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Policies and Procedures – The SPANX of Property Management Operations

Policies and Procedures – The SPANX of Property Management Operations


Yes, you read that correctly. Policies and Procedures are the SPANX of property management operations: the functional, streamlining control panels that make everything else look polished, effortless, and successful. Love them or hate them, they are a necessary component of a high-performing property management company’s strategy.

While Policies and Procedures are decidedly unsexy, they provide a foundation and consistency that enable employees at every level to gain competence (and therefore confidence) to perform their responsibilities. They also save dozens of hours per employee per year by defining a standard and expected way of conducting repetitive tasks or processes, instead of having to figure it out each and every time the employee needs to do them.

Unfortunately, the last two years seem to have taken a seam ripper to our collective SPANX. (And I’m not talking about the pandemic pounds some of us have acquired through our endless hours of at-home sourdough baking!)

At the end of 2021, according to the Swift Bunny Index, nearly 75% of property management employees agreed that Policies and Procedures were consistently enforced by their companies. But midway through 2022, that stat dropped down to 69%. Why is this happening, and why does it matter?

During COVID, though Policies and processes changed rapidly – sometimes on a daily basis – companies focused a lot of attention on communicating and reinforcing those updates to ensure all employees understood the expectation. It was challenging and frustrating, but collectively we got pretty good at the “Pivot.”

Now that business is looking similar to the Pre-COVID Era (PCE), it’s a common misconception that employees understand that Policies and Procedures have reverted back to PCE practices.

NEW FLASH: If you have not explicitly communicated what your current Policies and Procedures are, your employees are probably conducting business using whatever Policy and Procedure is most familiar or easiest. And I guarantee that will be different from community to community.

Right now, the lack of consistent Policy enforcement is one of the top frustrations of Regional Managers and Corporate Support Teams. In addition, the problem is only getting worse due to high turnover levels of tenured employees and the lack of formalized training for new hires.

Wait. What about my new hires?

One in five on-site new hires, meaning employees within the first 90 days of employment, are not given adequate time during office hours to participate in required training.  If they are not receiving instruction on how to do their job (i.e. Policies and Procedures), then they are reinventing the proverbial wheel every day. How exhausting! And confusing!

Is it any wonder that new hires are quitting in record numbers in the first days and weeks of their new job? Is it any wonder that On-site Managers, Regional Managers, HR, IT, Training, Accounting, et al are tearing their hair out at the inconsistency and seemingly willy-nilly decisions that create multiplying consequences?

What You Can Do

  1. Review your current Policies and Procedures.

Ensure they are not a hodge-podge “stone soup” of PCE and COVID-era policies. Identify those that need clarification or updates, especially if they refer to moratoriums or mandates that have since expired.

  1. Schedule time with cross-functional decision makers to update the outdated Policies. Immediately.

Time is money, and wasted time is wasted money. The more your employees have to guess what the expectation is, the less time they have to do the real business at hand, which is leasing, maintaining, and caring for your communities and residents.

  1. Ensure Policies are published and easily accessible

If they are hard to find, they essentially don’t exist. The easier they are to access and understand, the more likely they are to be utilized.

  1. Implement an ongoing Policy and Procedure Communication Plan

Whether it’s a “Policy of the Week” or an ongoing series of lunch and learns, embrace the fact that it’s time to re-educate your entire workforce on Policies and Procedures. This includes re-educating the corporate-based staff, too. Ensure (don’t assume) everyone understands what the current, approved, published expectation is.

While not sexy in their own right, Policies and Procedures are the shapewear of our operations. If you’ve seen celebrities on the red carpet in their sleek, glamourous gowns and get-ups, you’ll understand the comparison. The fabulous-ness we see on the outside is made possible by the functional composition underneath. Yes, just like SPANX, Policies and Procedures might feel a bit restrictive, but they provide the smooth, streamlined foundation upon which business can thrive.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Yes, Policies and Procedures often hold things together and create consistency. in my world ~ Policies and Procedures are often the result of someone, usually onsite, doing something that one of the Corp folks didn't like or deem necessary, or they think it should be done a certain way and have their reasons for thinking that way. (however ~ that is never conveyed to the person who actually has to follow thePolicies and Procedures . It may work in theory ~ but not in actually practice) So a policy is quickly put together. What if when reviewing/adding Policies and Procedures a committee of onsite folks, including maintenance, review the Policies and Procedures ~ does it or doesn't it work. How could we make it better! Are there exception and what are they. Ask for HONEST feedback once a Policies and Procedures is put in place.

  Gerry Hunt
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Gerry, I love your idea of including the onsite folks in the process. I think too often policies "come from on high" and may be out of touch with the reality of the onsite experience -- and therefore, resisted by the team.

  Kara Rice
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

That was one of the most valuable lessons I learned when I first got into the industry. One of my first projects was to review, update, and streamline the company's policies and procedures. I learned VERY quickly that what was good in theory was rarely practical in reality. I was so fortunate to have a patient group of Maintenance Supervisors and Community Managers who walked me through various processes on-site and provide candid feedback on what was realistic and helpful. I'm with you, Gerry! I always advocate for getting the first-hand practitioners involved in any additions, changes, or "improvements" to policies and procedures. Their experience and insights are pure gold.

  Jen Piccotti
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Wait... So are baseballs held together by Spanx? Mind blown.

  Brent Williams
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We all have our secrets... LOL

  Jen Piccotti
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Love the Spanx reference. Too clever!!!!

  Tracy Daves
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thanks Tracy. The idea of it made me laugh.

  Jen Piccotti
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Wow, that's a pretty shocking stat and one to consider for sure! I would also say that if Policies and Procedures aren't being followed consistently, that's likely a good indication your teams are going to have a LOT of frustration and animosity! Great reminders Jen!

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

Thanks Lilah! Employees want to do the right thing, so when it's not clear what that right thing is, it's definitely frustrating!

  Jen Piccotti
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  Stephanie Oehler
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Thanks Stephanie!

  Jen Piccotti

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