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Why community associate turnover is so high (and what to do about it)

Why community associate turnover is so high (and what to do about it)

lower-property-managment-employee-turnover

Offering a positive resident experience benefits many areas of your business, especially renter retention and acquisition. There are many ways to create a great living experience for your residents, but one key factor sometimes gets overlooked - your community associates. 

That’s because happy and fulfilled employees are far more likely to be attentive and courteous to your residents. When you don’t have happy on-site teams, or if you’re short-staffed, there’s a high likelihood that your residents will be underserved when they need assistance. Ultimately, interactions with your on-site teams shapes how residents feel about their community. That influences their decision to renew or move somewhere else.

Sadly, one of the top challenges in our industry is keeping communities properly staffed. In the past year, that problem keeps getting worse. 

Here’s what’s driving employee turnover at your communities and some ways you can keep your team members happy. 

Employee turnover rates at apartment communities are at an all-time high

Under normal circumstances, turnover for on-site teams is usually around 30-50%. This is higher than other industries. But in the current labor market, NAA estimates turnover is now as high as 70%!

That’s because The Great Resignation is making it even harder for apartment communities to keep employees. The non-stop demands of running a community (especially during the height of COVID) paired with lackluster salaries are making many people say “I quit.” 

A recent survey of property management companies asked how turnover has changed over the past year. Half of companies say they have higher employee turnover than a year ago. 

Why does it matter what my employee turnover rate is?

Clearly, the property management industry is having a hard time keeping employees. But is it having a negative impact on your communities?

Absolutely. Without a full team of engaged employees, many parts of your business start to unravel. 

Employee happiness impacts renter retention

Staffing levels play a big role in how your renters feel about the community. Picture a community that doesn’t have enough employees. Residents either have to wait to be helped or settle for solving their problem themselves. 

People want swift service when it comes to their home. Without team members to ensure seamless experiences are happening, satisfaction levels are bound to sink.

Under-served residents won’t stick around. Data shows that multifamily companies who have high employee turnover also have a hard time keeping renters too.

Grace Hill further proved the connection between happy employees and resident retention. They calculated that renters are 6% more likely to renew when a community has engaged employees.

Poor resident experiences affect reputation and leasing

Retention isn’t the only thing that suffers when a community doesn’t have enough engaged employees. The reviews for your property also take a hit. 

Renters who don’t receive great service from your community spread the word on review sites. In 2021, the top complaint by renters in one to three star reviews was poor customer service according to J Turner Research.  

Of course, this can lower the number of visits you get by potential renters. That’s because 79% of people say they will not visit a property if the reviews are bad.

And for the people who do end up visiting, an interaction with a disengaged community associate can be a turn off. NAA reports that 20% of renters said on-site staff had a strong influence on their renting decision. Also, 55% said that staff caring about renters was the most important factor for selecting their apartment. 

Employee retention isn’t prioritized enough in the multifamily industry

Why is employee turnover in the multifamily industry so high right now? One reason may be that companies aren’t putting enough effort into keeping their employees happy.

A recent survey of multifamily professionals asked respondents to rank their business priorities. Do you know what was at the very bottom of that list? Employee satisfaction and retention.


Some employees are clearly receiving the message that their job happiness isn’t important. NAA’s Mental and Emotional Health Survey surveyed 2,300 multifamily professionals. A quarter of them say that employee well-being isn’t a priority at their company. 

Employees who question if their organization values their well being will likely only be around for the short term. The same NAA survey found that 1 in 4 employees are unlikely to stay at their current job for another year. 

Unfortunately, quitting is contagious. 58%of employees who have resigned in the past year said that seeing co-workers leave cemented their own decision to leave.

Tips to reduce employee turnover at multifamily communities

If you want to stop the cycle of high turnover rates, it’s time to rethink the employee experience. Because, as we’ve seen by several data sources, it’s clearly tied to resident retention. Aside from boosting wages, here are some ways to keep your team members happy.

Offer more self service options to free up employee bandwidth

Working at an apartment community is extremely demanding. Community managers juggle so many duties. And according to a Swift Bunny study, 30% say their workload is unmanageable. Plus, 27% say they do not have the tools to adequately perform their jobs. 

This is why automation and self-service options are a community manager’s best friend. Many of your communities are short-staffed. And the associates you have are doing the job of more than one person. Self-service and automation frees up their time. Plus, it prevents burnout because they aren’t performing the same menial tasks over and over again.

Relying on technology isn’t short-changing your residents either. According to a Zendesk survey of their customers, 67% of consumers would rather use self service channels than interact with a human. These on-demand services are convenient for both residents and community managers.

Here are the best ways to use self service in your community:

  • Rent payments
  • Package lockers and notifications
  • Vehicle registrations
  • Booking clubhouse facilities
  • Registering guests
  • Issuing temporary access codes to service workers
  • Pet registrations
  • Self-guided leasing tours

Automating community-level tasks used to worry on-site employees. Many felt that technology would be used to replace them.

But since many communities are already lean on employees, automation has become a lifesaver. It lets employees make better use of their time and focus on face-to-face interaction with your residents. 

Highland Ranch REIT said in a recent call with analysts that its new technology offerings that automated many processes allowed it to cut its headcount by 30% and increase customer satisfaction scores by 24%!

Devote more time to training

Your communities have likely been understaffed for some time. So when a new hire starts, you may be tempted to have them dive in head first. Don’t do this!

Improper training is one of the top four reasons that leads to job unhappiness. Swift Bunny’s survey of community managers reported that 45% said their first week was disorganized. And 36% said they didn't have enough time to train before they were expected to perform their duties. 

So before you get your new hires on the front lines, make sure they fully grasp your company’s processes and technology platforms. This benefits them, plus it’s a better experience for residents who come to them seeking help. When they are properly trained, employees are more confident and deliver better outcomes – a win-win for everyone.

Check in and connect with on-site team members

This may not sound like groundbreaking advice, but regularly asking “How are you doing?” is rather effective in today’s burn and churn workforce.

On-site associates want to know they are valued team members. When they do, it leads to better performance. According to the ADP Research Institute, team members who said they trusted their team leader were 12 times more likely to be fully engaged at work.

Start building this trust by routinely asking them about their workload. Are they feeling overworked? What challenges are they facing? 

Since there’s so much activity happening in community offices, it’s probably not wise to call them out of the blue to check in. That just disrupts their day. Plus, they may not be prepared to give honest feedback when a conversation is spur of the moment. 

Instead, make sure to set aside time for regular check-ins. This allows team members to prepare the topics they want to share. Even if they don’t have any pressing issues to discuss, it gives them a platform to vent any concerns, frustrations, or even the high points of their job. 



Improving the employee experience will give residents better living experiences

Improving the employee experience for your on-site associates ultimately delivers a long list of benefits for your company. Not only will your communities stay fully staffed, but it leads to higher renter retention and a better online reputation. That’s why it’s important to analyze what aspects of your community operations can be streamlined. By removing the most tedious aspects of their jobs, team members will feel more fulfilled in their role. 



 
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Stephen Baker, YES to all of this!!

Employee happiness absolutely impacts resident retention, as you say. To get geeky about it, it all comes down to the Service Profit Chain, which my colleague Jen Piccotti blogged about here: https://www.swiftbunny.com/blog/employee-satisfaction-resident-turnover/

In brief: when employees' needs are met, they perform better and stick around. That means good things for service levels because customers benefit from well-trained, highly skilled, experienced team members who conduct themselves with a smile. It's really so simple...and yet so hard to attain.

Thank you for shining a spotlight on this very important topic! In my opinion, there's really no greater concern than the investment in the people who keep the multifamily communities and firms running.

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

Thank you, Kara. We love the work you all do at SwiftBunny; Jen always has interesting and insightful takes on the industry!

  Stephen Baker
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great article Stephen! And so spot on! Evolution is the key and there are some great management companies recognizing this and creating new roles in their companies to help address these issues. SatisFacts hosts a free monthly webinar series and last month's topic was about strengthening relationships with customers (internal and external). Our panelists had essentially created Customer Relations positions within their companies. When we surveyed our webinar attendees, 52% of them said their company does not have a customer or resident relations position whose job is to support the onsite teams and help strengthen resident and/or employee relationships. This month's topic is employee learning and development - a tip you mentioned in your article. I'll be interested to find out in our attendee survey, how many companies have a Director of Learning & Development or team whose role is to focus on employee training and development/growth. It's clear that it's something that is lacking in our industry and our goal is to educate on these vital issues to help companies adapt and grow with the changing needs of their customers - understanding that it all starts with employees.

  Jessica Pope
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I love the idea of an internal support position focused on ‘customer relations’ that can both help shape a great resident experience and manage employee relationships at the same time. For any company of significant size we think this is important and are seeing more and more firms establishing this role. Completely agree on the importance of focusing on employee training, growth and development. It will be interesting to see what the webinar attendee survey shows on the % that has a Learning & Development team/role. Good luck with the webinar!

  Stephen Baker

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