Category: Blog Roll

Two Skills to Prepare Employees for Great Opportunities

As a property management professional, your ultimate responsibility is to prepare employees for great opportunities. My oldest son and I were recently discussing Thomas Edison while preparing for his school debate assignment. We were both familiar with Edison’s early work as a telegraph operator, which inspired some of his first inventions. Interestingly our study and conversation led us to an event in Edison’s life which is not as well-known yet is of great value. While Edison was working for the railroad, a near-tragic event led to an unexpected learning opportunity. History tells us he saved a three-year-old child from being killed by a runaway train, so the child’s grateful father rewarded him by teaching Thomas how to operate a telegraph. By age 15, Edison had learned enough to be employed as a telegraph operator. Consequently, he became a traveling telegrapher as he filled in for those who had gone to the Civil War. During that time, he continued to read, study, and practice telegraph technology while becoming more familiar with electrical science. Because someone took the time and gave him the gift of growth, Edison went on to accomplish notable things.

I wonder what it would feel like to be a tiny bit responsible for the success of a Thomas Edison?  What about the success of someone on your team? Could the future multifamily training director, regional vice president, or president of your company be sitting at your leasing desk? We work in an industry where these types of stories are not uncommon. I know many executives in the multifamily training industry who had very humble beginnings. Like Edison, they were mentored by people who freely gave the gift of growth and prepared them to eventually lead great companies in impressive ways.    

So how do you prepare employees for great opportunities? You give them the multifamily training tools they will need to be successful now and in the future. Certainly, this could cover a plethora of areas, but when I reflect on my on-site career from the leasing desk to the corporate headquarters, I recall twoskills as paramount to my success in multifamily training, both of which involve time management.

Time is a precious commodity. It is more valuable than money because it is fixed and non-renewable. You only get what you get and when it’s gone you cannot get it back.  What is time management? It is the ability to use time effectively and productively, especially at work. Time management is comprised of a set of skills that allow tasks to be completed as efficiently as possible. Ultimately, being productive with time creates ongoing opportunities to improve how work is done. Improving time management in the leasing office allows an employee to boost their performance and achieve desired goals with less labor and more successful strategies. On the flip side, weak time management skills tend to result in procrastination, mediocre work, unproductive workflow, unnecessary stress, and sometimes a poor professional reputation. Trust me – if you struggle with time management skills, it is not a secret in your office. Good or bad, time management skills are on display for all to see.

Thankfully, there are many ways to strengthen time management skills including attending multifamily training classes, but your team can start exercising their time management skills immediately right where they are. Here are two skills to prepare employees for great opportunities:

1.  Be a Planner. The idea behind time management is to work smarter than harder and to make time to do other things as well. Planning plays an important role in time management as they go hand-in-hand. You can make the most of your time only when it is thoroughly planned. You don’t necessarily have to follow a strict routine, but rather it empowers smarter decisions of knowing the right time to tackle a task or an activity. “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy.”  – Brian Tracy

Early in my career, I attended a multifamily training class where I learned the skill of time blocking which is simply making an appointment with yourself in order to complete a specific task. It seems easy, yet it can be difficult to execute. It is so natural to move tasks aside or just cross them out altogether. I found this great post on Lifehack.com where the author Mike Vardy, a productivity specialist, offers 3 easy ways to lock down time blocks on the calendar:

  • Screaming. Blocked times should scream out at you when you look at your calendar. Vardy suggests using a vibrant color for time blocks.  If you are like me and still use a paper calendar, write the blocked activity in capital letters, use Washi tape, stickers, various marker colors, etc., anything to make it stand out among your other items.  In a task manager, label or flag it with tags or a similar method that highlights it for you. The bottom line is that you need to make sure that your eyes don’t miss your blocked time. Blocked time takes priority, and it should be protected. Just because it is your time, doesn’t mean that it should be moved. This is a great way to fight the time bandit in the leasing office, who whispers in our ear, “I just don’t have time to write thank you cards.”
  • Sharing. It is important to hold yourself accountable. Share your blocked times with those who need to know. Vardy mentions that he allowed his wife to subscribe to his Google Calendar so that she can see when he was absolutely indisposed. She knows when he is busy in an area that’s been blocked out and doesn’t even try to reach him during that time. He recommends this same type of connection with close colleagues.  His final point to share is that it is better to let your team know when you can be reached rather than when you cannot. Obviously, there are many ways to share time availability, and one size does not fit all, so it is important to determine the method of sharing on an individual basis.
  • Sticking (to it). In order to make time blocking a habit, it needs to become sticky. A 2009 study conducted by the University College London determined that it takes an average of 66 days to create a habit to the point where it becomes automatic. The author encourages blocking times for 30 instances in order to make this a habit. Repeat the blocked time for 30 instances.  Blocked time should become an important part of the flow of your week and remind you of how important it is to the time management process.

2.  Delegate. Delegation of authority is very important to any organization as it empowers team members. It means that you are willing to entrust a task, authority, or responsibility to another person who is often in a less senior position. There are many myths about delegation which run deep, especially for property management professionals. Less seasoned and even some experienced managers aren’t aware that it is practically impossible to do everything effectively on their own, the key word being “effectively”. Many resist the possibility of delegating some of their tasks. While this can be a pride or control issue, we also know there are property management professionals who feel the need to protect their position out of fear that someone might take their job someday. They are terrified of succession planning and fall victim to myths surrounding delegation, including: 

  • Lack of trust in employee ability,
  • Everyone else is busy too,
  • When I delegate, it does not get done right.

Everyone benefits when tasks are delegated. Not only does it help with time management, it also aids in team development, so when the manager is not present there is no lack of progress or confidence.  Smart leaders know the wisdom of surrounding themselves with people whose skills strengthen theirs, and then setting them loose to get the job done.

But handing over the responsibility to carry out a task is only one aspect of the delegation equation. Have you ever heard someone say, “[he/she] is a micromanager”? Delegation is often a balancing act because it means making sure there is just enough control to monitor the work without stifling the leasing employee’s ability to do it effectively, or even worse, pushing them out of the way and taking back control of the project. When we delegate, the goal is to assign responsibility and authority to directly complete the task while still retaining oversight for its success. Again, it is a balancing act that takes time to perfect.   

Not all tasks are suitable for delegation. Managers must ask themselves a few questions before they take the plunge:  What tasks should be delegated? Who is the most effective person to delegate to? What expectations do I have for this task?

Every time a manager delegates authority and responsibility they are putting their employee to the test. Like any test, it is important for the person taking on the task to have some path to understanding what is expected. While each task is unique, they should all be preceded with the following conversation led by the manager:

  • Communication: What needs to be done? When is it due? What tools will they need to accomplish the goal? Where does their authority begin and end?
  • Trust: The employee should be well-trusted, and they should know you trust them.
  • Honesty: The expectations should be very clear and open. What do you expect from them? When the project is finished, honesty is also critical in the evaluation. Without it, development will be hindered.

Benefits to the person who is delegating, beyond developing their employees, include:

Efficiency. While team members are carrying out routine projects and activities that have been delegated, the property manager can plan and strategize for the next big thing. It reduces stress and opens more blocks of time.

Leadership. Managers become better leaders because they are practicing their coaching skills. When employees can accept a task and accomplish it with or without supervision, the property manager has achieved great success and have saved time.

Giving the ‘gift of growth’ through delegating is a sign that you are willing to invest in the success of the employee. Delegating is a great way of encouraging your team members to develop themselves, developing your own multifamily training/coaching and mentoring skills, and preparing employees for great opportunities. Developing time management skills can be an experiment. Your goal is to figure out how much time you really need to do a certain task, whether or not it realistically works for you, if blocking time out will allow you to successfully complete the task, or if it’s a candidate for delegation.

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.

Solving the Multifamily Training Riddle: Time Management

What is the hardest riddle to solve in the multifamily training industry? In the movie The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins and Gollum test their wits with a riddle game. In the game, each person takes a turn asking a question. The first one who can’t come up with the right answer is the loser. If Bilbo wins the riddle game, then Gollum has to show him the way out of a tunnel.  If Bilbo loses, he becomes Gollum’s dinner. Clearly, the stakes are high! Let’s see if you can solve this one: “This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats high mountains down.”

What is the answer to the riddle?  The answer is time. Interestingly, even when we are given the answer, we still can’t solve the time management riddle. The daily work life of a leasing professional is infected by the too busy syndrome. I hear it all of the time, and I am sure that you do too. We are too busy to follow-up with customers, too busy to take hour lunch breaks, too busy to walk apartments, too busy to connect with customers on the telephone, and absolutely too busy to attend a training session—in person or virtually, etc. Even in any sort of leasing training class, their minds are too busy to focus and engage.  For years, multifamily trainers have heard these same four words repeatedly, “We don’t have time.”

We thought we had answered the multifamily training riddle of time management by developing eLearning courses, and offering additional flexible training such as webinars and live virtual classes. While these are fabulous riddle answers, we still have to combat the “We don’t have time,” mindset because it continues to dominate the leasing training conversation.  

Can the multifamily training riddle be solved?  Before I share a few thoughts and ideas to consider at your company, let’s consider the weight of the time management challenge. We all know that leasing offices are typically run with a bare minimum staff. When I was a leasing consultant and a manager, I don’t ever recall having an abundance of time or employees, and some teams shuffled coverage better than others. People were always coming in early, working through lunch, and leaving late.

While times have changed and technology has opened many doors for multifamily trainers, the training riddle still exists. We have to find ways to make time for training because it is a powerful benefit for all employees, and the customer is also the beneficiary.    

  • Training is the key to engaging and retaining Millennials.
  • According to the LinkedIn “2018 Workplace Learning Report,” the top challenge holding employees back from learning is that they’re too busy.
  • The same LinkedIn report found that 94 percent of employees surveyed would stay with a company if it invested in their continued learning and development.
  • Roughly 80 percent of surveyed Millennials agreed that an emphasis on training and personal growth is the most important quality of a company’s culture, according to a Qualtrics survey.

So let us examine this riddle more closely. Training is key to engaging and retaining employees. Employees admit that they would stay longer with more training. In fact, a high percentage rate it as the most important benefit they seek with a new company, yet when the time comes they are too busy to attend any training. Here are three ideas for solving the multifamily training riddle in your leasing offices.  

1. Identify the Training Gatekeeper

Time has to be managed by someone. I didn’t realize how big of a problem not having time for training was in our industry until a few years ago. I was scheduled to conduct a 2-day leasing training class virtually to help a company identify leasing challenges and improve overall performance. There were four employees on each interactive call. The training was coordinated and scheduled at the regional level and multiple invitations and confirmation emails were sent. Regardless of the efforts, not all employees were prepared, several were late, some were visibly irritated, and others simply chose not to show up. One particular employee put me on mute and carried her cell phone around as she was walking apartments with the maintenance team. I expect that she thought she was multitasking, but I am pretty sure she didn’t gain or retain much from that training session. I know from experience that it takes time to shut out the daily work race and focus fully in a training class, regardless if it is in-person or online. I also know that when employees are finally ready to engage, they are thankful and grateful they attended the training. It reminds me in some ways of my trips to Disney World when I was young. I didn’t like leaving my home and despised the 1,000+ mile drive, but when we arrived I was glad we made the trip.

Who is the keeper of your multifamily training gate? What is holding your employees back from attending or completing training when it is clearly very important to many of them? Is the employee balking the idea? Is it limited training resources? Is it the manager not wanting to release the leasing professional from their daily duties?

2. Offer a Multifamily Training Buffet

According to the LinkedIn study mentioned earlier, 58 percent of employees prefer to learn at their own pace, and 90 percent of companies surveyed offer digital learning today. We are very lucky to have so many options to offer employees to gain additional knowledge and grow as individuals. This is a great problem to have. The key is determining which venue works best for each employee from a learning and time position. There are so many factors that come into play when you are trying to push out and schedule training, from distance to staff size, occupancy, team schedules and more.

What type of multifamily training buffet are you offering your employees? One size does not always fit all, and it shouldn’t be based on your ability to release them from normal duties but rather should be based on their individual learning style. Some people gain and retain more by engaging with peers in a classroom, others thrive with a sandwich, headset, and an eLearning course, and others enjoy a live webinar session.  From a training and employee perspective, there are benefits to each. In particular, online leasing training has the added benefit of assessing and measuring knowledge, as well as allowing participants to select a particular timeframe to complete the training. In most cases, the training is consumed more quickly and frequently in an online setting.

Ultimately, the goal is to grow your employees with new skills and make them feel valued by your investment in their continued education and development.

What does your multifamily training buffet look like? Do your employees know that they have options? Have you researched free industry training available such as the complimentary monthly Ellis Webinar series

3. Encourage and Reward

For some, participating in training is a lot like eating vegetables. We know it’s good for us, but it’s not always easy to swallow. We also know from training statistics that employees who are more knowledgeable are more confident, engaged, and productive at work which leads to better customer experiences and higher leasing numbers.  Aside from making it mandatory, how can you solve the multifamily training riddle and get team members engaged? Sometimes encouragement comes from the fact that they have options. You can attend a 6- hour in-person training class, or you can schedule it at your own pace through an eLearning course. Consider what would be encouraging to you personally or what reward would be an incentive for you.

I am still a huge fan of in-person training when it is possible. To remove the employee from their distractions and engage them in conversations with their peers is very powerful. Over the years, I have had many employees admit to me in a multifamily training class that they initially didn’t want to attend, but they were glad they did.

I recently read an article that suggests implementing a rewards system that recognizes desired behaviors (such as completing required property management training courses) rather than solely tenure-based recognition. By tying your employee rewards program to training, you can encourage positive behaviors that benefit the organization.

How do you encourage your employees to attend training? Are you leading with a hammer or a cookie? Have you considered a reward program such as simply recognizing the number of hours of training an employee completes within a year?

William Penn summed up the time management riddle pretty well when he said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” I tend to agree.  The stakes were high for Bilbo, and the stakes are high for multifamily trainers, too. How are you solving the multifamily training riddle of time at your company?

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.

3 Keys to Protecting Your Customers from Broken Promises

You will find it on page one of the employee handbook, plastered on corporate walls, and reflected on company and community websites. We lovingly refer to it as the company mission statement or promise. As a multifamily education trainer, who focuses a lot on the customer experience, I tend to make it a habit to familiarize myself with the mission and values statements of the companies I work with. Interestingly, I am often shocked by the number of employees who don’t even know what their company mission states, yet they are responsible for carrying it out.

Many of my blog posts are inspired by my own experiences as a customer, and this one is no exception. A few weeks ago, we were shopping at our local home improvement center. Our experiences with this particular retailer have always been very positive. The employees are helpful, friendly, and very knowledgeable and as a result we are loyal customers. Like many large corporations, they have a mission statement which includes points such as doing the right thing, respect for people, and the customer comes first. Unfortunately, during this recent visit they did not keep any of their customer promises. I couldn’t help but feel great sadness and disappointment. It felt like we were on the verge of breaking up after all these years.

Our experience was a reminder that the road to failed company missions is often paved with good intentions. Even the best fail to protect their promises at one time or another. Right? But businesses can hardly afford to lose even one customer. Ironically, in many ways, the mission statement on your wall is like the pie crust Mary Poppins refers to when she says, “Sounds like a pie crust promise, easily made and easily broken.” Yet the best ways to protect your customer promises might be easier than you think.

Here are three keys to protecting your customers from broken promises.

1. Memorize (Responsibility)

Why does your company have a mission statement? Is it simply framed artwork for the leasing office?  The mission statement is the target, and it tells employees where they need to go on a daily basis. As Zig Ziglar said, “You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” There’s a lot of noise in the leasing office that can distract employees from the important goals. Where is their goal reminder? Will they reference the new hire handbook to remind themselves, or walk over to the wall and read it? No. If your mission statement is truly a mission, then your employees should know what it says and what it really means.

It would be easy to add memorizing the mission statement to the new hire checklist. This might sound like a simple or even silly idea, but it makes complete sense when you consider the importance of it. The great thing about memorized information is that it is always with us, even when we lack the time to look it up. We have access to it 24/7, even when we are exhausted, irritated, or frustrated. We can solve problems easier when we remember our customer mission. Memorizing the mission tends to create a feeling of responsibility in every person who is tasked with carrying it out.

2. Inspect (Accountability)

Accountability is the next ingredient you can easily add to your best in class training program that will help protect the mission. A mission can only be achieved with good monitoring or inspection, and we must always inspect what we expect.

It’s time to have some fun and get creative. Have you ever watched the television show Undercover Boss? The show features the experiences of executives working undercover in their own companies. They  investigate how their businesses really work and identify how they can improve. We can use this idea as a launching point to some very creative ways to protect the promises made to our customers. It would be a great exercise for a room full of apartment training and education professionals to brainstorm this, but here are a few ideas to start:

  • Speed Calling- Call a few communities each day. The first person who answers the call must immediately recite the company mission statement when you ask.
  • Mission Possible- Establish a contest where communities submit their best customer experience story telling how the team or a member of the team made the experience possible by following through with the company mission.
  • Undercover Newbie- As part of their leasing consultant training, ask a new leasing professional to shop a community, or spend half a day working at a community other than the one where they will be employed. Provide them with the company mission statement and a few points for them to consider for evaluation (not a standard shopping report). When they return to the classroom, ask the new employees to share their positive experiences. Which employee best fulfilled the mission statement? Call that employee and congratulate them!

If every employee thought there was an undercover boss working in their office, would they behave differently? Would they do a better job of protecting customer promises?

3. Celebrate (Showcasing)

If you were to put a face on your mission statement, who would it look like? Who best exemplifies and protects the mission of your company? Who do your employees and customers brag about? Celebrate these employees by giving them the opportunity to showcase themselves.

  • Interview them in a company blog post.
  • Present them with a “Mission Possible” trophy which moves to a different employee each month.
  • Start a quarterly “Mission Possible” brainstorming lunch group, where three monthly winners are treated to a special lunch with the multifamily leasing training director.

Showcasing employees as leaders in carrying out the company mission validates their efforts and inspires others to improve.

A great mission statement is lived out every day by everyone on the team, so much so that they become a living display of company goals rather than the plaque on the wall. To the customer, it represents why you are in business and what matters most to you.  To the employee, it answers why they work for you and why what they do matters. When the days get rough in the leasing office, as they often do, it’s easy for employees to forget why they are working so hard. It is the mission statement that can bring them back to the why and inspire them all over again. In fact, a clearly communicated business mission statement can help with employee retention too. Gallup research shows a strong sense of mission drives employee retention across generations. Placing a strong focus on mission and purpose is one of the top two factors for keeping Millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers at your organization.

When the people who are tasked to carry out the customer mission don’t know what it says, how can they protect it? This customer promise is the one statement they must know and always protect. It should be memorized, inspected, and celebrated.

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.