Apartmentalize Preview: Cultivating a New Employee Experience

To fill gaps in the employee experience that are affecting motivation, performance and retention, employers must create a new working environment. 

By Kevin Juhasz |

6 minute read

One of the biggest issues facing multifamily, as well as numerous other industries, has different phases and different names. There’s been “The Great Resignation.” We’ve also heard plenty about “Quiet Quitting.” While they may make for great headlines, these labels take away from the complexity and nuance of the issue — the gaps in the employee experience are affecting drive, performance and retention. To fill those gaps, employers must cultivate a new working environment.

Stagnant wages, a lack of recognition, the absence of growth opportunities and an unsatisfactory company culture have created a situation where frustrated employees will do just enough to keep their position and then leave for a better opportunity. Decades of company loyalty are no longer a given, and more than ever, organizations are responsible for creating an employee experience that encourages people to stay.

National unemployment remains below 4%, creating increased competition for top talent. On average, recruiting just one employee can cost an owner/operator thousands of dollars. According to The Engagement Institute, it’s estimated that disengaged employees are costing U.S. companies more than $550 billion per year. At a time when controlling costs is a top priority for multifamily housing, this is a self-inflicted wound that requires organizations to formulate a game plan for improving the employee experience.

Drivers of Disengagement

The ratio of engaged employees to actively disengaged employees currently sits at 1.8 to 1, the lowest ratio in a decade, and about 40% of remote or hybrid employees have no clear understanding of what’s expected of them, according to data from Gallup.com. According to Chiccorra Connor, President of Occupancy Heroes, there are several factors driving this trend. 

“When an employee leaves their job, their workload doesn’t leave with them,” Connor said. “The work burden then lies with the remaining team.” Since, on average, it takes about 52 days to replace a worker, there is an overutilization effect taking place. “There is a very real possibility of a snowball effect from weeks of employees taking on extra work and that can affect job performance.”

While it’s a popular assumption throughout the internet that younger people don’t want to work hard, that’s simply a falsehood. “Folks want to work, but they also want to be challenged and grow within their role,” Connor added. “If team members are underutilized, they will lose motivation. This is true with all generations.”

Further, Connor explained, “there’s still an expectation in several workplaces that people should make their career a priority over everything else, but it’s increasingly difficult to find people who don’t favor a healthy work-life balance. Companies are failing to recognize this.” These demands are creating burnout among employees. 

“Employees quit their boss, not their job,” Connor said. “It’s a popular saying and that’s because it's very true.” A lack of leadership is one of the quickest ways to have your employees disengage from their work. Your teams crave support and guidance from their leaders, understanding that it’s a vital component of growth and job satisfaction. Good leaders are also the catalyst for excellent company culture.

People Matter and So Does Their Growth

To create an engaging environment, companies need to gain insight into what exactly employees are seeking. Stephanie Anderson, Senior Director of Communications and Social Media at Grace Hill, explains that today’s employees want a purposeful culture, a prioritization of wellness, a healthy work/life balance and strong communication channels and feedback. Here’s a further breakdown of those needs:

“People need to feel like they're seen, they're heard, and they matter,” Anderson said. “That plays a role. If you make them feel like they're part of a family, it's going to be harder for them to walk away."

Anderson and Paul Marks, Host & Executive Producer of the Multifamily Matters radio show, recently discussed access to mental health assistance and resources as a growing necessity for many modern workers. According to research from the National Apartment Association (NAA), a quarter of employees are unsure if these services are available at their jobs and 20% don’t know if mental health is even a concern within their organization. 

The next priority for organizations is career development and advancement. There’s no longer any desire to just keep doing the same job, and all employees crave growth. “Teams need mentorship blended with a solid training program and the tools for achievement,” Anderson said. “Follow-up is also critical to make sure the programs you offer your team members are effective and engaging.” More than 90% of employees are willing to stay at companies that offer a chance to grow, and investment in training leads to retention rates that are 34% higher than those organizations that ignore it.

“Benefits with flexibility can make all the difference,” said Anderson. More than just insurance and 401k, benefits that include flexible scheduling and leave, choices for health care and general support of the individual can go a long way. 

Engagement Requires Leadership

So, now that you know what the issues are and what employees want, leadership at every level is needed to create an engaging environment that will help you retain your top people and avoid the costs associated with replacing them.

“Leaders are the people who create an engaging environment and encourage employees to invest in their careers at your company,” said Lissi Daniels, Vice President of Learning & Marketing at PMG Property Management. “In many organizations, culture has dictated that leaders are C-suite or VP, but that’s not the case,” said Daniels. “Whether you have a leadership title or not is really irrelevant. Every single person is a leader in their own individual way.” Visible and engaged leaders that apply organizational efficiencies, communication and follow-up are necessary to make an impact. 

Other factors to consider when building an engaging environment:

“Individual leaders must have a clear understanding of how to mentor others, need to be adept at clear communication, need to provide positive feedback and should always follow up on all their efforts,” said Daniels. “This can take time and training and it’s important to provide those resources for our teams, both in management and onsite.” 

It’s important to prioritize employee well-being and then clearly communicate that to all current teams, as well as the people you’re onboarding. You’ll also want to create a culture that truly offers a healthy work/life balance and utilize corporate resources that support mental health.

If you don’t want to see the best employees in your company take their talents to your competitors and you want to avoid a costly revolving door of onsite teams, now is the time to evaluate and adjust your environment so it’s productive and not discouraging.

Kevin Juhasz is a content writer at LinnellTaylor Marketing.

Want to Hear More?

The “The Impact of Disengagement and Cultivating a New Employee Experience” session will take place on Wed., June 7, 2023, at 1:20 p.m. ET to 2:10 p.m. ET at Apartmentalize in Atlanta. Paul Marks, Host & Executive Producer of the Multifamily Matters radio show, will host expert panelists Stephanie Anderson of Grace Hill, Chiccorra Connors of Occupancy Heroes and Lissi Daniels of PMG Property Management. Register today!