Engaging Employees: What Work Ethic Looks Like

Engaging Employees What Work Ethic Looks Like


You’ve heard the idiom of firing or clicking on all cylinders. That’s when all the cylinders are operating and providing the maximum amount of power in an internal combustion engine. Or something or a process is working at full strength and making every possible effort.

A property management team should operate under such precision and power with its employees and even residents. Easy enough? Not so fast.

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Leaders should create culture to engage employees

Relationship Difference president Rommel Anacan says creating and maintain a finely tuned workforce is harder than it looks. A changed employment culture is challenging managers to work harder to connect with employees, unlike in days gone by when workers were made to feel lucky to just have a job.

“If you go with that approach with employees today, they’re out the door,” he said in March at the Texas Apartment Association’s 2016 Education Conference & Lone Star Expo. “They’re going to take a selfie and hashtag out of here. It’s different today.”

To establish a high-performance team, leaders need to create a culture that cultivates high performance. But the mindset has changed. According to a recent Gallup survey, 70 percent of employees today are disengaged and lack enthusiasm for their jobs.  Part of the reason, according to Gallup, is the lack of quality managers. At the time the survey was published in 2013, worker disengagement was believed to cost the U.S. economy $450 billion to $550 billion per year or $2,000 annually per worker.

“Something has gone wrong in the workplace today,” Anacan said. “(Employees) are doing just enough not to get fired. The mindset that worked for generations has shifted.”

Developing a mutually trusting bond between boss and worker

But Anacan sees and opportunity to shift the mentality by improving a manager’s ability to connect with employees. Developing a mutually trusting bond the foundation to establishing a high-performing employee machine, he says. When everyone is working together, you know good things are about to happen. There has to be a high level of safety and trust between employees and leadership. That starts with managers have to know what’s motivating their people, what they want to get out of working in the multifamily housing industry.

“If you engage with people, they start to feel okay,” he said.

Education, providing the right tools and even a little humility are ways to get that buy-in.

Training leasing consultants to close the deal or equipping onsite managers with ways to manage angry residents or resolve maintenance issues help gain employee trust, Anacan says. Reciting a chapter from the School of Hard Knocks, though, can make an even greater statement.

Sharing an uncomfortable workplace situation, one that’s easily identifiable to the employee, and how the issue was resolved grabs attention. The message is especially impactful if the act of humility came when the manager was in a similar role to the employee.

Instead of trying to avoid discomfort, a high-performance culture embraces things that are going to be messy.

“Normalize discomfort,” Anacan said. “Let them know what your experiences were. Describe the learning key. They have to learn your culture. Let them know they are moving in the right direction. That builds safety and trust.”

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Allegiance, connection is the foundation to relationship leadership

Indications that the team is firing on all cylinders is when employees are comfortable in their surroundings, they are confident that management has their backs and it’s okay to experience and admit failure. The same can be said when they know their opinions are valued, they don’t mind asking for help and feel it’s okay to take a risk.

Such compliance will transform the employer/employee connection from positional – you do what I tell you or you’ll get fired – to relationship-based culture that breeds compliance, Anacan says.

“Today’s workers are different. You have to move from positional leadership to relationship leadership. When you rely on, ‘because I said so’, that leads to complacency, and people will only do enough to not get fired.

“Relationship leadership creates allegiance and connection.”


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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