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Primed to thrive

How to build a resilient culture for times of disruption

By Stacy Holden, AppFolio, Inc., IREM Chairman Level Partner
Business Colleagues In Protective Masks Sitting At The Office Desk

Having a strong company culture is vital, especially in times of disruption. When employees feel they have the tools and support they need to do their jobs effectively from anywhere, they’re more satisfied and confident in their ability to overcome challenges. In a survey conducted by AppFolio in April, 82% of property management companies had at least some of their staff working remotely, and on average, over half (50.4%) had everyone working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many property management teams have returned to the office, some may still be partially remote, which adds extra challenges for keeping everyone connected and engaged. Culture is what makes it possible for dispersed teams to adapt and thrive in a changing world. By investing in your company culture, you can build a resilient team and maintain productivity and growth for years to come.

Why culture matters

One of the things I’ve noticed most in the past few years is how employee expectations have changed across the industry. The needs of your team 10 years ago are not the same as they are today, or what they will be 10 years from now.

Think about the changing dynamics: Today, the majority of the workforce consists of millennials (aged 24-39) and Gen Xers (aged 40-55). Both of these generations greatly value businesses with a strong company culture—in fact, 56% of workers in the U.S. say that a company’s culture is more important than salary, and 66% say their company’s culture is one of the main reasons they stay in their job, based on a Glassdoor Mission & Culture Survey.

What is company culture exactly? Inc. describes it as “the shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature.” Things like having a work-life balance, access to technology, a career development roadmap and team bonding activities can all help foster a resilient company culture and are greatly valued by today’s workforce. Gone are the days of going to work and clocking in and out in order to pay the bills. Today’s and tomorrow’s workforces are looking for more than “just a job.” When your employees view their roles in your company as key assets, they’ll be more resilient when faced with uncertainty and more invested in working together to overcome challenges.

Technology is a must for digital natives

Based on the survey conducted by AppFolio in April, 46% of property management companies were adopting new technology to prepare their businesses for the future.
Part of creating a resilient culture is providing your employees with the right tools. Millennials and Gen Zers prefer to use mobile technology to carry out many tasks in their daily lives, such as shopping for groceries using Instacart, streaming their favorite shows on Netflix and getting from points A to B using rideshare apps. They expect to be able to do the same with their jobs, too, which is why it’s essential to equip your teams with modern technologies. Without them, employees will be less satisfied and productive, and they might begin to look elsewhere for work, increasing employee turnover.

Not to mention, in times of disruption, having access to mobile tools is an absolute necessity when it comes to maintaining business continuity—for workers of all generations. For instance, based on the survey conducted by AppFolio in April, 46% of property management companies were adopting new technology to prepare their businesses for the future.

The importance of these tools was recently highlighted by the global pandemic, but due to the increased efficiency they offer, it’s likely many businesses will continue to use them. For instance, according to the AppFolio survey, 71% of property management companies said their priority for virtual showings had increased since the pandemic, and 63% believe they are here to stay.

Modern tech experiences can also help boost team performance while reducing stress and employee turnover. Self-service technologies, like an online portal that allows your team to quickly and easily communicate with residents and vendors for everything from maintenance repairs to rent payments, can go a long way when it comes to increasing your employees’ and residents’ satisfaction.

In addition, automated technology, like an AI leasing assistant, can free your team from frustrating, repetitive tasks like following up with phone calls and answering the same question from prospects multiple times, further enhancing their well-being.

Career development is key

Your employees want to know they are valued and seen as assets to your company. Those who feel respected and appreciated will be more likely to stick around in the long term. Spend some time creating a career map for each of your employees and asking what skills they’d like to develop. In addition, offer opportunities for growth by using technology to cross-train your teams and teach new skills. If more of your team members are trained across various roles, they’ll be more flexible and able to quickly adapt to unforeseen circumstances. As always, be sure to reward your employees for their successes and to continue to provide new ways for them to improve and learn.

In times of chaos and change, your company’s culture can be your strongest asset and the thread that holds your team together. By making it a priority to invest in your employees’ long-term success and providing them with the tools they need to stay connected, be productive and grow, you’ll be able to build a company culture that can survive anything.

Journal of Property Management

Stacy Holden currently serves as a senior director and industry principal at AppFolio and has over 20 years of experience in multifamily property management.

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