Regional Managers: The unsung heroes of the residential property management industry! Without these seasoned and experienced professionals, cohesiveness, consistency, and performance can quickly fade within a portfolio. Executive leaders have witnessed the incredibly positive impact a strong and respected Regional can have on a struggling portfolio, and likewise, experience the vacuum that can occur when a poor fit is placed in what had previously been a top-performing region.
Strong Regional leadership not only possesses a keen understanding of operational excellence but also genuine enthusiasm and empathy for their employees, peers, and residents. These are the stalwart and reliable pillars in any organization, or at least they have been. New data indicates that Regionals are at a dangerously high risk of burning out and moving on. What’s changed?
Identifying the turning point is easy, and to no surprise, the catalyst for this shift was the pandemic. In Q4 2019 (a.k.a. pre-pandemic), 83% of Regionals expressed they were very likely to remain with their current companies for the next 12 months. As of Q2 2022, only 59% express that same sentiment. Unfortunately, this leading indicator has played out in reality. Looking back to Q2 2021, the average tenure for this position was a solid 6.8 years. One year later, Q2 2022, the average tenure for a Regional Manager has dropped to 4.9 years.
While we can chalk Regionals’ changing intentions up to burnout, ennui, The Great Resignation, or - my personal preference – The Great Introspection, there are actually many tangible and quantifiable reasons Regionals are expressing that “enough is enough.”
In analyzing employee feedback for the first six months of 2022, Regionals have identified several areas of increasing frustration.
When I shared this data with an industry leader recently, he pointed out that the role of the Regional has never been easy, and most Regionals knew what they were signing up for. While generally I can agree that these experiences are not new to the role, the frequency and degree of frustration are both increasing at an alarming rate.
In a poll I posted in Multifamily Sharespace last spring, I asked what are the greatest obstacles for Regionals to get their work done. While meetings, phone calls, and urgent emails were mentioned frequently, another theme was the increase in administrative tasks. Jeff Allen, VP of Operations/Business Development, Executive Management Services, provided this valuable insight:
“Lack of time is the biggest issue. Companies should consider re-evaluating the purpose of the position and focus on revising the scope to allow Regionals to be more available for supporting their staff. Shouldn't that be the main goal... to coach, mentor, and drive your team to success?”
Residential property management companies need their Regional leaders in order to keep the train on the tracks. The idea of losing 20% of Regional Managers over the next twelve months seems catastrophic. They are the critical layer between executive strategy and front-line operational excellence. But they are human, they have been through a lot, and their endurance has reached its end.
So where can we go from here? If you report to a Regional, there are some things you can do to help alleviate some of your boss’s stress:
You’ve been through a lot together, and they’ve been pretty cool during so much uncertainty. Say “Thank you” for the times they’ve helped and supported you over the past 2+ years. Sometimes we forget our own supervisors can use some recognition now and then.
It’s easiest to call, text, or email questions or needs to your Regional as they arise, but as the one on the receiving end of those requests (multiplied by their total number of direct reports) it can feel like trying to drink from a fire hose. If you don’t have one already, ask your Regional for a regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting when you can present an organized list of questions, requests, and authorizations needed. Of course, emergencies do come up, but saving the bulk of your standard questions and requests for one-on-one meetings will save both of you time and stress.
Your Regional has a lot on his or her plate, and there may be some things that a manager or assistant manager could do as a development experience that will not only help you build valuable skills but reduce your Regional’s to-do list. If you see a task or responsibility that you feel you could take on, ask for the opportunity. Even if that particular ask doesn’t work out, there may be another experience they’ll approach you with because they know you’re interested.
For Executive Leaders, here are some practical steps you can take.
Ask them how they’re doing. Say “Thank you” for holding it all together over the past 2+ years. Even if you think you’ve said thank you before, say it again. And really mean it.
Ask them what is creating the biggest obstacle to getting their daily or weekly work done, and what support, resources, authorizations, technology, etc. they need to make life easier. You may be surprised to discover that the system you implemented during Covid to create remote efficiencies or the extra meeting you are holding with them each week are actually creating more problems than they are solving.
And I mean immediately. You have no idea the chain of decisions or events or actions that are waiting on your answer to their simple question. Don’t be the problem. Always aim to be the solution.
And to all the Regionals, past, present, and future, I want to thank you for the tireless and selfless hours that you’ve committed to your teams and residents. You’ve been the problem solver, the shoulder-to-cry-on, the mentor, the good guy, the bad guy (when necessary), the messenger, the defender, the facilitator, the champion, the cheerleader, the strategist, the accountant, the social director, the captain, the cook, and the clean-up crew. Thank you for all of it.