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Employee Engagement

The latest multifamily research and data regarding the impact of employee engagement on resident retention, online reputation, and revenue growth.

Is Responding to Your Co-Worker’s Email Really Urgent? Here’s the Tea

------ We’ve all been there: a resident or client has a time-sensitive or decision-influencing question, and we realize a co-worker or different department holds the answer. We send an email requesting the information, and then… we wait.

If we’re lucky, the response comes right away, but many times it can be hours, days, even a week or more before getting the answer we need. And until that response comes in, our work idles, our resident or client goes unsatisfied, and we may become increasingly anxious or frustrated by the delay.

Is it unreasonable to expect a prompt reply to an email? Let’s explore.

Our employee engagement surveys ask employees to what extent they agree with this statement:

"Issues I raise are responded to within 24 hours by my supervisor, peers, or other departments."

Depending on your role within a property management company, the experience can be quite different. According to the 2020 Swift Bunny Index:

83% of Corporate Operations employees (executives, director-level, department heads) agreed that they receive responses within 24 hours.

However, the rest of the organization has a very different experience. Here’s the breakdown for everyone else:

Only 59% of On-Site Team Members (Management, Leasing, Maintenance) and 57% of Corporate Support Services (Accounting, Marketing, Human Resources, IT, Administrative staff) agree that they receive a response within 24 hours.

But this begs the question, is 24 hours a reasonable time frame to expect a response from a co-worker? For this, I posed that very question in Multifamily ShareSpace on Facebook to see what this community thought. And HOLY COW, did you all have opinions!

Here’s the tea:

First of all, 468 of you responded to the poll, and 33 of you provided comments explaining your perspective! (Confession: I was hoping to hear from 25 or 30 of my multifamily friends. You WAY exceeded my expectations – so THANK YOU!) And here are the results!

In first place, with 49% of the vote, was the expectation of receiving a response within 24 hours.

However, coming in second place, 28% of you were not willing to commit to a standard expectation. You simply shared, “It depends.” And you made some great arguments on the reasons for responding this way. For example, Vicky Hurley made a point about managers versus direct reports.

“I don’t think this can be one answer. I think it depends on the situation. Do these folks work for you or are they your superiors?”

She asks a valid question, because as much as we would like to say, “It shouldn’t matter who is asking whom for the info,” the reality is that bosses often hold their direct reports to a higher standard of responsiveness, and, well, they ARE the boss.

Tyler Nicholas added, “What's the deadline/timetable look like for completion? What's the priority level of the issue at hand?”

Tyler’s point was reinforced multiple times in the Facebook thread, indicating the timeline couldn’t be placed solely on the receiver’s discretion. Some responsibility had to lie with the sender.

Michelle Cornelison-Cruz advises, “Always be sure to end the email with a timeline or deadline.”

While only 20% of respondents indicated an expectation of same-day response, that preference was reinforced by nearly half of the 33 comments!

Rachel Payton shared, “I would expect to hear the same day, even if there's no answer. If the person I'm contacting needs to look into whatever it is I'm requesting, I expect them to communicate that, so I'm not sitting there wondering if they got the email.”

This was a common sentiment: even if the recipient was not able to provide the answer at that time, they should acknowledge receipt of the request and give an estimate on when they will have the answer.

Additional factors were offered up for consideration. For example, if the recipient was a maintenance team member who was not in front of a computer very often, a same day response could be an unrealistic expectation. Another obstacle could be the day of the week the request was sent, since on-site team members’ days off are often between Monday and Friday.

One thing was exceptionally clear: communication is important, and timely responses are both a benefit and a responsibility of being on a productive and cohesive team. Any time you can get 400+ responses to a question on Facebook in less than an hour, you know you’ve hit a nerve! Response time is important to you, and it’s important to your team members, too.

Pro tip: If it’s a matter that is truly time-sensitive, pick up the phone and call. (Several of you made this point. Message received!)

Recommended company best practice – While swift responses are indeed a benefit and a responsibility of industry professionals, not everyone has the same definition of “swift.” Establish what it means for your own organization, and then implement a policy or internal guideline that all internal requests receive a response within… (according to our Multifamily Crowdsource) 24 hours.


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