Improving Staff Retention: Three Tips for Property Management Companies


Property management companies invest major resources to maintain and improve resident retention. They hope residents will stay and recommend their multifamily community to a friend or family member. But what about employee retention?

  • What would happen if property managers could spend less time recruiting new employees and more time developing better relationships with the ones they have?
  • What if, instead of an e-mail telling your staff to select a five-year award, a company executive wrote personal notes to thank their staff for their services?
  • Would your employees recommend you to a friend?

When it comes to a product or service, the reason it exists is usually pretty clear. For example, if you were to recommend an item at the grocery store you know why it exists and you know that you like it enough to recommend it to others. But why a business exists and why employees should recommend it is not always clear—to the customer or the employee.

Does your employment ad look something like this?

Come work for our property management company. We exist to lease apartments, provide shelter for residents, and collect the owner’s money.

As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?” If you want your property management staff to recommend you—give them good reasons to do so.

Know Why Your Property Management Company Exists

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do we exist?” While most companies know the “what” and the “how” of their business, few companies know “why” they do what they do. Great companies like Disney and Starbucks know why they exist.

  • Walt Disney World: “Make People Happy!”
  • Starbucks: “To Inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

These missions/visions represent an inside out customer experience philosophy. The focus is not about how to deliver the best product and service but to dig deep, place themselves in the customer’s problem zone, and build their business around them.

Simon Sinek, author of the book Start with Why, believes that at the end of the day people don’t buy what you do—they buy “why” you do it. He makes a great point. When your employees believe in the “why” they will do their best because they want to—not because they have to.

Three Ways to Improve Staff Retention: Notice, Thank, Tell

Image of a note of encouragementSometimes it is the small things that have the biggest impact on staff retention—the kind words and attention that don’t cost us a dime. Making a daily effort to recognize staff members delivering fantastic service to residents or simply doing their job well will improve their experience. So often we notice these things but are ‘too busy’ to thank staff and tell them how much we appreciate them. It’s important to tell others too. Our local Home Depot has a huge bell located at the exit with a sign that reads, “If you received excellent service from one of our employees please ring this bell.” Is the “Notice-Thank-Tell” method something you could implement at your apartment community?

Following are more tips for improving staff retention:

1. TLC from the PMC

Do you thank your staff at the end of each day for doing the job you hired them to do? Do you ask them, “Is there anything I can do that will improve your job experience?” At first, they might be shocked and look for the hidden camera. In a short amount of time, they will warm-up to the idea and amazing things will take place. Try it for a week – I dare you! – and watch the impact on their job performance and their experience.

2. Foster Frequent Feedback

Problems are just a part of doing business. Making it easy for your staff to give you positive and negative feedback is important and healthy for a property management company. Don’t wait for the annual staff survey—it’s usually too late by the time it comes around. Not to mention most employees are not 100% honest when it comes to documented employee surveys. Periodically ask your these three questions:

  • What do you want/need?
  • How are we doing?
  • How can we improve?

3. Encourage Encouragement Every Day

Help your staff deliver on the message of “why” every day by using a reminder. I don’t mean the plaque that hangs on the wall in your office. We have so many ways to communicate electronically today but sometimes it’s good to go back to basics. As Leonardo daVinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Peer recognition can be very powerful and motivating tool.

Consider placing a small box in the staff work area, along with a stack of sticky notes. Encourage them to “catch their peers doing something right”, write it on the note and slip it in their box. It can be something big or small. What’s important is that their effort reflects the reason your company exists. The encouraging words from their peers and their supervisors will reinforce the reason they chose you and would recommend you.

Ask Your Staff Why Your Company Exists

Here is a challenge for you: Pick up the phone tomorrow and randomly call five of your apartment communities. Ask this question to the first person who answers the telephone, “Why does our company exist?” You might be shocked at what they do and don’t know.

Do you know why your property management company exists? Would your staff recommend your company? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


Image credits: iStockphoto (Chalkboard, Note)



President and Owner, Ellis Partners in Mystery Shopping

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Joanna Ellis is CEO and Owner of Ellis Partners in Management Solutions (EPMS) and Co-owner of Renter’s Voice. Under her direction, Ellis has established itself as the premier apartment mystery shopping company in the nation, as well as a respected provider of multi-touch point resident surveys, as part of their retention-focused customer experience program. Current clients include most major apartment developers, management companies, and REITs. Through Renter’s Voice, Ellis helps clients promote and respond to authentic and objective apartment reviews. Having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Texas A&M, Ms. Ellis has spent more than 25 years in the multifamily industry, and she now holds both the Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) and Certified Apartment Property Supervisor (CAPS). She is also a licensed Texas Real Estate Agent. In honor of EPMS’ reputation for integrity, the Dallas Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals awarded Joanna, on behalf of the company, the 2008 Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award for mid-size companies.

One response to “Improving Staff Retention: Three Tips for Property Management Companies”

  1. Destiny Yarbrough says:

    lOVE IT

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