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?

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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.