From the Summit: Building a Responsible Future

Being an awesome place to work might not be enough anymore. More than ever, younger employees have exhibited more interest in a company’s purpose-driven initiatives, meaning they are craving more than a comfortable vibe and a competitive paycheck.

It’s a trend that might not be completely isolated to younger generations, as well. According to the Harvard Business Journal, 80% of today’s employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when choosing where to work.

So, what can the multifamily industry do to be on the cutting edge? A panel of industry professionals imparted ideas at the 2023 Entrata Summit session Building a Responsible Future: Property Management’s Role in Driving Impactful Initiatives.

“For starters, if your company isn’t a great place for women to work, you’re already in a precarious position,” said Gino Ferro, Director of Procurement, Bridge Investment Group, noting the sizable disparity between women and men undergraduates.

Knowing the younger workforce is passionate about causes, Bridge has developed an employee impact initiative, in which employees can help decide where the company’s charitable proceeds are distributed. In the early days of the program, Bridge received more than 60 submissions from employees eager to participate.

“For them to have a say in the charitable budget and the initiatives they can put forward, it not only gives them visibility in the organization but makes them feel like a part of what we’re doing,” Ferro said.

On the resident side, Bridge is among those offering credit reporting for renters. Renters often don’t get credit for paying their largest monthly expense, and since implementing the program, Bridge residents have received an average 98-point credit boost. Previously credit invisible residents now have the means to build their credit profile.

A company’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) measures are scrutinized more than ever—both by the workforce and potential investors—and it’s not a trend that will go away. The panel agreed that, if anything, ESG will become more prominent and eventually have more clarity and more regulations surrounding it.

Rather than reaching too far into the ESG stratosphere, Hamilton Point Management has focused on some of the basics that can be impactful. The company has bolstered its communication measures with both residents and associates by embracing technology. The primary objective is to make sure the communication is of a high quality and flows seamlessly in both directions. For Jamie Rauscher, President of Hamilton Point Management, it was a matter of starting with some of the simpler measures and making sure they are done correctly.

“it’s avoiding the temptation to overthink it and overcomplicate it because there’s a sense of urgency,” Rauscher said. “Because of where we’re at as a society, there’s a huge focus on ESG right now and social norms are changing at such a rapid pace. And when social norms change, very seldom do they go back to the way they were.”

Rauscher noted that the employee satisfaction rate of 62% (according to Consumer Confidence Report) is at its highest rate since the 1980s, and she believes it’s partly due to the emerging flextime and remote work trends that have created better work-life balance. Those are solid places for multifamily organizations to start, when applicable.

Sarah Bernier, Senior Director of BPMS Operations and Support for Bonaventure, said that her company designs and builds around a people-focus (for instance, new developments incorporate prominent work-from-home spaces). She indicated that forward-thinking, social-conscious processes naturally address the needs of both residents and employees.

“Our tagline is ‘Your Community is Our Purpose,’ and that goes beyond the four walls,” Bernier said. “Residents are not only concerned about whether the inside of their apartments are meeting their needs—it’s the community at large, the schools, the employment. So we believe that reaching out beyond the property lines is probably the most important.”