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Anonymous vs. Confidential Surveys – What’s the Difference and Why it Matters

          I am a whole-hearted believer in the power of employee feedback to help companies understand their team members’ collective experience. It allows leaders to gain clarity on what’s working well and what is getting in the way of employee engagement and overall business performance. Employee feedback is only valuable, however, if employees feel comfortable and safe in providing their candid thoughts and experiences and believe their input will influence positive change. The most common ways of providing this level of assurance is to conduct anonymous or confidential surveys – and yes, there’s a difference! Anonymous Approach: Pros and Cons What Defines an Anonymous Survey? An anonymous survey does not include any identifying information, and therefore responses can not be tied back to any individual participant. Pros: These types of surveys are most often deployed by giving all potential respondents the same survey link, removing any administrative burden from the employer. An employer would simply send one mass email to all employees with one common link. Cons: Since the survey link is not tied to any particular employee record, a single employee could take the survey multiple times, skewing the response rate as well as the overall results. If trying to gather demographic factors, such as their position, department, or geographic location, there is a higher likelihood of error, whether from user error or a deliberate desire to mask their identity. In addition, research indicates that accuracy can slightly diminish on anonymous surveys. In an act referred......
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The Impact of COVID-19 on Multifamily Employees

The COVID-19 pandemic brought schools, commerce, commuting, travel, and more to a halt, and it changed A LOT of how we operate apartment communities - nearly overnight! And yet, while many things changed for most of the U.S., multifamily employees had the challenge of figuring out how to continue to provide service and support for residents who were now home 24/7 for months on end. In our Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Impact Study, we explored how multifamily employees were feeling and faring during so much change. Here are some of the highlights we found: Employees feel well-informed More than 85% of multifamily employees agree they feel well-informed, and nearly as many feel they are getting the information they need that is relevant to their jobs.  WARNING! Many executives, upon hearing this great feedback, shared they were considering pulling back on the volume and frequency of communication. The theme we heard from employees loud and clear was that they still need and want that level of communication. As different cities and states consider re-opening, re-closing, or limiting amenities, services, events, and more, there is still a lot of information to share. Keep talking! Employees are listening.  Companies are taking care of their residents Employees overwhelmingly agreed that they were confident in the support provided to residents. While there were - and are - logistical challenges, such as office closures and emergency work orders only, employees felt companies were providing information and creative options to keep residents comfortable in their homes. New ......
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Keep Talking. Employees are Listening.

       As we look toward entering a new phase of management during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to survey multifamily employees to see how they are feeling about the ever-evolving situation. Data from the Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey shows that employees' feeling of safety in carrying out their responsibilities tracks with the level of communication and leadership visibility they are experiencing. In other words, the more leaders communicate directly with their teams, the greater the employees' feeling of safety in completing their work.  In speaking with leaders of 30 property management companies, there is a universal perception that it's time to take the foot off the gas pedal regarding company communication, now that we're through the initial tidal wave of change that arose due to the pandemic.  "We're turning into Zoombies!" commented one employee, which perfectly represents the fatigue many team members are feeling in regard to the volume of meetings we all seem to be having. However, while I may agree that the quantity of meetings may need to be toned down, the quality of communication is still critically important. Polling conducted with hundreds of multifamily employees during webinars over the past few weeks shows a shift from general feelings of uncertainty to concerns about how their communities are addressing or planning to address re-opening. In addition, beginning on May 18th, the data from the Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey has shown the rating trending downward on the topic of, "I feel well-informed ......
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Leadership by Transparency

        We hear you loud and clear, multifamily employees: you want your leaders to be loud and clear! Over the past 6 weeks, more than 2,600 rental housing employees have responded to the Swift Bunny Covid-19 Employee Check-In Survey.  In that span of time, we've seen a significant increase in employees expressing that they Agree or Strongly Agree that their company is providing important and transparent information that is relevant to their job. What started out in early April as an industry average of 4.27 out of 5 has grown to 4.47 out of 5! Increasingly, we see employee comments such as these: "I think our company has done a great job communicating policies and keeping its residents and employees safe." "I feel that upper management has been very supported throughout all if this.  The emails have been uplifting.  We are feeling well-informed." The topics of "transparent communication" and "leadership visibility" have been tracking incredibly closely over the course of the survey, which is a message that executives need to hear. This tells us that employees not only crave information that is relevant to their day-to-day responsibilities and the state of the company, but they crave hearing it from the top. This is a lighthouse moment that we're seeing more and more successful leaders embrace. However, while we're seeing a positive trajectory on transparent communication and leadership visibility, we're seeing the need for a different kind of information and support at every level of the organization. Increasingly, ......
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The One Vacancy You Want During the Pandemic

     Ivory tower. Corner office. Private beach. La-La Land. Hidey-hole. It's been called many things recently in our COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey, but ultimately it's the place some employees believe their executive leadership has been hunkering down while front line employees feel they are personally putting their health and safety at risk.  I say "some employees," because the great news is that 85.2% of rental housing employees agree that their executive leadership has been visible and communicative during the COVID-19 pandemic. That's more than 5 out of 6! Whether conducting weekly virtual Town Hall meetings with all employees, showing up at different communities to help sanitize common areas, personally delivering a much needed supply of masks, or announcing new work-from-home guidance to reduce face-to-face interactions in the leasing office - leaders across the country are demonstrating that they won't ask their team members to do anything they are not willing to personally do themselves. Ivory tower = Vacant! A key benefit of seeing executive leadership in action is the strong correlation to the employees' perception that leadership is making good decisions in response to the pandemic. Employees want to have confidence in the direction they are being given. These recent findings support what we learned through the Swift Bunny Multifamily Employee Engagement Study, that "Respect for executive leadership" is one of the strongest influencers on employee engagement.  Employee engagement is critical for every property management company in order to successfully pull through a crisis. It's what enables each team ......
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Four Guidelines for Leading your Property Management Team through the Pandemic

With so much information, advice, news, resource links, and speculation swirling around the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are looking to company leadership for answers and instruction. Because the crisis continues to unfold rapidly, company leaders must be willing and able to be nimble in their distilling of information, making decisions, and getting those decisions out to the field. Here are four guidelines to consider when making decisions in response to COVID-19: 1. Provide daily updates The local, national, and global picture is changing constantly, and often seems to be picking up speed. As a result, weekly updates aren’t always providing the critical information to the employees who need it. Whether through a living document that all employees can access or a daily email with a state of the company, provide a trusted source of information and guidance that your employees can rely on for the latest and greatest. 2. Form a leadership cabinet Because there is so much information to sift through, a small, trusted circle of leaders is needed to make swift, critically thought-through decisions. Too many voices can slow the flow and speed of information, but too few perspectives can leave room for imbalance and knee-jerk reactions. Identify a strong, well-balanced few, and allow them to make rapid, tactical decisions in response to real-time issues. 3. Address critical areas of concern Employee Resources – Health and well-being is top of mind for employees, so access to information regarding customer interactions, health insurance, sanitizing equipment and supplies, and more is in hig......
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One of "Those Days"

There are people I get to meet in this industry of ours that have such an impact; they shape how I look at things or make decisions. The opportunity to meet such people make up the the little surprises that make me feel so grateful for what I get to do for a living. One such person is Danette Kammeyer, a community manager in Indiana. I connected with her at NAA Apartmentalize a few years ago, and she has been kind enough to send me some of her writings during that time. As many in her position know, managing a senior apartment building in small town, mid-America is hardly glamorous. Benefits and pay can be modest, and the only travel can seem to be to the nursing home or funeral home. The work can be overwhelming, with a variety of challenges. However, Danette and so many community managers across the nation see their work as a blessing and a gift and wouldn't want it any other way. With her permission, I've published her past work on the ManagInc blog page, but when she sent this to me recently, I asked if I could publish it for a larger audience, and I'm so happy she said yes.  This is what is so beautiful about the multifamily housing industry. It's the people like Danette who make our world a better place and teach others (like me) what "Good" looks like.    One of “those days” It had been one of “those days.” You know th......
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Think You Are Managing Your Reputation? Think Again.

                  As an industry, multifamily has done a remarkable job in embracing and managing their reputation related to online resident reviews. In fact, according to the soon-to-be-released 2018 Multifamily CSR Benchmark Study, nearly 87% of property management companies have a policy on responding to online resident reviews. For the past several years, industry conferences have had panels and workshops teaching strategies and best practices on how to respond to these reviews professionally and in a way that enhances the company's reputation and attracts prospective renters.  In the background, however, a critical component of your reputation has slowly been exposed. The curtain has been pulled back, and all of your inner workings have been revealed.  Your residents aren't the only ones who have been talking about you. Your employees have been talking, too. Not only do they have a lot to say, but there is a large audience who is enjoying the show and making decisions about whether they want to audition or exit, stage left.  Allow Me Introduce You to the World of Company Reviews. As with any industry, the online job search websites have evolved and expanded in their capabilities and focus. Our industry has used these websites to post jobs and find new employees. We have counted on our managers and HR team to write interesting and attractive job descriptions to appeal to the right skill sets and value systems that would fit into our culture. Alas, those days are gone.......
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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 m......
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No Need For a Ring: Employee Engagement

Here’s the thing about employee turnover. It is directly correlated to employee engagement. So, let me tell you about Lauren. She does not work in our multifamily real estate industry. Instead, this bright young lady graduated #2 in her class at a prestigious university on the east coast. She is working at a pharmaceuticals company, coming in as a basic Claims Processor. She did work hard learning all the new formulas and processes and policies for her position. When others left at noon on Fridays that first summer, she worked until 5:00 PM, sometimes past – most of the time. Her immediate supervisor took notice of how precise her work was and how high the volume output was. He reported to his boss how impressed he was with her work. Soon they offered her the opportunity to join their company’s Leadership Class where she would be paired very often with the highest ranking officer of their division (pretty high up!) Her annual review went well with some positive feedback and a couple of needs improvement areas. She worked on those improvement areas, overcame them and was soon promoted to a leadership role supervising a couple of others. Then they noticed how well her group completed assignments and they promoted her to “boss” position. They gave her an Award (including money bonus) and sent her to the national corporate headquarters where she lead a team to assume management of a couple of their responsibilities. She delivered feedback on new hires, trained them, all while......
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