From the Summit: The Elite Approach to Training Your Site Teams

At first glance, you might not think your employee training program has a significant impact on your business, but if you fail to invest in properly onboarding new employees there is a trickle down effect on lease renewals. Presenters in a session at the 2023 Entrata Summit indicated that research shows that the makeup of the US workforce is in a big transition period. Currently, 39% of the workforce are millennials, but 10,000 individuals are hitting retirement age every day and exiting the workforce, meaning there are hundreds of thousands of new employees that need to be trained every year.

The problem is that 40% of employees who don’t receive the necessary training will leave for new positions within the first year, which could be mitigated by an effective training program. However, many businesses aren’t investing the necessary resources to ensure employees have what they need to succeed at their jobs. It’s been reported that 59% of employees received no workplace training and another 50% saying they don’t feel empowered to do their jobs

For customer service roles, onboarding new employees is an ongoing process. To get them the resources they need to be effective, it takes between two to three months, but to be fully onboarded it can take up to a year. With that big of an investment, many employees might leave before you achieve an ROI.

There is a substantial cost associated with losing employees. BambooHR reports that it will cost you an average of $4,700 for every employee that you lose. In the multifamily industry annual turnover is 33% for operations roles and nearly 40% for maintenance roles. Depending on how large your team is, that can really add up. And those costs are just the hard costs. It doesn’t factor in the hit your reputation may take and the loss of renewal revenue that comes from a poor resident experience. Beyond that, it could result in poor reviews on sites like Glassdoor which could impact your ability to attract top talent in the future.

Tips for improving onboarding

The most important aspect of training is finding the right people. This might sound simple, but your organization needs to take the time to figure out what the makeup of a successful employee is and focus on hiring people that meet that criteria. While the training department isn’t tasked with hiring, they are on the front lines and know what characteristics employees need to succeed.

It’s hard to make a square peg fit into a round hole, so it’s best to find the right people from the beginning. The key is putting them in the right position to succeed. When you do this you’ll have happier, satisfied, and more productive employees. Ultimately, when your employees succeed, so does your business.

Immerse employees in your culture

Next, you’ll want to immerse employees in your culture. While they may have loads of experience in the industry, every property operates a little differently. You should help them understand what your values are and what a top-notch resident experience means for your business. In line with that, new hires should have an extensive knowledge of your properties, including floor plans and amenities, so they feel empowered to answer resident questions as they come in. From there, you’ll want to show new hires that there is a path for career growth at your company. If site teams see that they can grow and be promoted, they will have less inclination to move on to advance their careers.

How training impacts company goals

When something goes wrong, whether you're not hitting revenue goals or resident satisfaction isn’t up to par, the problems can often be traced back in some form to training deficiencies. If there is a problem with training, address it quickly and monitor closely to see if the improvement impacts the other areas where you were lacking. Odds are that if training is the root of your problem, then improving training should lead to an improvements downstream.

It’s important for the training team to have a keen understanding of the company's KPIs. Are there areas where you could coach team members that could impact the bottom line? (E.g., getting residents to sign up for autopay to reduce account delinquency.) When you have well defined KPIs it helps focus your training and identify areas of improvement more quickly.

Stop being reactive to problems. Don’t just go around constantly putting out small fires. Get to the root of the issue. “We can put the fire out in the moment,” said Kelley Jamison, Manager of Multifamily Operations and Training at Hines. “We're great at that, but how do we avoid the fire altogether to make sure that we're prepped and ready? And for us it was, let's make sure we set the stage the right way so we start out with a new team member and it's before they ever start with us.”

It’s also recommended to assign new hires a buddy they can reach out to when they have questions after the initial training so they feel supported until they are comfortable handling things on their own. Melody Carley, Field Support Manager at AIR Communities related the following example, “On their first day we have a maintenance trainer that is going to show them where the shutoff valves are. They know every inch of that property before they've actually gone to complete a service request because in the event that there is a water event, they know where that shutoff is. So we're able to reduce remediation costs and we're also giving them the confidence that they know that property inside and out.”

Getting executive buy-in for training

If you want executive buy-in, start by focusing on the value, how it impacts the bottom line. At the end of the day on the balance sheet it looks like a cost, but if you have the right reporting in place, you should be able to explain to them the impacts it has on satisfaction and leases. Additionally, in the long run if you’re able to reduce employee turnover training costs will in turn reduce because less intensive training will be needed.

Don’t be afraid to give and receive feedback

Finally, feedback is crucial to the success of any training program. Don’t get offended when you receive feedback, take it to heart and use it to improve the program. Training teams are the ones that see what’s happening on the front lines more than any other departments in the corporate infrastructure, so if things aren’t working be quick to take feedback to heart, incorporate it into your program, and resolve issues as soon as they arise. Not all training has to be formal. Don’t be afraid to take site team members aside to offer them coaching/advice when they need a little help.

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