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Brent Williams' Apartment Blog

Thoughts, comments, and ideas about the overall multifamily industry, as well as a property-specific focus on resident retention and apartment marketing.

Employee Retention: The First Step To A Sense Of Community

I am reading a book that I believe has the power to change how our industry perceives the concept of "sense of community".  We've all talked about sense of community in our apartment communities, and intuitively we understand the benefit of the emotional connections between residents and how that affects resident retention, but often we are lost as to how to actually accomplish this! 

Celebrating the Third Place by Ray OldenburgCelebrating the Third Place by Ray Oldenburg

The book I'm reading, Celebrating the Third Place*, profiles all sorts of different companies that have created this sense of community and have become a "third place" for their customers, and it is very obvious that our clubhouses and other common areas have an unbelievable potential for becoming that third place!  (Third place refers to the social location people find after home and work - think of a coffee house or a bar like Cheers

There are a lot of different characteristics of a third place, but let me focus on one in particular:  In one profile about a restaurant that has become a third place, the owner said:

Places may survive in these wildly competitive times as food and dining establishments because of reasonably good food and financial savvy, but they will not become third places if the ‘regular' clientele is bewildered when the face at the door or the face at the bar counter is constantly changing.

In other words, employee consistency is the first key to establishing that sense of community required of a third place.  Throughout these stories, the common thread has been a strong personality that established the culture and "vibe" at the establishment, and was a constant year after year.    Just the same as the initial lease is highly dependent on the relationship and connection between the prospect and leasing consultant, the renewal is just as important, if not more!  I can't count the number of times that I've walked into my leasing office to find a new face staring at me.  How can I feel comfortable talking about my home with this random stranger?  And how are these new faces supposed to establish this sense of community with existing residents when they don't have a clue who they are? 

So the first step in building a sense of community doesn't have to do with the residents at all - the foundation for creating a sense of community is to first inspire employee retention!  When we sit back and think on this, it probably comes with a "Duh, of course" moment, but how many companies are actually accounting for this resident retention benefit in the cost of employee turnover?


* Buying the book through the link provided will support Multifamily Insiders.  If you do not feel comfortable with this, you can search for the book at amazon.com. 
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