Whether you're an executive or a Board Member, the fact of the matter is that attracting and keeping great employees is more important...but harder than ever. Even if you do not have any direct employees, the suggestions offered will still be applicable.
In the last few years, we entered a climate where employees were driving the conversation with prospective employers. In classic supply and demand principles, there was an abundant supply of jobs with a limited number of employees available. The demand for employees was at an all time high, and we started to see businesses operating partially because they simply did not have enough labor to operate at full capacity. How does this impact communities with portfolio managers? I have been hearing of frustrated communities who have experienced a high turnover in their management representatives, so this concept is important for Associations with portfolio managers as well as communities with direct hires.
We have learned that compensation, while important, is not the top factor when people are considering a position. There are several factors that employees consider:
Feeling as though their voice is important and valued.
Being in an environment where they have a purpose.
A sense of a healthy work/life balance.
A supportive work environment and appropriate training.
Strong benefits and paid time off
Most employees want to feel like they are valued in an organization. In many Association environments, it's rare to see a Board set clear goals with their community manager and create an environment in which successes and failures are evaluated and discussed in a constructive and scheduled way. Oftentimes, Board Members express frustration with performance. When asked if the manager and Board had a discussion around goals and setting clear expectations at the onset of the relationship, Board Members often admit that expectations were implied by contract. We have experienced, however, that while contractual obligations are usually fulfilled, it's the nuances that make or break the relationship. Is there a clear action list that has been prioritized? How often or infrequently does the Board wish to receive communication and updates? Does the Board prefer to see homeowner communication before distribution? In most professional organizations, emplyoees are reviewed annually. Yet, in this industry, it's rare to see a Board discuss expectations initially, let alone sit down and review the relationship in a professional and constructive way.
On the topic of employees wanting a purpose, certified managers are experts in their field. Community Association Managers are usually in this field because they genuinely want to help their communities and people. When their opinions and suggestions are not acknowledged or are dismissed, it creates a demoralizing experience for the community manager. This is important for direct hires and portfolio managers. When a Board opts to work with a community manager, it is important to allow the manager to do their job, make recommendations and offer solutions.
This is an extremely challenging industry to choose when it comes to people who value a work/life balance. Since Board Members are volunteers, evening meetings are common. Community Association Managers are expected to work the typical 9-5 hours to be available for homeowners and property issues. They are also expected to attend evening meetings, which can sometimes run for more than 2 hours. Beyond that, we are in an industry where most Associations wish to drive management prices as low as possible. Ultimately, when pricing is low, this requires managers to be responsible to manage more Associations in order to earn a reasonable salary. With more communities, there are more evening meetings to attend each month. Unfortunately, Board Members who nickel and dime management fees hurt the managers they work with because managers will need to manage more communities for the salary they earn. This does translate to a burnout, and managers are more inclined to leave management companies to pursue on-site management positions or to work for management companies whose business philosophy is to set reasonable minimum management pricing thresholds. As a general rule of thumb, it costs significantly more to train someone new and get them updated and on track then it is to pay a few thousand dollars more a year in a salary or in management fees to ensure your manager feels appreciated, well compensated, and not overloaded with work.
When we have employees who have been with us for years, we often forget the benefits of not needing to train them on how things are generally done. Regardless of employment tenure, however, most employees crave training. Our industry is also rapidly evolving and constantly has new laws introduced. It's important to not only provide regular training but to encourage it. Employees who feel like they are knowledgeable do feel empowered and confident. When they feel confident, they feel accomplished and happy.
Finally, nowadays, most employers offer some forms of benefits. Having employees pay out-of-pocket for their benefits is a thing of the past. Many employees will look elsewhere if an employer does not provide benefits. It's important to continue budgeting for added benefits and to find creative solutions that will enhance the employee experience.