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4 Ways to Engage the Distracted Learner

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How many times were you distracted today? What is your daily screen time average? How many times did you pick up your mobile device today? With our heavy use of digital media and mobile devices, we are rapidly switching between different screens. It could be said that we have taken multitasking to new heights. For trainers, this typically translates into our need for ways to engage the distracted learner.

A 2015 study released by Deloitte found that on average, people in the United States across all age groups checked their phones 46 times per day. According to new research, that number has increased to 80 times per day. Clearly, we are in a distraction crisis. In fact, in 2018 both Facebook and Instagram announced they were developing new tools designed to limit usage in response to claims that excessive social media use can have a negative impact on mental health.

Interestingly, companies regularly roll out new technologies and tools intended to help employees become more efficient, productive, and collaborative, but what was designed to help can be a source of distraction. How do these distractions impact our job performance? In 2018, Udemy set out to measure how distracted employees are during work hours, how they’re responding to distractions, and what it all means for employers and the American economy at large. Is it getting more difficult for employees to focus and work smart?

Udemy’s in-depth 2018 Workplace Distraction Report revealed many interesting findings on this topic, but one really stood out to me as a trainer. This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, to which we have adapted with ease, but the downside is that interruptions and distractions have eroded our ability to concentrate. When we don’t have them, it feels like we are transitioning from the Autobahn highway, to a 15 MPH construction zone. It is a huge adjustment!

Great trainers understand the difficult transition from the chaotic leasing office to the quiet, controlled and contained training room. They also understand their time together is short and that how they transfer knowledge and engage the learner is critical to everyone’s success.

Here are four ways to engage the distracted learner.

1.  Discard & Delay Distractions. The first day of multifamily training can be a difficult transition for onsite employees who are used to running in different directions at warp speed. I find it effective to just address the elephant in the room. We know they aren’t used to sitting down very often during the day. We know they don’t normally focus on one task at a time. We know they are thinking about all the loose ends that they need to tie up when they return to the office. Try one of the following activities to help get learners focused on your message and the training goals.

  • Place a trash can at the front of the training room. Hand out a blank piece of paper and ask each person to take a few minutes to write down their mental to-do and ‘worry’ list. This will allow them to visually see all the distractions that are floating around in their mind. When they are done, ask them to crumple it up in a ball and throw it in the trash can. This is a fun but enlightening activity.
  • We all know that things happen while we are in a multifamily training class and there are times when we have to communicate back to the leasing office, yet having easy access to your phone or smart watch can be very disruptive. Consider setting aside a 5 minute “Distraction Time” at the top of each hour. While some issues cannot wait, most can. This is a great lesson in how to properly manage disruptions in the workplace too.

2.  Enlist Participation-Seeking Activities. Engagement encourages increased participation. When someone participates in a discussion or activity, a mental anchor is formed with the material.

  • Role-Playing: It always amazes me how this simple word can cause so much fear, worry, and anxiety, especially in a leasing training class. Aren’t they just practicing what they are doing on a daily basis with real customers? Interestingly, as they reflect on the day, it is often one of their favorite parts of the training class because it works. I always tell them that it is better to practice in a place where they can fine tune their skills and make adjustments, rather than simply practicing with their customers. Our peers are much more forgiving. Role-playing forces employees to give their full attention because they are either practicing with one another or standing in front of the room. Either way, they know they will be next, so they are very attentive. A few years ago, I wrote a blog titled, Role-Playing: Riding the Ginormous Elephant in the Training Room, and I would encourage you to read it and share it. John Maxwell, established author on leadership skills, provides us with five effective coaching steps to use during role-playing that will help your employees master a task, equip others, and grow leaders, and stay engaged in the classroom.
    • Step 1: I do it (competence).
    • Step 2: I do it, and you are with me (demonstration).
    • Step 3: You do it, and I am with you (coaching).
    • Step 4: You do it (empowerment).
    • Step 5: You do it, and someone else is with you (reproduction).

3.  Invoke Complex Conversations. Most people attend multifamily training to equip themselves with new knowledge or improve performance in a particular area. This is not accomplished by listening to a talking head for hours. As with any problem, it takes a conversation to uncover issues and create solutions and a collaborative effort to make change happen. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to design a conversation which leaves no one in the room out.

  • Tune in Those Who Tune Out: Let’s face it, some of your participants don’t want to be there, others are happy to be in a different environment, some think they know more than you do, and others just want to go home. I begin with acknowledging these facts, and that often opens the door to some laughter and greater transparency. “How many of you want to be here? Who would rather be doing something else?” One of my favorite ways to start a conversation is to throw out a problem and a goal and ask the groups to determine the causes and solutions which will help the company achieve the goal. It is very important that each group represents a mixture of experience – leasing professionals, property managers, etc. An activity notebook is placed at every table for the ideas to be listed. At the end of the sales training class, I collect these books and send them back to the coordinator so the books can be dispersed and followed up on. Example:  Problem: Our regional closing ratio is X. Goal: We need it to be X by next quarter. Causes: What is getting in our way? Solutions: How can we remove these obstacles to achieve the goal? What is working? What is not working? What can we do differently?
  • Affinity Table Mapping: This stimulating visual conversation activity works best with round tables. Clear the tables, and provide each group with a stack of sticky notes. Present an obstacle or challenge that needs to be overcome. It should be one that is likely to result in lots of different ideas. They should write it down and place it in the center of the table. Examples: How do you lease the apartment that faces the main road and the trash dumpster? How do you overcome a leasing slump? How do you stay motivated when your community is at full occupancy?
  • Have students generate responses by writing ideas on post-it notes (one idea per note) and placing them randomly around the question on the table. There should be no discussion at this point. Once lots of ideas have been generated, have students begin grouping them into similar categories, then label the categories and discuss why the ideas fit within them, how the categories relate to one another, and so on. These ideas often bring clarity to the challenge and result in a variety of solutions.
  • The Noun Problem-Solver: Place a random book at each table and ask each group leader to turn to a page and pick one noun off the page. The next step is to present a common challenge that is related to your training subject matter. As the participants use that noun to come up with ways to overcome the problem, it forces critical thinking and engages everyone because it is not easy. Additionally, each table will be working with a different noun, so the opportunities are endless. This is a great problem-solving tool they can take back with them to their leasing office.

4.  Inject Humor. I don’t know about you, but nothing is worse to me than sitting in a boring sales training class with a boring trainer. Injecting humor throughout your training can be a great way to engage distracted learners. Do you know that humor can improve retention in students of all ages? Interestingly, it activates the brain’s dopamine reward system, stimulating goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory. Avoid sarcasm and inappropriate jokes, and a little humor will develop a sense of community within the participants. Here are a few ways to use humor in the classroom.

  • Share your stories: I love to share stories about my mishaps when I was a leasing consultant – the hard lessons learned that we can all reflect on and laugh at now. I like to even ask questions like, “Have you ever leased an apartment to someone who clearly hated everything about it?” I did!
  • Funny Thought Provokers: Asking a silly question, will often get you silly answers and invoke laughter. For example, “If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?” Ask your participants to replace their last name on their name tag with their vegetable. Mine would be ‘Maria Zucchini’. As you walk around the room during activities, ask participants why they chose that vegetable. You could even select one table for vegetables, another for animals, etc. It will be a conversation starter during breaks.

Engagement in training classrooms is critical for participant success. Maximum engagement in the classroom is often a predictor of continuing motivation and commitment as well as overall performance. We must become more vigilant in removing distractions from the classroom and engaging learners to maximize participation. To ensure success, trainers must create an engaging learning experience that is designed for today’s distracted learner.

Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.

Three Things to Do When Everything Goes Wrong

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A few weeks ago, I dropped by our local market to pick up some milk. As I walked towards the entrance, I  couldn’t help but notice the special of the week posted up on the outdoor signage, “Chzburger and Utter Sale”. I did get a good laugh because our community has a reputation for spelling blunders on business signs, but this one was a doozy. Apparently the manager had just been made aware of the error when I walked in the door because she was standing face-to-face with the culprit. As I watched the body language of this employee begin to wither in front of every patron who could hear the manager’s loud and demeaning correction, I felt compelled to write this blog.

In my experience, great managers use mistakes as teachable moments not weapons, and how they respond to those mistakes matters. I don’t know if this was the first mistake or the final straw, but what I do know is that correcting an employee in front of your customers and launching demeaning and discouraging words will not make things better. Her final words, “Fix it!” were not filled with magical, feel-good pixie dust either. As the employee walked away in dismay, I wondered how this could have been handled differently despite the obvious – praise people publicly, but discipline people privately.  Employees won’t learn from their mistakes if you make a public spectacle of them because then you become the problem.

American filmmaker Mel Brooks once famously said, “As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.” Here are 3 things to do when everything goes wrong.

1. Remember the Goal and Your Role.

I understand that there are some mistakes that will rock your world and leave you gasping for air. I can still recall the day when I sent a not so flattering email about an important client and inadvertently copied her on it. Oops.  Within seconds, my boss was in my face with the look of panic. “Can we retract it?” “Did she view it yet?” My answer, “No and yes.” At that moment he had a few options…

  • Scream at me. Call me names. Discipline me. Fire me.
  • Take away my problem.
  • Make me own my problem.

While I was secretly hoping he would choose door number two, he chose to make me own the problem I had created for myself. It’s not easy to call a client and acknowledge that the unflattering words she had just read were not a mistake, but they weren’t meant for her reading pleasure. In the end, we both had a good laugh, and the client even agreed that my description of her wasn’t too far off base.

It is very easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, and the knee-jerk reaction of the manager at my local market is not an uncommon one. When everything goes wrong, the first question should be, “What is the goal?” If you can look past the mistake and keep your eye on the goal, then it is much easier to deal with the problem. In most cases, there are two things that need to be addressed – the actual problem and the teachable moment. The teachable moment deserves the majority of your time and energy because it is an investment in your employee’s future. That’s the goal. Rather than reprimand your employee in front of customers or even privately, focus on helping them sort through the mess. The goal should be to help the employee to develop the thinking skills needed to decide how to handle the situation differently next time because there will be a next time.

The role of a manager is also to be the example. To influence employees by your behaviors and form their cultures by your actions. The HR department can’t do it. A mission statement can’t do it. A policy can’t do it. On a daily basis, managers are influencing the culture in the leasing office. What examples are your managers setting in your leasing offices? When everything goes wrong, how they handle mistakes can have a ripple effect. The example that was set in the “Chzburger and Utter Sale” incident probably resulted in a help wanted ad and a few lost customers.  I am pretty certain that wasn’t the manager’s goal. Leadership is about influence and motivation. A leader who can harness these powerful qualities and use them when everything goes wrong is someone I would want to work for.

2. Push the Pause Button.

Leadership is about relationships, and we most need to push the pause button when we know that our words or actions may damage the work relationship. I am not sure how the whole signage debacle happened, but I do know that there was no pause button involved in the conversation I witnessed. How employee mistakes are handled says a lot about a leader. There are some mistakes that you can sit on for a day and others which need to be corrected immediately. In this situation, the mistake needed to be corrected as soon as possible, yet the employee conversation could have been put on pause until the manager’s erupting emotions had settled down.  Giving yourself time before responding can make a difference. Pressing the pause button gives you a chance to rewind, reflect, prepare, and then press play when you are ready to discuss the situation with the employee.

  • The pause button will make the conversation more productive because it will allow time to fully consider what happened, why it happened, and what should change.
  • The pause button will slow down decisions. It might take a little more time to determine a plan of action, but it is a lot better than seeing the mistake repeated.
  • The pause button will help someone make the best decision. Assessing a situation takes time. Determining a course of action requires time to reflect.

Think about a recent conflict you had at work or at home. Did you press your pause button so that you could make sure you chose your words intentionally and thoughtfully? Or did you react without choosing your words carefully, saying things you later wished you could take back?

In the end, pushing the pause button can positively impact the outcome when everything goes wrong because you have a greater ability to right the wrong. While a successful manager won’t gloss over failures or losses because there is a real cost associated with each mistake, they realize every mistake can be treated as a development opportunity. These are the things they consider while in “pause mode”.

No one ever said being a manager of people would be easy, and not everyone is cut out for the job. I recently read a great article in Management Psychology titled, “Leading in Tough Times: When You are Going through Hell…Keep on Going,” and I would encourage you to read it because it offers many golden nuggets. The author closes the post with this thought: “A final point, that may be the most central one to effective leadership, is the recognition that you are the role model. You set the tone. If you are positive, confident and optimistic, your people are likely to behave the same way. If you display focus and determination, they are likely to follow suit. Remember, just as panic and despair are infectious, so are energy and enthusiasm. As you look around your organization, remember the words of Gandhi: “be the change you want to see in the world.”

No decision should be made out of emotion, fatigue or anger. Never forget your goal, role, and that there is always a pause button available in every situation.

3. Discover the Invisible Side.

When everything goes wrong in the leasing office, there are always three sides: the property manager’s side, the leasing professional’s side, and the invisible side. In my experience, it is the invisible side that’s most difficult to determine because it cannot be seen. It is the side which requires the manager take a step back and look below the surface at how their action or inaction may have contributed to the employee’s failure. It requires a mirror in both directions. Great managers are caring and compassionate problem solvers, not just direction givers or finger pointers. They have a rough plan mapped out before they ever sit down with the employee. If they don’t have any good advice to share, then they really can’t help the employee do better next time. Managers have an answer for the right process or the right behavior to share with their employee before they start the conversation. These details and their plan of action are often discovered once they cross over to the invisible side.

There was clearly an invisible side in the “Chzburger and Utter Sale” incident. What caused the employee to choose such a creative spelling option for cheeseburger? Had he seen it before somewhere else? Did he think it was a good eye-catching marketing approach? Why did the “B” fall off of the “Utter?” Was there a lingering problem with the sign that no one had addressed? These are the details that matter when exploring the invisible side of a problem.

Certainly, employee mistakes are a challenge for any leader. It isn’t easy, but handling mistakes appropriately is critical to your success as a manager and ultimately the success of your team and organization. When handled well mistakes can result in learning and growing opportunities on both sides.

I wish I could have pulled the manager at my local store aside and shared some of these thoughts with her, but I am pretty sure she wouldn’t have been receptive. Who is watching the manager when things go wrong? Who are they accountable to when no one is watching other than their customers or their employees? Too often, the answer is no one, and the only result is poor performance by employees and customers who never return.

There are experiences taking place every minute in your leasing offices including the ones that take place when everything goes wrong. Paul Greenberg, author of the best-selling book CRM at the Speed of Light, sums it up in a very simple way, “If a customer likes you and continues to like you, they will do business with you. If they don’t, they won’t.” Your employees serve a variety of customers, and the internal customers they lead on a daily basis are most important to the success of your company.

When everything goes wrong, how will your managers respond?


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.

The Influence of Expectations on Leasing Performance

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In 1965, Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal administered an IQ test to a group of elementary school students. Through this test, Rosenthal identified 20% of the students who were going to advance academically in the following year. To everyone’s surprise, they indeed excelled that following year and again almost a year later.  But interestingly, he had chosen the students at random. As Rosenthal suspected, the teacher’s expectations were what made the difference. The results demonstrated a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy. Students believed to be on the verge of great academic success performed in accordance with these expectations; students not labeled this way did not. Rosenthal’s discovery has become one of the most cited and discussed psychological studies ever conducted, identifying what is commonly referred to as the Pygmalion effect. The influence of expectations on leasing performance exists clearly today’s leasing office.

When a property manager has high expectations for a leasing professional, that employee tends to perform substantially better than their peers. While the manager may try their best to hide what could be perceived as favoritism, their high hopes and expectations still offer a lot of subconscious clues that often play out through their body language, tone, and actions. A study on the reverse phenomenon, the Golem effect, proves that when a manager sets low expectations for an employee, this can have a negative impact on the employee’s performance even if that employee is highly skilled and shows great potential.

The Pygmalion and Golem effects represent two of the most important concepts in property management – the impact of expectations, and the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy. From these we learn that when a property manager sets high expectations and goals for a leasing professional, they will take responsibility for developing their capabilities and increasing their performance. Conversely, when dealing with an employee for whom they have set low expectations, managers are often quick to blame poor performance on the leasing professional’s lack of ability.  Regardless of the case, the leasing professional tends to live up to expectations. And those expectations tend to influence the judgment of behavior and work performance not only by the property manager but those in the hierarchy with whom the manager engages.

In the end, both expectations and the self-fulfilling prophecy that follows leave their mark of influence, leading to the fact that we most often get the outcomes we expect. As Charles Kettering once remarked, “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”

The Pygmalion effect is most powerfully displayed in the 1964 musical drama My Fair Lady (based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion). In the story, phonetics professor Henry Higgins bets a colleague that he can transform Eliza Doolittle, who is a street vendor, into a duchess simply by teaching her to speak proper English. His colleague accepts the wager and Eliza accepts the challenge because she hopes to improve her life status.  Higgins invests his time and energy in Eliza’s transformation with the final goal of passing her off as an aristocrat at the season’s biggest social event. He was completely invested in her success.

As property management leaders, we can we learn a lot from this story about the powerful impact of our expectations and our role in the success of our leasing professionals. In fact, many proven leadership training programs have been developed around the Pygmalion Effect. Here are three ways we can use the influence of expectations on leasing performance to make a positive impact.

1.  Start Fresh and Set Stretch Goals

When a new leasing professional joins your team, it is important to sweep the plate clean, start new, and set them up for success, regardless of what you know of their previous performance, behavior, etc. Every day is a new opportunity to set expectations high (albeit realistic). Goals that are too low are not motivating, nor are goals that are unrealistically high. Instead, aim to create “stretch” goals – ones that are slightly out of an employee’s comfort zone but that have a high probability of success. Stretch goals focus on challenges that require innovative approaches. Under the right conditions, these ambitions goals will often inspire a new level of commitment, effort, and performance.

2.  Provide Encouragement Along the Way

After setting ambitious goals, it is important to provide support to help leasing professionals achieve them. What skills are they lacking? What kind of support will they need? How will you mentor them towards success? Encouragement comes in many different packages. At the end of a difficult day, sometimes all that is needed are a few kind words and another reminder of the goal. Inspire your employees to their potential.

3.  Speak Positive Messages

Messaging is powerful! When you speak to and about your team members, focus on the positive by pointing out their strengths, potential, and goals achieved, etc.  The way you speak about them can shape opinions and expectations in a very potent way. Praise can have a real impact on performance, and it doesn’t cost us a thing. Yet it is an often forgotten gift. If a leasing professional does a good job, we should make sure they are aware of it so they know what to repeat, in addition to what they need to improve upon in the future. If they fail a task, we must seek to understand what they are struggling with and give them what they need to succeed. Some of the best lessons learned come out of failure. In fact, the way a manager reacts to failure is one of the most powerful ways they can communicate their expectations to the employee.

The impact of expectations can be harnessed with direction. Direction fosters purpose, and it is the property manager’s responsibility to know what that purpose is for their leasing professionals. Professor Higgins understood where he was taking Eliza and he conveyed that to her repeatedly along the way. She knew where she was heading, and he gave her the tools to achieve great results. By signaling our belief in the leasing professional’s abilities to succeed, we can deliver positive expectations and encourage them to start believing in themselves. Leaders who encourage others to believe in themselves are leaders whom others want to follow. As Eliza noted in her gratitude to her mentor, “I could have spread my wings and done a thousand things I’ve never done before.”


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.

Replacing the Routine: Improve Closing and Follow-up Results

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When I am training a group of employees, I tend to ask a lot of questions. I believe the more I can understand them, the better chance I have of helping them improve their performance. I have always found it interesting that when I pose the question, “Why do you do it that way?” the response I often receive is, “That is the way it has always been done,” or “I don’t know.” Sound familiar?

We are creatures of habit, and most of us find comfort in regularity. But, is this a good thing? How much did you do today at work that was simply a repetition of yesterday? Did you drive the same route to work? Did you park in the same space and walk the same daily path? Was the order of your morning leasing office routine the same?

While we need our routines, it is also important to contrast them with something out of the ordinary every once in a while. When we choose to do something different – to walk into unknown territory – great things can happen. Problems can be solved. New ideas are born.  Musician Joe Bonamassa once said, “If I feel like things are getting into a routine, I want them to be different. I need to keep improving and keep moving forward.”

In the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,  author Charles Duhigg, writes about the importance of  employees changing their routines if they are going to market their brand effectively and achieve a high level of success. While this book is filled with golden nuggets for personal and professional growth, I would like to hone in on the concept of creating new habits as a way to replace a routine at work. The common saying, “old habits die hard”, is one that comes to mind as I reflect on the thousands of shopping reports I have reviewed over the years. While not every leasing professional is a fan of the shopping report, it tells a priceless story through the customer’s eyes. It must be told. Their words can expose a leasing professional in need of a change in their routine.

  • Daily leasing routines can become boring. Bored leasing professionals lose their effectiveness.   
  • There is a fine line between confidence and breaking over into too comfortable territory. When a leasing professional becomes too comfortable in their role, they can become sloppy and even disinterested in their presentation.    
  • Employees need to see things from a different perspective. This can only happen when they disrupt their comfortable routine.

In the book, Duhigg shares the following five effective steps that a person can take to replace an old routine with a new one.

  • Identify the Desired Response. Work on one thing at a time. Start small and finish big!
  • Select a Cue. Choose a location and time.
  • Design Some Carrots. Establish accountability. Track progress and celebrate wins.
  • Set up Some Sticks. Write down your goal. Share it.
  • Practice the New Routine Every Day for 30 Days.  The structural changes that underlie habits are triggered only by extended, consistent practice.

While researching, I found this humorous yet timely quote by noted author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You are not a tree.” But even a tree doesn’t stand there and complain about its current situation. It does something. If planted by a sidewalk or too close to a house, even a tree can cause change. My point is that we have great potential to cause positive change in the leasing office by replacing our ineffective routines with new ones, but we must examine the results, determine the plan of action, and take action. In his five steps to replace a routine, Duhigg presents us with a great roadmap to begin the journey.

If we dig deeper and examine the leasing process, we find that as a whole our industry falls short in two very critical sales areas; attempting to close the sale and following up with customers. Pinpointing weak sales routines in these two areas could transform your leasing results and the industry as a whole.


Did the Leasing Professional Attempt to Close the Sale?

Data: During Q1 2019, Ellis completed 11,906 industry shopping reports as part of their First Quarter 2019 Benchmark performance comparison. The results revealed that leasing professionals attempted to close the sale only 49% of the time. In Q4 2018, this number was 48%. Are they forgetting to ask customers to lease? Do they not know what to say? What is driving this low number?

Training and Tools: While not all property management companies have a formal sales training program, many do. Those who do not have an internal training staff, often bring in outside trainers to fill in their gaps. I am confident that closing the sale is part of their conversation. At a minimum, employees who are shopped are familiar with the questions and they understand what is required of them. Basically, they are given the answers to the test. Even at the most basic sales level, a leasing professional understands that they are there to sell something and that means attempting to close the sale. In other words, employees know what to do, yet they are not achieving the goal. Their routine isn’t working. I have watched and facilitated many role-playing sessions over the years, and you would be shocked by the number of sales people who take their presentation right to the end and then do not ask the customer to lease. They thank them and send them on their way—to the competition.

Replacing the Routine: Let’s apply Duhigg’s five steps here. If the desired response is to directly ask the customer to lease the apartment every time, we must determine what the current routine is, and then replace it with a more effective one. Talking this out can be very helpful. Sometimes the solution is so obvious that we don’t see it!

  • What is the goal of the leasing presentation?
  • What do you require to secure an apartment for move-in? Can a customer move-in to your community with no money and no approved application?
  • Is there any reason why or situation where you would not ask a qualified customer to leave a deposit and complete an application?
  • If the customer dislikes the apartment or shows signs of dislike, are you still required to ask them to lease? (Please, say yes!)
  • Do you think the customer expects you to ask for a deposit and application fee? Is paying for a service something the customer experiences every day?
  • Is there a certain point in your presentation when you do ask the customer to lease and explain the deposit and approval process? Is that point consistent or does it vary?  Do you inform the customer of what is required to lease the apartment before you even leave the office?
  • If you could choose the perfect time and place to ask the customer for the deposit, where and when would it be?

Do your leasing professionals know why they are achieving success in this area or why they are not? Many employees operate in their comfortable routines and their actions are not intentional. Whether they are successful or not, they often just keep moving forward in their same routine. I challenge you to sit down with your team and discuss this particular area of the leasing process. Use these questions as a launching pad for discussion. You might be shocked by some of their answers, but they will be very telling. These questions can act as a disrupter because they will cause a person to slow down and evaluate their current leasing routine while they consider how to replace it. This is where great things happen!


Did the Leasing Professional Follow-Up with the Customer?

Data: We know that few sales are made on the first contact with the customer. Following up with your customers is the most crucial and important part of your marketing strategies. In 2018, Ellis Partners in Management Solutions gathered leasing professional follow-up data on 50,218 customer contacts. Shockingly, 49% of customers were not contacted by anyone following their initial visit. One of my most favorite success stories is about how 13,000 hand-written thank you notes built a thriving business. I share this article in all of my training classes when we reach the follow-up portion of the sale. It is a powerful example of what can happen when follow-up is made a priority. You might consider distributing it to your team.

Training and Tools: Similar to asking for the deposit, the follow-up question is also in most training programs, is included on the Ellis Shopping Report, and is an important step in the leasing process. Interestingly, many companies even have a follow-up policy and yet follow-up is not consistently taking place. It is another case of an incredible missed opportunity. Why is our industry follow-up percentage so low? What does the daily follow-up routine look like in your leasing office? Why do leasing professionals not follow-up with customers? This generally boils down to two things – lack of accountability and/or lack of focus. Here are four of the most common excuses I receive from students in my training classes:

  • I don’t have time.
  • We don’t have thank you cards.
  • We are not allowed.
  • I forget.

Replacing the Routine:  After a leasing professional expresses their reasons for not following-up, I present them with general sales data such as how few sales are made on the first contact, email is the fastest and least costly method of follow-up, and mail is the least used but most emotionally impactful form of follow-up. I also share our industry follow-up trends which are collected by Ellis Partners in Management Solutions on an annual basis. Then I let them connect the dots.

Industry follow-up numbers for 2018 based on 50,218 Ellis Shopping Reports.

  • 49.2% received no follow-up after their initial visit
  • 39.6% of customers received an email after their 1st visit.
  • 28% of leasing professionals followed up by telephone.
  • 4.6% of leasing professionals followed up by mail.

When it comes to follow-up conversations, it is most beneficial to take your employees down the value road. Until they understand the value associated with doing it, they will not see a benefit to replacing their current routine (which unfortunately in many cases is no routine). Here are some questions to launch your conversations.

  • When was the last time you received a hand-written note or card in the mail? How did it make you feel?
  • Do you think most customers lease on their first visit?
  • How long will it take you to write one thank you card?
  • What is the true value of a potential resident? Let’s consider your average monthly rent and the average tenure of a resident.
  • Based on the value you just calculated, how much will you gain if they lease as a result of your follow-up contact? How much do you stand to lose?
  • What is the value of the five minutes you spent writing that thank you card?

Too often, leasing professionals are moving so fast in their daily routines that they do not consider the details. They feel they don’t have time to follow-up with customers until you show them they really do. Walk your employees through a math lesson. They must believe it is worth their time to do it before they become willing to replace their old routine with a new one. I wish I could tell you that training and policies were enough, but the data does not support it. Using Duhigg’s five steps, apply accountability to get the job done. Use the positive results to inspire them to keep on going!

A routine keeps us on task and keeps us moving when things are hard. It gives us space and a structure to work within, because we can almost do it with our eyes closed. Replacing a routine means changing and getting out of our comfort zone. Change does not always result in fantastic things happening, and the familiar routine is comfortable and relatively safe. However, in the end, we will never know what works better until we are willing to replace an old routine with a new one.


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions

Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.

Stay in the Game to Succeed

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Baseball season is finally here! Our family loves to watch baseball. Both of our boys, who are proud members of Generation Z, love to play the game too. They know as we do that you must stay in the game to succeed.

Even if you are not a fan of baseball, you can’t ignore the many life lessons that are displayed daily on the diamond. Pay close attention and you will see them all play out right in front of your eyes. Obviously, not all players are born with the gift of a large stature or natural baseball acumen. Some must fight to be noticed and work harder than others if they want to make it to the top. Unfortunately, this requisite ongoing effort can cause many to give up too early.

The same is true for leasing apartments. It is definitely not a career for the faint of heart – in fact, no sales job is.  Some people come by it naturally. They have a unique ability to connect with customers and engage them in the experience while others have to work harder at it. No matter where someone falls on the leasing ability charts, it is easy to become discouraged in sales because things can change quickly. A promising start to a week can begin to spiral downhill with the word “cancellation”. It is equally as important to not claim victory on Monday when the leases start pouring in as it is to not give in to defeat when they aren’t.  Just like in the game of baseball, a great start to an inning can lead to absolutely nothing, and a bad start to an inning can lead to a great victory!

What’s most important is to teach your leasing professionals to stay in the game to succeed.

A great leasing professional is “all in” every day and at every moment, although eight hours in the leasing office can be mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing. I can recall many days when I would leave the leasing office, go home, and collapse on the couch. The last thing I wanted to do was answer the phone or talk to anyone. Yet, after spending 29 years in this industry, my greatest memories and most enjoyable moments were at the leasing desk. By far, my role as a leasing professional was my most favorite position.

So how do you help your leasing professionals stay in the game? We could brainstorm a long list of ideas, but here are three quick reminders that you can share with your leasing team today.

1. You Don’t Have to Be the ‘Home Run’ Hero

This idea goes back to the fundamentals of a team. If you do your job, your team will have a greater chance of achieving success. Let’s return to the game of baseball. Advancing a runner on base or hitting a ball deep enough in the corner to score a runner will give your team a better chance of winning the game. If you step up to the plate and swing with no real purpose other than to glorify yourself, you are doomed for failure. The reality is that you are not always going to be the leasing superstar. If this is your only goal, it will be a long, lonely, and exhausting journey. In fact, the biggest heroes in the leasing office are usually the people who consistently do their job to the best of their ability regardless of what is required of them. Even if they desire more, they are always doing their job which makes them invaluable. By comparison, the person who fails to consistently do their job might not have one. In MLB baseball, they ship you back to the minor leagues or to the unemployment line.


Your customers aren’t looking for a hero. What they need is someone who is consistent and trustworthy. How important is consistency to the customer? Research shows that employees who perform at their “consistent level” may be what satisfies customers most.

  • Consistency allows for measurement against your competition. When a customer is deciding between your community and the one down the road, consistency can be the final determining factor. Are you always available to help them? Do you treat them the same on their third visit as you did on their first one? Are you as excited to see them on week three as you were on week one? It is difficult for your customer to measure effectiveness if what they are measuring is not performed consistently.
  • Consistency establishes your reputation. Progress requires a track record of success. If you are consistently shifting gears or setting new goals without meeting the finish line, it will be difficult to achieve success. Too often, employees don’t stay the course to achieve their objectives. They are too anxious to take on the next challenge or promotion.
  • Consistency sets your message. Customers pay as much attention to what you do as to what you say. If you convey excitement on the phone with your customer but ignore them when they walk in the door, you will damage their trust because they won’t believe your message.

According to research by McKinsey, “Since 2009, customers are valuing an “average” experience less and have even less patience for variability in delivery. In addition, companies that experience inconsistency challenges often expend unnecessary resources without actually improving the customer journey. Making additional investments to improve the customer experience without tightening the consistency of experience is just throwing good money after bad.”


2. Striking Out is Inevitable

Sometimes you just strike out.  Even when you prepare and do everything right, it is no guarantee of success. That is life and this is baseball.  In baseball, you can prepare, be positive, look for your opportunities, be a good teammate, work hard and do everything right, and still when the opportunity presents itself, you fail.  What baseball teaches us is that you can’t let one failure, no matter how large, stop you from pushing forward and searching for your next plate appearance. Make your adjustments because there will be a new game, with new chances for greatness coming tomorrow. Like life, winning in baseball is not guaranteed.  What is guaranteed is that if you quit and stop trying you will never experience those great moments of success. Being ready at the plate can help reduce your strike out percentage. In 2018, the top three MLB power hitters, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, and Aaron Judge showed an average 32% strike out percentage. But they are still playing the game because they understand that failure is a part of it and they must stay in the game to succeed.

A strike out can be difficult to accept, but it is part of the game. Learn from it and get ready for the next customer walking though your door. “You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”  – Tom Hiddleston


3. Sweep the Plate

How many leasing professionals have you known who gave up too soon? They didn’t achieve enough success at the leasing desk and they felt like they didn’t have anything to contribute to the team. It says a lot about character when a leasing professional can push through those bad weeks when they are tired and beat down. While it is easy to give up, baseball makes you push even when you are feeling tired and defeated. The same can be said for a day in the leasing office.

My son’s pitching coach always tells him when the pitch doesn’t end up where you want it to sweep the plate. Put your yesterdays behind you – good or bad they won’t help you perform today.  Every day is a new chance to win a game. Learn from your failures and allow them to fuel your future or you will be standing in place for years, wondering what might have been and missing out on great opportunities for growth.

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life and this is why I succeed.” We’ve all heard stories of the overnight leasing star. They haven’t even completed their sales training and they are an instant success, but it doesn’t usually last. Let’s consider the best of the best leasing professionals. The ones who make it look so easy year after year. The truth is that what looks like an instant or overnight success is almost always preceded by years of struggle and work. There’s a long, hard road to success, but when success hits, we only see the last mile or so. While it makes for a great story line, we often ignore the miles and miles of difficulty and perseverance required to get to the top. Failure leads to success if we don’t give up too soon.

Consider the week when you toured 30 customers and no one leased. You went home feeling sorry for yourself. You walked in the next day still embracing that defeat. We are given an invaluable gift of being able to learn from our past. That past may be the very thing that gives you the future you want. Don’t quit. Don’t be defeated. Sweep the plate and keep on going.

Finally, don’t give up on your customers too soon, even the ones who say “No”.  A study from Dartnell Corp. investigated the number of times a customer was called before a salesperson waved the proverbial white flag.

  • 48 percent quit after the first contact
  • 72 percent stop after the second contact
  • 84 percent give up on a prospect after the third contact
  • 90 percent wave the white flag after the fourth contact

As Thomas A. Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” I get it. Sometimes you feel like you have nothing left to give at the end of a difficult day at the leasing desk. No matter how hard you try, you keep striking out with your customers. But, if you can be consistent, accept the strike out, and sweep the plate, you can overcome any obstacle and start fresh tomorrow. The simple fact is that we aren’t perfect, and success isn’t rewarding if it is easy. Stay in the game to succeed!


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions


Edge2Learn Partners with Karen A. Graham Consulting, LLC to Enhance LIHTC Training Offerings

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Irving, TX – March 13, 2019. Irving-based Edge2Learn, the innovative multifamily eLearning provider that officially launched in 2018, announces its partnership with Cincinnati-based Karen A. Graham Consulting, LLC, to develop Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) training content that supplements Edge2Learn’s robust and growing library of training offerings to its multifamily client base representing over 1MM units.

“We are thrilled to welcome Karen A. Graham Consulting, LLC as our newest industry partner. We strongly believe their experience in the LIHTC training industry will help us enhance our learners’ experience in this vital training category,” remarked Edge2Learn Co-founder and CEO Joanna Ellis.

Graham, President and CEO of Karen A. Graham Consulting, adds, “We look forward to working with the Edge2Learn team to extend their existing LIHTC course library. We are excited to develop LIHTC training that honors E2L’s commitment to engaging learners through varied channels for better and longer retention.”

Edge2Learn and Karen A. Graham, LLC, together will bring engaging, memorable, and educational content to the learner to aid in comprehension and retention of this important material.

Edge2Learn is committed to providing an exceptional online learning experience, offering an extensive course library including Fair Housing training, Sexual Harassment training, Sales and Leasing training, Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) training, Customer Service training and much more.


About Edge2Learn
Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.

 Contact: Joanna Ellis | | 844.206.6742

Listen for Unexpressed Needs and Wishes to Increase Sales & Improve Customer Loyalty

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The hard reality is that your customers don’t need you in the same way they did in the past. According to a study conducted by Gartner Research, customers now wait until they are 57% through the sales process before they even place a call to your community or walk through your door. If your customers have already completed their own research, talked to their social network, visited the competition, and they are more than halfway through their purchasing decision, what do they need from you?  They need you to behave differently.

Here are three ways you can listen for unexpressed needs and wishes.

1. Thinking Like Your Customer

My oldest son turned 14 years old a few weeks ago. He had requested a Friendly’s ice cream cake for his celebration dinner. This is an annual purchase, so I knew exactly where to pick it up at our local grocery store. The ice cream cakes are located in a big freezer in the bakery department, so I didn’t need any assistance. As I pulled it out of the freezer, I noticed a display of birthday candles on the counter. I wasn’t sure if I had enough candles at home, so I picked some out and tossed them into my cart. As I was walking away, a young lady stepped out from behind the counter. She asked me if I would like her to personalize the cake. I was shocked because this large superstore which begins with the letter “W” doesn’t have a reputation for good service. Immediately, I asked her, “How much?” She replied, “There is no charge. I would be happy to write a birthday message on it for free.” It only took a few minutes, and I was heading out the door with a beautiful personalized ice cream cake. I didn’t walk in thinking I needed a personalized cake, but when she asked the question she uncovered an unrealized and unexpressed wish.

This is a perfect example of how an employee can listen for and deliver on unexpressed needs and wishes. Ironically, asking for someone to personalize my son’s cake was not something I would have thought I could ask for and therefore I wouldn’t have.  But she anticipated and delivered on something that I didn’t even realize I needed or wanted.

Several years ago, Discover Card launched their We treat you like you’d treat you advertising campaign. These humorous commercials portray a customer talking to a Discover employee who looks and sounds almost exactly the same as the customer. In the commercials, the customer relays their problem or question and is met with a helpful response. The customers and representatives then have a moment of togetherness – high fiving through the phone, laughing, celebrating together – and each ends with the narrator saying that at Discover “we treat you like you’d treat you.” It is a powerful statement about what true success looks like in the eyes of the customer.

What did the young lady at the grocery store and Discover both accomplish? They listened for unexpressed needs and wishes. They located an obvious or unrealized pain point, then provided a clear and memorable solution to that pain point.


2.  Coaching Rather Than Selling

It would make sense that a customer who is 57% through the sales process before they contact you or who regurgitates all the information they have already consumed during their independent research does not really need a hard sell. What they really need is a coach – someone who can guide them through those newly revealed unexpressed needs and wishes, clarify, and help them make a good purchasing decision. When you coach a customer, you are focusing on the person and not necessarily the task. What is the difference, you ask?

  • Instead of leading with answers, you sell with questions. In ways, you are challenging the customer’s thought process.
  • Instead of quickly apologizing or worrying about that external objection (the apartment is small, etc.), help your customer to overcome their internal objections so that they can arrive at their own solutions.
  • Instead of being the top problem-solver, coach your customer through the strategic use of open-ended insightful questions.
  • Focus on what they want, and not what you want. Don’t assume they know what they want. The outcome will usually fall in your favor when you approach it this way.
  • Coach them to create new and better possibilities for their home so that the close becomes the natural byproduct of the conversation.

One of the biggest mistakes leasing professionals make is that they immediately push the sales process forward without determining if there’s a fit worth pursuing. When they focus on buying versus selling, they make it about the customer and the true value the product delivers. It is simply focusing on the outcome and the relationship the customer wants rather than the results the leasing professional wants. If you haven’t read The Challenger Sale or Insight Selling, I would highly recommend either one. In a nutshell, their approach relies on uncovering an unknown problem, delivering insight, and uniquely positioning your product as the possible solution.


3. Engaging in Both the Selling and Buying Conversations

Did you realize that every sale involves two conversations? Interestingly, most leasing professionals are only trained on one of the two conversations – the selling conversation. This is the conversation that gets the majority of the focus in our classrooms. It is the one that takes place between the leasing professional and the customer. What we don’t listen to very often is the second conversation. This is the conversation that is taking place between the customer’s ears – the buying conversation.

Selling is an external conversation. It is based on the needs and goals often set by the leasing professional, and too often it is heavily one-sided. This is a result of a leasing professional doing more talking than listening. Natural excitement for their product can set a new team member off toward a hard sell for a customer to make a quick purchase. Think about all of the brand-new leasing professionals who are successful when they have very little experience or product knowledge. All they can lead with is their personality, and for some people that is enough! Unfortunately, a snap decision can also result in buyer’s remorse. Some people are prone to a sense of buyer’s remorse than others. In another blog post, I shared research which revealed that 80 percent of Gen-Z end up returning purchases after holiday shopping. If you haven’t heard, Gen-Z will surpass Millennials in 2019 as the largest generation, and early signs show they are about to shake things up. If they already have a natural buyer’s remorse tendency, how will they impact your leasing numbers?

If a leasing professional doesn’t engage with the customer’s internal conversation, will the customer still lease? Yes. It happens many times depending on how high the desire is for the product being offered. I wrote a blog a few years ago titled, “Stop the Stinking Thinking” which speaks to this point clearly. Sometimes a customer will say yes to leasing an apartment when we least expected it. You might be thinking, “Well, that is great!” Yet, is this the kind of purchase that will lead to long-term customer loyalty?

Buying is an internal conversation. The conversation is taking place inaudibly in the customer’s mind. Quite often, they are dealing internally with confusion, doubt, and distraction. The goal for any leasing professional should not merely be to get their customers to buy, but instead and more importantly to get them to buy into what they have to offer. This will increase customer loyalty, retention, and word-of-mouth advertising. The only way this can take place is to engage the internal buying conversation by asking thoughtful open-ended questions, listening, and then responding to their expressed and unexpressed needs and wishes.

  • Example of Selling Conversation: Isn’t this kitchen awesome!? Look at all the space! Silence… This refrigerator can hold up to ___ items. More silence… We also offer granite countertops which is unique to our market. Still nothing from the customer… This is a self-cleaning oven, which is great. This breakfast bar can fit 3-4 barstools which is great for entertaining. Meanwhile they are having a conversation with themselves you are not hearing.
  • Example of Buying Conversation: Do you enjoy cooking? Listen. Do you spend a lot of time in your current kitchen? Listen again. What do you like or dislike about your current kitchen? Keep listening. Have you ever considered storing and displaying your large pots on the top cabinet area? Listen. Do you know that you can adjust these shelves so that your large cereal boxes and juice bottles can stand upright? Listen more. If you don’t need this small hall closet for storage, would you consider using it to hang your dress shirts to air dry?  Continue listening.

The buying conversation involves a continual process of asking questions, listening, and engaging back in conversation as you lead the customer down their purchasing journey. Remember, in the internal buying conversation the customer doesn’t always know what they want or need. It is the job of the leasing professional to present ideas, ask questions, and dig deeper to start engaging in that internal conversation.

In the age of information, customers are typically overflowing with facts they have gathered by the time they walk through your door. If 57% of the sales process is already behind you at that point, how your leasing professionals approach the remaining 43% will determine if the customer leases at your community or the one down the road. Thinking like your customer, coaching rather than selling, and engaging in the selling and buying conversations can truly help your team achieve greater success. When you listen to unexpressed needs and wishes not only will you increase sales, but you will ultimately drive higher customer loyalty.


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions


4 Tips to Recruit, Train, and Retain Generation Z Talent

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Changes in technology combined with that of customer demographics and expectations are forcing businesses to move more swiftly and frequently. This closely resembles a dance, as companies are trying to stay in step with their customer’s wants and needs, including the emergence of Generation Z into adulthood and the workforce.

“Life’s a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. Don’t worry ‘bout what you don’t know. Life’s a dance you learn as you go.” – from the song Life’s a Dance by John Michael Montgomery

We could easily replace the word “life” in these song lyrics with training, marketing, managing, etc. You name it! The fact is everything we do in this industry closely resembles a dance, and that dance can take on a variety of forms. As the song reminds us, sometimes we really don’t know, and we simply learn as we go.  When the customer’s priorities shift, we must be prepared to shift with them. Let’s consider our focus on recruiting and training the Millennial generation. Our leadership, marketing, and training departments have been hyper-focused on this generation for years. Thousands of books and articles have been written about Millennials and studies have been conducted. But is it time to shift again and welcome in a new dance partner?

While we don’t intend to abandon the Millennials or other generations, our radar should be turning to Generation Z, who tend to be very different from their older siblings. Born after 1996, Gen Z will surpass Millennials in 2019 as the largest generation, and early signs show they are about to shake things up. They will soon fill your leasing offices as employees and residents.  “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”- Alan W. Watts

Many companies are already plunging, moving, and joining the Generation Z dance! Are you ready?

You may feel like you have plenty of time to move and adjust, but you don’t. The oldest members of Generation Z are currently in college. Gen Z makes up 26% of the United States population, the largest single population segment. One stark difference between Millennials and Gen Z is their view on education, and this could have a great impact on our industry.  While Millennials are the most educated generation in history, according to a  Huffington Post article many employers are predicting that more Gen Z teens, between the ages of 16 and 18 will go straight into the workforce, opting out of the traditional route of higher education, and instead finishing school online if at all. How different will they be from Millennials as they enter the workforce and consumer marketplace?

Here are 4 tips to recruit, train, and retain Generation Z Talent.


In 2018, Raddon Research Insights analyzed the results of a national survey encompassing more than 2,500 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to examine their attitudes towards their finances. Interestingly, while most have yet to enter the workforce, they are already earning and saving. More than two-thirds of them have either their own bank account or a joint account shared with their parents. While many of them are still in school, they hold more than 40 billion in purchasing power in the U.S.

Their view toward debt is also very different from their Millennial siblings. They don’t want to burden themselves with massive student loans. More than six in 10 Millennials (63 percent) have graduated or will graduate with student loan debt and nearly half (46.5 percent) are still paying off their student loans, according to a survey of 1,338 Millennials conducted by LendingTree.  In a 2017 study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, at least one in five Gen Z respondents said debt should be avoided at all costs. Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetics shared his thoughts during an interview with, “Generation Z is intentionally choosing to attend a less expensive college so they can graduate with less debt. No or less debt means they can enter the job force with more mobility, allowing them to take a job they really want that may pay less, because a good amount of their salary won’t be going to a college fund.” Interestingly, Generation Z members are behaving more like their grandparents and clinging to financial habits reminiscent of those born during the Great Depression, at least for now.


In a recent Edge2Learn blog post, we mentioned how companies are offering student loan repayment benefits to attract college-educated Millennials. This was driven by a need: the tremendous student loan debt the Millennial generation has amassed. Generation Z does not intend to follow that same road, so that might not be an attractive benefit for them. The signs are pointing to a very money-cautious generation, and benefits such as financial counseling sessions might help to build trust and loyalty with your company. Explaining the importance of saving, and then helping them to develop their plan to save for the future is a great way to attract and retain a Gen Z employee.

Generation Z may not be overly excited about the health insurance portion of your employee benefits package because they’ll still qualify for their parents’ health plan until age 26. In fact, health insurance at work is now considered a “standard” among employee benefit packages. What could be appealing is offering telemedicine programs. Being able to get instant access to a doctor’s advice and get prescriptions without losing time for a visit will be much valued by these smartphone natives, or any of us for that matter!

What might surprise you is a survey conducted by Ernst & Young which revealed that 84 percent of respondents cited “potential for career progression and growth” as one of the main reasons to work for any given employer. Generation Z are placing career growth at the top of their priority list, so professional development should be a core pillar of your company culture and recognized as a part of your employee benefits package. It should be outlined with detail rather than just fluffy marketing words. Formal mentoring programs, training programs, and reimbursement policies to cover industry courses, conferences, and seminars would all be embraced by Gen Z.


You may want to sit down for this.  A 2014 study found that 53 percent of Gen Z respondents prefer face-to-face communication over Millennials’ preference of messaging platforms and texts. In fact, they tend to be more aligned with their Generation X parents in their willingness to engage in face-to-face interactions. It is clear that this young generation wants to see your product in-person before making a purchase. This is an important message for your leasing teams. They desire to talk with someone knowledgeable about a product for a trusted review instead of solely depending on a critique posted by a random stranger. Don’t misunderstand, online reviews are still a well-used source for product information, but results of a survey by Power Reviews revealed that 70% of Gen Z consumers want access to honest product ratings and reviews while shopping in stores.

At the end of the day, they prefer communication tools that are the most effective, even if using them takes more time. This is a huge change from Millennials who seek mostly time savers. Here is one final tidbit of information and it has to do with buyers’ remorse. The National Retail Federation’s 2017 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook revealed that 80 percent of Gen Z end up returning purchases after holiday shopping. Will this extend to all of their purchasing endeavors including leasing an apartment? Only time will tell, but it is a good reminder of the importance of truly partnering with the customer, understanding their needs, and providing a solution that is best for them. Gen Z might also motivate leasing consultants to use the follow-up process to solidify their sale and head-off any buyer’s remorse.


The icing on the cake is that they understand things take time. Unlike Millennials, they see professional development from a more long-term standpoint. They will likely seek stepping stones towards success, even if they don’t pay out right away. Hopefully, this will lead to reduced turnover and increased tenure for companies who can provide a clear growth plan. Gen Z is also interested in working for a company they are passionate about and may accept a lower paycheck to do so. The signs show a hardworking, loyal employee who is dedicated to their investment.

If you thought Millennials had a strong desire to have their ideas heard, you haven’t seen anything yet! Gen Z wants a voice at the table. They envision a workplace that is less about age and more about ideas and contributions. Studies have revealed that the perfect work environment for Generation Z might be a blend of the Generation X and Millennial workplace. They prefer a balance of group and independent work, and they seek a workspace that allows them to have privacy while still giving them space to work together as a team.

You might find your Generation Z employees to be more loyal than Millennials, but job hopping could still be a problem. A study by Adecco Staffing USA revealed that 83% of today’s students believe that three years or less is the appropriate amount of time to spend at their first job. By providing effective and frequent training, as well as professional development opportunities, employers can help Gen Z find a niche within the company and maintain a high level of engagement to best retain this very talented generation.

Your employee’s priorities will soon shift as more members of Generation Z enter the workforce. Is your company culture a good match for the Gen Z employee? Are you prepared to plunge, move, and dance with them?


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions


Know and Grow Your Millennial Employees (What a Wonderful Workplace it Would Be…)

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In the memorable words of James Cooke, “What a wonderful world it would be….” As I listen to these lyrics, I feel an instant re-connection to a subject that has always been near and dear to my heart. Why can’t all property managers have a training mindset? What a wonderful workplace it would be!  Some of the best managers I have ever worked for or known had a mindset focused on growth, connecting, leading, training and inspiring.  It looked right. It sounded right. It felt right. When it all comes together, it plays like a well-written song sung in full harmony, not to mention being music to the ears of the millennial.

You are a trainer, so you understand my point. You always seem to have your finger on the heartbeat of the onsite employees. Because you were the first person they encountered in their new hire training class, your relationship is one of trust, understanding, and encouragement. You tend to network with other trainers and seek outside advice. You are always looking for new ways to advance your training program and understand your internal customer. You strive to know and grow employees. You tend to have your hands in all areas – training, marketing, employee benefits, recruiting, retention, and more. This is especially true when it comes to your millennial employees. You are a good match for millennials because surveys reveal that millennials want to see individualized focus and attention on their personal career path. The biggest challenge you face is passing your same knowledge, hopes, and goals down to the one who will lead the millennial employee daily – the property manager.

Many trainers have walked in your shoes and understand the disconnect that often takes place when the employee leaves training and goes to work. Millennial employees are working for a manager who doesn’t always have a “trainer” mindset. While it is unlikely that you hire new managers, you probably train them. So embrace those few face-to-face classroom opportunities to encourage your managers to know and grow their employees, especially the millennials.

1.  KNOW. To be in the know means to be widely informed. Managers focus so much on knowing their external customer, yet spend very little time on their internal customer. The first customer in the leasing office is the internal one and many of those fall into the millennial category. Katie Locke, Director of Training and Possibilities at Red Carpet Learning shared these thoughts in an article focused on improving internal customer service, “If you have to focus on just one area this year in order to improve your business, focus on your internal customers. Your biggest assets are your employees. Truly engage them in your business and culture. and provide a company they are proud to work for and you will see business growth and a rise in productivity.” Do your managers know that by 2025, millennials are expected to make up 75% of the workforce? Knowing is directly related to training because it is about being informed, knowing your customer.  If your managers are not informed about their audience, how can they train, lead, or retain them?  What motivates a millennial? Why do they care so much about this, or that? Why don’t they stay longer? Why do they appear to be entitled?  Here are a few points to share in your next face-to-face manager meeting.


Do you KNOW that the majority of your millennial employees don’t intend to retire with your company?

The average millennial stays with their employer two years. In comparison, the average tenure for Baby Boomers is seven years and five years for Gen X employees. One of the primary reasons millennials are more likely to job hop is because they are not willing to stick around if they do not believe they are receiving any personal benefit or growth. Interestingly, many of the challenges managers face with millennials stem from their lack of truly understanding their goals, meaning they don’t know this generation. While each person is unique, they do have certain generational tendencies.

According to a study conducted by Bentley University, 67% of millennials have a goal of starting their own business and only 13% have an interest in climbing the corporate ladder to become CEO/President of the company. This represents a sharp contrast from what has been common in our industry for so many years. In many cases the position you offer is viewed as a stepping stone for them. What caused the flip? Is it really about their loyalty, or is it about ours? Fred Tuffile, Director of Bentley’s Entrepreneurial Studies program, remarked, “Millennials are eager to make their own pathways because they suspect the traditional ones may lead nowhere. Millennials see chaos, distrust of management, breaking of contracts and bad news associated with business. They’ve watched their relatives get fired and their peers sit in cubicles and they think, ‘There has to be a better way’.”

At their core, millennials want to grow in their skills and knowledge, and they want freedom to change career paths within their own company. They see change as a growth opportunity. If managers can create this type of environment, these employees will stay longer. Consider all the career paths that exist within the leasing office, regionally, and in your corporate leadership. They don’t only want to be limited to opportunities within a leasing office in a particular region and in a particular state. Are your managers always pushing them down the promotion road or just hoping they will stay put?


Do you KNOW that millennials desire feedback more frequently, but they won’t ask for it?

You most likely do know this, but is it being acted on in the leasing office? While my generation and the previous ones were content to wait for the six month or annual review, millennials want instant feedback. Capturing this enthusiasm is vital, yet it can be challenging for the hands-off manager. The good news is that millennials’ idea of ongoing feedback isn’t necessarily a formal one. It doesn’t have to be listed in a policy and procedures manual to take place. A daily habit of passing along lightweight signals of positive and negative sentiment will go a long way with them.

In an interview with the New York Times, Jeff Lawson, chief executive of Twilio had this to say about millennials and feedback, “They enjoy constant feedback because they always want to be learning and growing. They’re not looking for constant praise, but rather they want to ‘keep score’ on how they’re doing in all aspects of their career. They never want to have a surprise.” It all makes sense when you consider that millennials grew up with the Internet, which offers instant gratification and quick feedback, and by extension they expect the same at work. Do your managers know this? Are they responding or complaining?


Do you KNOW that the #1 preferred employee benefit for college-educated millennials is student loan repayment?

While this isn’t directly related to training, it is a golden nugget that can be shared with your upper management if it hasn’t already been considered. What millennials value most is their independence and freedom. Student debt stifles their freedom. Adopting such a program in your company sends a message to them that you know they have taken on a real burden to obtain their education and that you don’t want them to hold onto it until deep into their 40s. According to a 2016 Millennial Benefits Preferences study conducted by FC Consulting, millennials will stay at a job 36% longer when offered a student loan repayment program, and when two equal jobs are presented, 85% will choose the one offering such a program. This same study revealed that college-educated millennials prefer student loan repayment programs 2-12X more than other perks including 401 (K) and health insurance. Wow! This benefit affords companies a powerful advantage for recruiting college-educated talent over their competitors. They care about the NOW, so pass on the KNOW!


2. GROW. To grow means to develop. As a trainer, you understand this concept well. At work, it is essential to challenge and stretch yourself often. Growth has the potential of making you better at your job, and it can make you feel more fulfilled both in and out of the workplace.  An impressive 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job, far more than the 69% of non-millennials who said the same in a 2016 Gallup report. How well are your managers growing their teams?


Do your managers help millennials GROW and do something big?

In the 2018 Deloitte Millennial survey, only 28 percent of surveyed millennials reported feeling that their current place of work was fully utilizing their skills. It is important for managers to be aware of millennial employees’ ambitions and talents from the get-go. Are they artistic? Are they creative? What skills do they bring from their previous work experiences? What leadership roles did they hold in college? Managers should be eager to learn about and demonstrate ways they can utilize these skills to help millennials realize their full potential and ‘do something big’ at work! I remember years ago recruiting an internal group of marketing-minded employees to work on some company projects. To my surprise, one of the ladies in the group had been instrumental in the development of the 1980s “We’ll Leave the Light On For You,” campaign for Motel 6. What a gem she was to have on the team! She helped us accomplish some big goals. Do your managers truly know the talent that exists on their teams? Encourage them to explore their employee inventory, which reaches far beyond the resume.


Do you encourage your managers to GROW the soft skills in their millennial workforce rather than complain they are lacking?

By virtue of having been raised on technology, millennials are the most tech-savvy generation the world has ever seen in the workplace. As a result, this growing portion of the workforce is drawn to STEM careers. While they can boast about their hard technical skills, when it comes to soft skills, millennials fall short. We learned timeliness, professionalism, networking, leadership, communication, and basic business etiquette early on in our lives. We displayed them at work and expected them from others. To millennials, soft skills might seem somewhat antiquated. What’s the big deal if they are five minutes late to work? Why do they have to dress professionally instead of however they are comfortable? No matter how much technology exists, soft skills continue to be in high demand.

Below are a few of the most important soft skills to have in the workplace according to Mike Steinerd, Indeed’s Director of Recruiting:

  • Acting as a team player and displaying strong leadership skills when necessary.
  • Being flexible., as those who can adapt to any situation are dependable no matter what’s thrown at them.
  • Effectively communicating, including articulating oneself well, being a good listener, and using appropriate body language.
  • Problem-solving and resourcefulness, which are critical when unexpected issues inevitably arise.
  • Accepting feedback gracefully and applying that feedback to foster professional growth.

Mentoring this generation and growing these skills might be more important that it was for any previous generation. If you want to grow your millennial employees, you must inspire the “trainer” in your managers to get the job done. They should be seeking daily opportunities to grow soft skills.

While they have certain generational tendencies, millennials are all different and should be treated as unique individuals. Consider what Christian Brucculeri, CEO of Snaps, says of millennials, “The same basic principles apply to the millennial generation as to any other age group. Some people are inspired, excited, hardworking, humble and curious. Some are entitled, unfocused and political. Not everyone is great!” There are so many opportunities to know and grow your millennial employees. You understand this very well. Consider yourself the messenger of information to those who recruit, lead, train, and manage this talented generation. What a wonderful workplace it would be if our leasing offices were filled with training-minded managers just like you – a team of leaders who are always seeking to know and grow.


Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions


Influence: The Key to Overcoming “Responsibility Without Authority”

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For a property manager the recipe to achieving results is having the necessary authority and resources to perform the job in harmony with the job description, to accomplish the objectives set by the management and/or owner. Too often, I interact with managers who operate like they are no more than an entry level employee with a fancy title. While a title with the look of authority might be appealing to some people because it often means less risk and work, it can cause great strain on the expectations of their customers – internal and external. Being given responsibility without authority can often breed a sense of helplessness and frustration for the manager and those around them but rarely a sense of empowerment.  The outcomes are easy to predict.

  1. They will assume the authority without approval.
  2. They will shrug the responsibility.
  3. They will be at the mercy of the customer by doing whatever they can to appease them.

Unfortunately, this design is very common in our industry and in many retail businesses. A property manager is expected to help customers, solve issues, and make them “happy”. But if the situation veers from the common, they must move the problem and the decision up the chain of command – district manager, regional manager, etc. This is frustrating for employees and can be infuriating for customers. The customer experience often takes a quick nosedive.

A recent experience with our family inspired this blog post. While on our fall break, we planned a fun day to a local entertainment venue which bills itself as “THE destination for FUN”. When we arrived, the special that was posted on their website was not what I had been led to believe it was, so I began inquiring about our options. Since this was a weekday, the nearly 75,000 sq. ft. building was practically empty.  I asked the employee at the front desk what type of packages they offered in addition to the one we had seen. Her response was, “None—it’s not summer!” I continued to drive the conversation by asking her how much it would cost to play the 2-3 activities that were most appealing to our boys. Her response was, “We don’t have a combined option.” It was all a la carte. The result would have been $30 for 30 minutes of entertainment. During our conversation, an individual with a nametag that read “Manager” kept walking by without making any comments. Clearly frustrated, I respectfully proceeded to share my disappointment with the employee, who stood unapologetically behind the counter. Her best response was that the corporate office made all decisions and that she had no authority. Sadly, she never brought her manager into the conversation, so I can only assume the manager, who continued to pass by us, was only a manager in title. He had no authority either. I couldn’t help but think of the missed opportunities:

A small discount could have gone a long way. The Ritz Carleton $2,000 gold standard, which I have referenced in many of my training classes, was on my mind. They empower employees to spend up to $2,000 to solve customer problems without asking for a manager. While this $2,000 is reflective of a customer spending $250,000 with the Ritz over their lifetime, the concept can still apply to any business. A five-dollar discount or extended play time would have gone a long way in our situation.

The lack of any employee initiative was most glaring overall. We left their facility and found another option where the manager offered us a discount package, attentive service, fantastic food, and a full day of fun!

It is likely that your customers are having similar experiences with your employees as they move from one community and from one problem to another. It is also unlikely that “I need to contact my district/regional manager for approval” or “You need to call the corporate office” will leave the conversation anytime soon. Without a complete organizational or procedural change, the best way to overcome this challenge is to teach managers to use influence to overcome responsibility without authority.  Here are two essential and easy ways to increase influence.

1.  Build Trust

There is nothing more important than trust. Trust is not an action. It is a belief that you have the customer’s best interest at heart and the confidence that you have the ability to help them. The more trust people have in you the higher your influence.  As a result, you are in a better position to lead them in the direction that is best for them.

In The Trusted Executive the author tells us, “the world is ready for a different breed of executive; a leader with transformational trust-building skills. If you want to anticipate and take the lead, if you want to be a pioneer in the 21st-century boardroom and deliver outstanding results, inspiring relationships, and build a cast-iron reputation for trustworthiness then you need to develop trust building habits.”

How can your managers build trust and turn around a situation similar to the one we recently had?

  • Ask questions and listen. Don’t repeat what you can’t do. Every customer interaction should be a conversation, not a sales pitch. You should spend at least half of every customer interaction listening. The questions should effectively lead them to answers and not back to the problem. Listen.
  • Be genuine. My recent unpleasant experience is not an uncommon one. At some point you have probably had an unpleasant experience with a manager or salesperson. Maybe you walked in feeling sold and walked away feeling unappreciated or even worse manipulated. Being genuine just means caring and being yourself. It means focusing less on others’ perceptions of you and more about getting to know them and letting them get to know you. Teach your managers to keep it real because their customers are more likely to trust them as a person than the company as a business.
  • Be empathetic. If you want people around you to value having a relationship with you, you must truly believe that relationship building is important. This means being empathetic rather than policy driven. The goal is to find and present the value that you are able offer to the customer versus what you cannot do for them.
  • Build a bridge (not a corporate wall). People are drawn to those who show true interest in them. Curiosity about people is a crucial element of relationship building. Caring about others’ wants and needs gives you the opportunity to learn new things, make new connections, and build bridges. Sometimes these bridges lead them to your product and sometimes they don’t. In the end, they will remember that you cared and they will trust you.

An unknown author once said, “Trust is a HUGE word. It either makes something or destroys it.” Teach your managers how to build trust and they will increase their influence with their customers regardless of their level of decision making authority.

 2.  Take Action

Too often, managers get a good idea or see how something can be done better, but they don’t act on it. They miss out on an opportunity to set ideas into motion and to increase their influence with customers. I really would have appreciated a few good ideas from the employees at our fall outing venue. It wouldn’t have mattered if they were ideas about options within their facility or even recommending me somewhere else. Instead, we received a ‘see you later’ message. Taking action is where all momentum comes from. Even in the absence of true authority, a manager can take action on good ideas. Sir Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, believed, “New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!”

How can a manager overcome the notion of responsibility without authority by taking action? How do we avoid the “It can’t be done” mentality?

  • Never Accept the Status Quo. People who do things the way they have always been done will in the best case get the same results. Managers should be constantly searching for new solutions and more effective approaches to solving customer problems. Encourage them to make a “new idea” contribution weekly. No idea is too small.
  • Consider Every Opportunity. Opportunities are hidden everywhere, and people who see them are the ones who prosper. Teach them to make a habit of constantly asking themselves, “What opportunities for growth can I carve out of this situation?”, “How can we avoid this situation next time?”, or “What changes could I recommend to my supervisor?” Teach them to seek out new opportunities for change.
  • Speak Up and Act. Consider the millions of amazing ideas that went nowhere because no one knew about them. Encourage managers to identify problem areas, research solutions, and push their recommendations up the corporate ladder. Taking this approach now will reduce the need to push problems up the corporate ladder later when they are standing knee deep in the trench and face-to-face with the customer.

Think about your own daily experiences with brands, sales people, and managers. The frustration level you feel when they lack the decision-making authority to help you solve a seemingly simple problem can be off the charts. It is all too familiar. You address the situation with the sales person. They send you to the manager. The manager can’t approve the change, so they defer it to someone further up the corporate food chain.  In a study by customer service platform Zendesk, the single biggest driver of negative customer experiences was having to explain a problem to multiple people in the hope that one of them had the power to help.

This problem is not going away anytime soon, so place your focus on influence: the key to overcoming responsibility without authority.

Read more like this from Edge2Learn

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions