Carol Levey, writer and creator of Ms. Management also appears as a guest blogger on Rent Sense. Her insights appear in dozens of other industry publications.
Carol is perhaps most recognized at the national level as an educator and event speaker in the real estate industry. She led the original team that produced the National Apartment Association coursework leading to the respected NALP designation. Her company Levey Enterprises has provided temporary leasing specialists, site managers and marketing offsite personnel to major apartment community operators throughout Colorado and across the U.S. Check back each month for a new set of Q and A with Ms. Management.
Q- I am a new regional director for a company expanding into the local market. Right off we have positions unfilled at several of our apartment communities; especially in the maintenance area.
Moreover, as we expand our local operation and evaluate existing onsite staffs I’m anticipating an ongoing need for recruitment, interviewing and hiring activity. What advice do you have for a newcomer that needs to succeed?
A- Taking a hard look at your current and future personnel needs is the right step to establish a strategic plan that you can initiate, lead and sustain.
Your candidates will generally come in (3) varieties:
One variety is the young graduate of vocational training and/or institution of higher education. These candidates have character and interest but no experience. You might be their first employer and as such they will need the most basic office training, communication protocols and property routines. They are willing to work hard but need interesting work with growth potential. They require detailed training and will do best with direct feedback more regularly than you might be accustomed. Catch yourself and others when they say, “but everybody knows that”. Don’t take anything for granted.
Utilize social media to create awareness and initiate interest about the career track you are offering. Maybe you can bring groups of students to your apartment community for a career night. Don’t forget to communicate among your residents and suppliers.
Your hiring practices need to emphasize constant learning, compliance proficiency and incorporating what is learned into performance expectations. Establish a core of testing, showing understanding and demonstration of skills within specific time frames. Examples include: understanding the lease, fair housing and other details before stepping onsite.
The challenge is to create a smooth onboarding along with the initial 90 days. Tailor the steps necessary to raise individual performance from a detailed checklist that tracks experiences. Conduct weekly evaluations to assess real understanding of processes and procedures. Keep each new hire in charge of initiating and follow through; it’s their career.
The second variety are the candidates that meet the minimum education requirements you’re looking for but have experience in another field that might translate into the property management and/or maintenance skills. These often have higher expectations for responsibility and reward than you believe is warranted due to no industry experience. Start with total transparency about your concerns so you will be direct about their progress or lack thereof.
The interview questions must be calculated and designed to establish transparency moving forward. You must engage this employee to establish what they bring and how this has value in specific ways. They must be coached to initiate this process and prove value along the way. You must create the environment for this to happen.
The third variety are those candidates that come from within our industry; maybe even among your competitors. Maybe someone has been out of the industry for a time. The challenge in recruiting people from your competitors is the reputation you will need to live down. Then there are the benefits and downfalls that come with their experience. You might assume they can “hit-the-door-running”. Surprise! Surprise! You must be careful not to assume or short cut the training process. You need to fully engage this employee during onboarding and initial training. Otherwise, you can get outward acceptance of your way of doing things but when left alone these employees might fall back into habits you didn’t intend to hire.
I think you get the message that no matter which variety of employee you recruit, interview and hire, there are challenges and risk. You might experiment with all the above and spread your risk. Although some of you might recognize this Q & A from four years ago I think you will agree that to re-emphasize in the current market is a good idea. Sometimes, times and people change so that an idea not workable before suddenly makes perfect sense.