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Coach Jim's Winning Game Plan

Learn from long-time industry vet, Jim Kjolhede, on the best practices to ensure your teams' winning record.

Employee Incentives: What to do if they don’t work?

This is a tough one. Why don’t all employees just want to work hard and see their property and company succeed? Company success and resident customer service would be through the roof if all employees were engaged and empowered to perform. Unfortunately, as we all know, this simply isn’t the case. There are plenty of employees who do the bare minimum, following what I call the “good enough” mantra.  Those are the employees that we want to work for the competition!

It is common practice within our industry – and, really, many industries – to offer work incentives to elicit high performance. From pay incentives and awards to extra time off and other perks, employers are offering various ways to empower their team members to outperform.

Most of the time, this is all you need to ensure your teams are producing results and leasing apartments. But what happens when incentives aren’t working? Yes, the typical response is to simply let that person go, and I would argue that most of the time that probably is the best bet.

However, I believe there are ways to re-engage some employees to get them back into empowered performance. Before letting a really good employee go, consider the following steps:

Re-Assess: Ask yourself, how often to do you truly conduct employee assessment? I am not talking about employee reviews, but actually assessing their skill set and how it relates to their current job functions and responsibilities. Is it possible the underperforming employee is doing so because the job doesn’t match their best skills?

Open discussions with the employee can help empower them to share what they enjoy about their job and what they feel might be missing. It could be something as simple as they prefer in-face interactions versus phone interactions. Or they get nervous during property tours. These are simply fixes.

Taking it a step further. Have you ever thought that maybe you are asking too much of a single on-site person? We all know that our property team members often wear many hats, but could the weight of those hats actually be too much and detrimental to performance? It may be time to reassess your job roles and responsibilities.

Retrain: There are so many things a new employee needs to learn that is can be simply overwhelming. And while many of our companies offer continual training, we need to better understand if an employee fully grabs all aspects of their job before we layer in more detail.

After reassessment, you might realize that more training or even retraining may be necessary. Are you offering training multiple ways? Remember one person might do better with hands-on learning while another may prefer to read a training manual, and some may prefer a combination. Consider in-person training at a different property. The change of environment could be the kicker the employee needs to find the sense of pride for their property again.

Reassign: Occasionally reassignment might be the best option. Similar to training someone away from their property, moving someone to a new community or a new role offers a refresh. Oftentimes when an employee had been performing well and has started to slip, they need a change of pace to get them going again. As an industry, we assume incentives are the change of pace – just give them more money – but many people aren’t as motivated by money and instead need to feel a greater sense of responsibility. A new assignment might just provide that change for them.  

Cultivating employees is far easier than sourcing, interviewing and hiring a new employee. While incentive programs are great and an amazing employee benefit, we need to remember incentives can’t drive empowerment and performance. So before you let go of someone who seems not to care or works to just be “good enough,” remember incentives aren’t the be-all, end-all. Consider investing more time into your employee as a person not just a performer.

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  • "Is it possible the underperforming employee is doing so because the job doesn’t match their best skills?" I love this statement/question! Rather than looking at someone and judging the person as being or becoming "burned out" THAT is the red flag in my opinion. And that is when your question should be raised. In a lot of cases, people perform rotely, without much thought, and seem to not really care. However, offer something new (new property), a different position (utilize the skillset), that employee might shine again or get back the original polish. Great post!

  • Jim Kjolhede

    Mindy Sharp

    Thanks Mindy for your comments. There is no more valuable asset on your property than who you choose to work with!

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