Proper Onboarding: The First Step Toward Employee Retention
woman shaking hands with a man in an office

By Paul Bergeron |

4 minute read

TriCap Residential’s deliberate, caring approach is helping to create happier and more productive staff members.

Speak to many new hires in the apartment industry and they will tell you their onboarding experience was insufficient and even largely ineffective.

The annual Ingage study by Swift Bunny™ on the employee lifecycle feedback program for 2022 documented the reasons why the industry is experiencing higher turnover in the first 90 days. Some of it is related to onboarding:

  • 45% of new employees feel their first week was disorganized
  • 1-in-4 new employees were not instructed on how to operate the phone, voicemail or email systems
  • 29% of new employees said their necessary computer, phone, voicemail or email were not ready to use in their first week
  • 36% of new employees are not given adequate time during office hours to participate in or complete required training
  • 35% of new employees do not agree the training provided has helped them become effective at doing their new job.

Jessica Eberbach, Vice President of People and Culture, TriCap Residential, has found great success with her company’s program. 

It starts by creating onboarding checklists for each position to help create consistency and make sure no key information is missed. A mentor is assigned to new hires to conduct peer-to-peer training with them.

“This is a process; it’s not something we try to get through in a few days,” Eberbach says. “It starts before the new hire joins our team with communication with the new team member to make sure they feel great upon their start day.”

She said day one is really focused on making them feel welcomed. There is no actual training that day because TriCap Residential wants to focus on making sure new hires feel taken care of and that they made the right choice of joining the team.

For their first two weeks, new employees are trained on basics so they can gain an understanding of the product and property. During that time, they are not actually doing any community resident-facing activities.

“This way, they don’t feel like they are being thrown into the situation,” Eberbach says. “Instead, their experienced mentors become the subject-matter experts. By training with them, it also helps to improve their overall relationship. Because they’ve already been through the job functions, once they start on their own, new hires aren’t having to ask a bunch of questions.

“We combine their training during that initial time with shadowing by their mentor and taking courses through our learning management system. This way, they can watch what is being done and are not just relying on an online class.”

Eberbach said that TriCap Residential figures it will take a few months for any new employee to truly get a sense of their job. 

Career-Pathing a Key Focus

Employees also are given 30-, 60- and 90-day check-ins with their mentors along with weekly meetings with their supervisors. Similar to “stay interviews,” these give supervisors a chance to ask employees about their “wants” and “needs” and how they want their career paths to go and evolve.

“Career-pathing is something we’ve paid a lot of attention to in most recent months,” Eberbach said. 

For current employees who express interest in higher positions, TriCap Residential assigns them mentors who can explain and demonstrate leadership roles in the company so employees can see if they want to scale up.

“We leave it up to the employee on whether they want to grow into these positions,” she says. “We let them choose. So, for example, a person might be in sales but could explore a leadership career path in accounting. We want our employees to feel empowered in their career journeys, and not simply be told what fields they can and cannot train in.”

Employees also can choose what education courses they believe will be beneficial and are reimbursed for those costs. TriCap Residential has 19 communities (soon to be 22) totaling approximately 3,500 units over seven states. Its overall workforce (remote workers are a part of it) has employees in 15 states, and Eberbach said the company believes that employees will be in tune about whether there are any local training opportunities that fit their needs in their growing career.

Addressing Burnout

In November the company went through a re-organization to address workload and potential burnout. It created several new positions that were designed, for example, to take some of the administrative load off its maintenance technicians.

These new “support” roles handle work-order and turn scheduling, capital expenditures and preventive maintenance. By taking them from the technicians, it allows the techs to focus more on their work orders and taking care of the customer.

TriCap has created a customer experience task force and has commissioned the CX Academy, which has worked with major companies such as Virgin Media, Salesforce and IKEA, to speak to employees on how to improve their skills. 

TriCap Residential also has hired industry training professionals to provide more of the direct industry perspectives.


Paul Bergeron is a contributor to units Magazine.