EasyLMS, The Online Learning Platform to Win the Talent Contest

RealPage EasyLMS, an online learning platform

The economy (cross your fingers) is looking strong, along with the jobs market. And while that’s good news for the apartment business overall, there’s a significant downside: it’s getting hard to find talented staff, particularly at the site level.

An article in the January edition of NAA’s Units Magazine placed “the labor crunch” at the top of their list of big issues for 2018. It quotes CEO Eric Bolton of mega-owner MAA as saying: “The most important variable driving success onsite is the quality of the people who are working on the frontline, providing service to residents. If you do not get the onsite staff right, good performance will be challenged.” He goes on to say that in a market such as this, communities can expect poaching of talented staff.

Your secret weapon: training

It’s alarming the extent to which corporate America – and not just in property management – views staff as a relatively static resource. The truth is that your current staff is wonderfully fluid: with an organized learning and talent management system in place, you can take care of many of your staffing needs by systematically moving employees up the ladder as they add to their skillsets. And for many reasons, it pays to fill positions from within.

Then there’s retention: it makes no sense to let good employees move on to other companies in order to advance their careers when you can equip them to move up within your own company.

Of course, this still leaves you looking for staff you must bring in from outside as you expand in size and the people you’ve already got advance – bringing you up against the scarcity of skilled site staff looking for jobs. But here as well, training can be your key to addressing the problem.

If you’re recruiting the right people, they’re both malleable and motivated. They want to succeed, and they want to increase their salaries. Instead of hiring them merely on the basis of their current skills, you can hire them with the intention of moving them immediately into an online learning platform that will boost their abilities and allow them to perform at a level higher than they could when they came on board. This is particularly valuable when getting staff up and running quickly at newly built or acquired properties. Find the right people, have the right training in place and they’ll be ready to go when the doors are open.

In other words, you’re investing in an asset that you can almost immediately cause to increase in value. It’s a little like acquiring a property, doing renovations and three months later realizing higher rents and asset value. Except that a training and motivation program costs significantly less than a property rehab, and the ROI is potentially even greater.

In the Units article mentioned above, CEO Ken Valach of Trammell Crow Residential is quoted as saying “Out of controllable operating expenses, payroll comprises about 50 percent. No matter what you put in the pro forma, you have to pay up to get the best people.”

On the other hand, you could train them up. Yes, you’ll still have to recruit new bodies, but to a great extent you can turn them into “the best people” yourself rather than looking elsewhere for them.

From back burner to profit center

At too many corporations, training takes a back seat to getting “real work” done. People are busy with the tasks right in front of them. They tend to delay training, if it’s required at all. And managers are often less than diligent in tracking their people’s completion of training courses.

Particularly in times of slim pickings for talented site staff, this is a big mistake.

In a recent interview, Alan Walsh of CF Real Estate Services spoke about his company’s use of RealPage’s EasyLMS system to continually increase the value of employees:

“The properties you manage are what they are, but a big differentiator at any PMC is the quality of the people. With this new system, we’ve gone from a muddled effort to impart necessary skills to a systematic way of building our people’s knowledge, careers and value to the company. They’re motivated to learn, and our managers have clear visibility into who is learning what. Everyone is winning.”

Training is fun with an online learning platform 

Employees exhibit varying degrees of motivation to undergo training in order to increase their knowledge and skills. An online learning platform like EasyLMS boosts this innate motivation through engagement and gamification. EasyLMS allows staff to rack up “trophies,” engage in friendly competition and easily view their progress on the path to greater abilities using a simple dashboard. At their discretion, companies can offer additional rewards for completion of training.

A company with the right kind of training rewards employees not just for job performance (signed leases, for example) but for learning new skills as well.

Managers, who sometimes overlook the importance of training in their focus on immediate challenges, can use their own EasyLMS dashboard to easily monitor the progress and completion of training by their staff. Learning is transformed from a haphazard activity into part of the corporate culture.

The Units Magazine article goes on to say that “In this real estate cycle, superstar managers who specialize in lease-ups are so much sought that they can practically name their own salaries.” With this in mind, PMCs would do well to consider the huge payoff of creating their own “superstar managers” through a consistent learning and talent management program instead of being forced to go out and find them somewhere else.   To win the talent contest, companies must recognize their employees are their greatest advantage.


Author and Contributor

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Based in New Orleans, Guy Lyman is a professional writer with over 25 years’ experience writing about multifamily and commercial real estate. Lyman is a frequent contributor and writer for the Property Management Insider blog.

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