of us were remote for the majority of 2020, work and home life have become unprecedentedly blended. So how does one prevent 9:00 PM phone calls and 2:00 AM emails, especially in an industry that’s all about managing homeowner needs?
For Mr. Priestley, improving employee wellness is a well-structured program designed to instill the message that home life is the priority. “Any time there’s a three-day weekend, I always close the office at noon. I strongly believe in treating employees the way they want to be treated, so if I want to start a weekend with my family early, why not offer that to everyone? If we miss out on the important moments with our families, it just hurts.”
Employee wellness also means having a culture that is there for one another – especially when times are tough. “Over the years, we’ve had several employees get sick. Some have fought cancer. When this happens, the last concern should be filling a shift. Everyone chips in to get the work done. We stand up for each other, especially when it matters most.”
Have you ever read a job description for an entry-level role that requires over five years of experience and a laundry list of specialties and skill sets? It isn’t uncommon, but this vapid recruitment strategy has increasingly received the flack it deserves. The reality is, there is no such thing as the perfect candidate; if you are searching for the “perfect fit” for your company, you will never fill that role.
“The most important thing you can do is not look for the perfect candidate, but find the person who you know can do the job while adding value to your company culture,” Priestley explained. “Don’t take the first person that comes along just because you’re desperate to fill a role.” The team at Priestley Management Company has several employees interview a candidate to ensure that the new employee would add value to the team.
In addition to group interviews, Mr. Priestley also believes it is important for owners to understand that the right candidate isn’t always going to check all the boxes. “It’s almost impossible to find seasoned community managers. That said, someone who has worked in real estate or in an apartment complex may be a fantastic fit for community management. When you’re hiring for a job, don’t worry about whether or not they’ve done the job before; worry about whether or not you feel they can do the job moving forward.”
After countless hours of recruiting and interviewing, it’s easy for leaders to get overly excited when a new employee is finally hired. This excitement may lead to a workload dump – and that may inadvertently lead to burnout.
“When you’re in an industry managing homeowners’ finances and property needs, there’s bound to be stress,” Priestley explained. “As there’s so much stress coming from the outside, it’s my job to do whatever I can to relieve stress from the inside.” That stress relief comes from understanding that – given the difficulty of a role related to community management – onboarding a new employee takes time and patience. “At my company, we invest in our people. It takes on average two years for an employee to fully understand the business. If I throw a new property manager into a full property load right away, they will get overwhelmed right away. I believe one should hire for a role at least a year before that role is really needed.” Mr. Priestley also invests in training for his employees, such as the CAI M100 course to learn community management essentials.
Onboarding isn’t just about understanding the specific position one was hired for, either – to build employee retention and engagement, one needs to ensure employees understand the full realm of the business. New employees at Priestley Management Company shadow every position – from reception to Accounts Receivable and more – during their first few months. “We are a small company, and everyone plays a critical role. We need to all have respect for every role and what each person does to contribute to our end goals.”
After someone has been properly hired and onboarded, how can you work to transform them from employees into company evangelists? For Mr. Priestley, it boils down to variety. When an employee has been acclimated to many roles within an organization, they are likely to feel more comfortable exploring other roles that could be a strong fit for their career path.
“If you have a good employee in a role that isn’t the best fit, that doesn’t mean they have to leave your company,” Priestley explained. “I have an Accounting Manager who started as a Community Manager 20 years ago. After four years into his first role, he realized he didn’t like the job, but he had a degree in finance and was interested in accounting. He is now one of the most critical team members in my company, but had I not provided him the opportunity, he would have left.”
After the “dream team” within your association management company has been formed, the next big step is to ensure that each member is aligned with the company’s mission and vision. One of the easiest ways to achieve alignment is to build the plan together.
“At the last CINCup Conference, there was a speaker who discussed company culture. I was so inspired by that talk that upon returning to the office, a team of us went on a company retreat and defined our own culture. We call it the Priestley Way, and we all work by it.” The first edict of the Priestley way is to treat everyone the way they would want to be treated – this applies not just to board members and homeowners, but to fellow co-workers as well. It’s no wonder that David Priestley has only had three out of 25 managers leave in the past 15 years – the reasons for leaving were related to retirement or other family matters.
Through communication, culture, and a commitment to work-life balance, the Great Resignation can be nothing more than a prediction. To learn more about the way Priestley Management Company has utilized team camaraderie and stellar business acumen to become one of the most established community association management companies in the industry, read their case study.