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  • Apr 05, 2022
  • Stacy Holden, Sr. Director and Industry Principal, AppFolio
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How to drive property management employee satisfaction: A boots-on-the-ground perspective

In the summer of 2021, AppFolio sponsored a survey of over 1,000 property management businesses to gain a firmer grasp of their top challenges. More than 50% of respondents put HR, staffing, and recruitment at the top of the list, with 74% citing it as one of their top three challenges.

You’ve probably heard of “The Great Resignation” brought about by the pandemic. You may even be experiencing it in your business. While recent headlines reflect the fact that more people than ever are rethinking their relationship with work, the truth is that the property management industry has been dealing with staffing challenges for quite some time. A 2019 AppFolio Property Management Industry Report found that 4 of the 5 key growth inhibitors facing property management companies at the time were tied to staffing issues.

Skilled maintenance technicians and property managers are harder to find and retain

According to Angi’s 2021 Skilled Trades in America Report, 77% of skilled tradespeople believe there is a labor shortage in the skilled trade industry, a six point increase from the previous year. Additionally, 56% of survey participants said that COVID-19 has made hiring even more difficult.

Cultural shifts, including the elimination of shop and vocational classes from high school in the early 2000’s, play a significant role in the state of the trades today, and the impact is palpable throughout real estate and property management. For internal operations, maintenance techs are harder to find. For outsourced projects, wait times to receive quotes for labor are often longer than they’ve been in the past, project timelines are extended, and prices are higher. Add on another layer of heightened demand due to the surge in home improvement projects (brought about by the shift to work-from-home) and a continually growing number of housing starts, and many contractors won’t even bother coming out to bid a job for new business — they have more than enough work, and a shortage of manpower.

As the demand for construction grows, so does the need for labor. Therein lies a key obstacle for property management companies. As JC Castillo, President and CEO of Dallas-Fort Worth based Velo Residential explains: “We’re not just competing with other management companies or other multifamily owners [for maintenance talent]. We’re competing with the construction industry as a whole. It’s a very competitive time.”

And why would a maintenance tech be inclined to switch industries?

As JC tells us,”... because right now, it’s easier than ever for them to become frustrated with the demands of the job and leave.”

The same can be said for property managers, an industry in which a never-ending to-do list, maintenance calls at all hours, and an unclear career trajectory are adding fuel to the industry’s own Great Resignation. As one 2021 survey participant put it: “Employees are exhausted from COVID-19. They’re demanding higher pay. Hiring is extremely challenging. Morale due to short staffing and higher expectations from residents is challenging. The phones are ringing off the hook and we cannot keep up with customer service and the instant gratification of wanting answers immediately.”

The solution, as JC sees it, is in thinking“ … about the onsite staff’s satisfaction and happiness above all else. If you’re not working on ways to help them offload the back office work and make their lives better, then you’re actually shooting yourself in the foot because it’s already hard enough as it is to find talent. Now the talent you do find is going to burn out, and they’re going to be gone within six months.”

To augment the C-suite’s ideas of what needs to be done to drive staffing and retention in the property management industry, AppFolio partnered with IREM to survey boots-on-the-ground property managers, leasing agents, maintenance technicians, and other staff to find out what they want. We compiled the data into a research report, which we’ll be unveiling at the AppFolio Wave Summit on April 12th. You can register here to attend virtually, where you’ll not only receive full access to the report, but get a front row seat to our many industry sessions including a keynote from renowned talent strategist and future-of-work expert Steve Cadigan, who oversaw LinkedIn’s growth from 400 to 4,000 employees.

We hope to see you there.

Stacy Holden brings over 20 years of experience in the rental housing industry. A former controller of a large property management firm, Stacy has firsthand experience leveraging technology to solve urgent business challenges. In her role as an Industry Principal at AppFolio, Stacy engages operators to understand their needs and guides product strategy within AppFolio's research and development process. Beyond AppFolio, Stacy serves on the board of Portland State University's School of Real Estate Development.

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