With ever-evolving technology trends, increased focus on corporate social responsibility and newfound urgency to retain high-performing associates, the landscape in the apartment industry is shifting.
A panel of executives shared their thoughts on these subjects and more relevant topics at the 2018 Entrata Summit in Park City, Utah. Here is a look at some of the primary takeaways from the discussion, which was moderated by Entrata president and chief operating officer Chase Harrington.
How Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has changed in the industry over the past few years:
Alex Jackiw, chief experience officer at Milhaus: We’re an urban-infill builder, so as a company we’re focused on transforming neighborhoods. A lot of our focus with regard to corporate social responsibility is in that area. We also encourage our employees to donate. On the National Day of Service (Sept. 11), we helped clean up a park in one of the neighborhoods in which we operate. In studying the impact of how we can make that happen on a company-wide basis, we encouraged all our properties to celebrate that National Day of Service across the country. We’ve had great response and hope to expand that role as we look at our mission.
How the industry is ramping efforts to attract and retain high-performing team members and keep them engaged:
Maria Banks, president and chief executive offer of AMLI Residential: We’re continuing to scout job fairs and other traditional recruiting areas, but we’ve also realized that we might have to catch potential employees a little earlier. So we’re going to campuses to recruit more, and we’ve partnered with the apartment association in metro Denver for an apprenticeship program. We’re trying to catch people earlier and get them engaged and interested in our industry. We have a shortage in our industry and we can’t keep stealing from each other, so we need to be creative and find new ways to reach people. Maybe you’re checking into a hotel and the front-desk person has great customer-service skills that might translate well to a sales associate. Approach them.
How customer acquisition – in this case, renters – has changed:
Jeff Hedrick, chief financial officer of Advanced Management Group: Everything is about online presence. The ads and flyers at the grocery store, we don’t even do those anymore. All of the renters coming in have looked at the website and already have an expectation of what’s there, so we have to be able to top that when they come in. And with the online presence, we have to have that instant communication as well. That way, when they’re looking at the community online and have a question, they can contact the office immediately. People want to do as much research as they can before they come in. We still get some of that drive-by traffic, as well, but it’s the online presence that’s key.
The panel also noted that tech features are no longer bonus items for residents – they simply expect them. That being said, a balance must be struck as to which tech features belong at certain communities and which will have the most pronounced impact.
They also discussed ways to cultivate a strong company culture, noting it starts from the day of hire. It can be tricky at times, considering many employees who are initially joining the workforce have different expectations for time flexibility and working remotely. Satisfied current employees sometimes can be the best endorsement for a company.
“We had an employee post on LinkedIn on her one-year anniversary, saying she used to dread coming to work at her former job but now is happy as can be,” Jackiw said. “That kind of viral sharing is invaluable.”