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Communication Breakdown: Why Do On-Site Teams Say No One Tells Them Anything?

Communication Breakdown: Why Do On-Site Teams Say No One Tells Them Anything?

Communication-breakdown-blog-title-image Communication Breakdown: Why Do On-Site Teams Say No One Tells Them Anything?

Multifamily is unfortunately notorious for communication problems. Management doesn’t talk to maintenance; the home office team has no idea what’s going on on-site; associates in the Eastern Region never talk to those in the Western Region, and so on. It’s a known issue.

Communication problems like this may seem trivial, but new research shows they are quite significant. Swift Bunny’s 2022 Employee Engagement Risk Report analyzed over 6,5000 employee satisfaction surveys completed by multifamily team members in 2021. It turns out that communication issues are among the top risks to employee satisfaction and retention.

Here's some data you might find surprising:

  • 36% if On-Site Managers are dissatisfied with the amount of company communication
  • 29% of On-Site Leasing and Maintenance are dissatisfied with the amount of company communication
  • About 1/3 of all On-Site Employees say issues they raise are not responded to promptly by coworkers or supervisors
  • While most management companies have a policy requiring prompt responses to customers, only 23% have a similar requirement in place for responses to coworkers

How can you ease the communication frustrations for your team members? Here are three pointers.

Improve Response Times

Take a cue from your policies and procedures surrounding resident response times to improve your responses to employees. After all, employees are your internal customers. When they ask a question, request support, or make a suggestion, they deserve a timely reply. In many cases, a reply is needed in order for the team member to satisfy a resident or prospect or to complete their work. Without a response, they may be unable to move forward. Service delivery may suffer, and that team member may be rightfully frustrated.

If you are in a position to set policy for your team or organization, consider instituting a time frame for responses. Many teams find 24 or 48 hours to be reasonable. If you don’t have that kind of power, that’s OK. You can still set your own personal standard and aim to be responsive to your coworkers and colleagues. Doing so will improve your work relationships and the service your team delivers to customers.

Be Available and Approachable

Does it feel like the apartment community workplace is busier than ever? Communities are fully occupied, many residents are working from home (i.e., your community), leasing demand is off the charts, and teams are short-staffed – making everything a lot more chaotic. Small wonder if the boss is too busy for small talk.

If you are the boss, however, I urge you to be both available and approachable. Team members won’t bring their problems to you if they think you’re too busy to be interrupted. Those problems won’t simply go away, but you may never know about them until they drive your associate out the door.

A good practice to creating space for news to be shared, whether it’s good or bad, is to meet more frequently with your team. Meetings don’t have to be time-consuming, nor do they have to be super formal. They can be 5 minutes to kick off or conclude the workday, for example. It’s also smart to conduct recurring one-on-one meetings with each individual on your team so they have the opportunity to have your undivided attention. Consider grabbing an off-site lunch with each team member once a month; use that time to connect with them and allow them to air whatever is on their mind.

Go Multimodal

People have different habits and preferences when it comes to receiving information. I prefer to read my news, while my husband would rather watch it on TV. My husband is a text message guy; I favor email.

Preferences like this can impact how well-informed your team members are. If your Maintenance Technician doesn’t like email, he may never read correspondence that is sent that way. That’s why it’s a good practice to be multimodal with your communication. This simply means using more than one way to deliver your message. For example, if you conduct a weekly in-person staff meeting, consider also circulating a synopsis of that meeting in an email. That way anyone who missed the live event can still be informed. You could take that one step further and print out the meeting summary and post it wherever team members gather: by the coffee pot or in the maintenance shop. This heightens the chances that all team members will get the information. Being multimodal with your communication may seem inefficient, but if it allows more team members to feel well-informed, it’s worth it.


Investing the time and effort in improving communication with your work team will pay off in improved relationships and heightened job satisfaction for all members of your staff. With new employees increasingly hard to find, it’s never been more important to make the workplace work for those who are on your team already – so they stick around.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Kara Rice, this is such helpful information to share! Thank you to you and the team at Swift Bunny for gathering it. I just listened to your interview with Sydney Webber on her Renter Obsessed Podcast so this was especially timely!

  Lilah Poltz
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Just going to quote you because it's such a good tip:

Take a cue from your policies and procedures surrounding resident response times to improve your responses to employees.

  Brent Williams
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

So insightful, Kara! Thanks for this. I see it when purchasing and rolling out new software and tools. Purchases and decisions are usually made at the corporate or regional level and the on site teams don’t get brought in until it’s time for implementation, which creates a big disconnect. I always involve my team in demos and the vetting process. Even if they don’t have a final say, I find it helps them understand the “why” AND gets them more excited and eager to try something new versus resisting. Communicate early and communicate often, right? ?

  Kristi Fickert

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