With tax season so recently behind us, you’ve probably heard enough about liabilities and assets to last you through to 2015. Well, there is one asset—your biggest asset—that will keep coming up over and over again, and it cannot be ignored. And even though it requires more investment than all of your other assets combined, this asset always holds the biggest potential for profitability in our industry: This asset is your staff.
So how do property management companies maximize profits from this asset? How do you avoid volatility and risk? To help answer these questions and more, I’d like to propose 4 basic stages to asset maturity in workforce management. Proper attention in each of these stages will setup both you and your teams for long term success:
1. Selection. This is the least profitable stage, but it is also the most important. It is vital to your success that you select the right people for your company. Just like other assets, potential employees can be sorted into many different categories. The tricky part, however, is recognizing which category they belong to. Instead of trying to predict all different aspects of your candidates, the secret is to have a short list of ‘musts’ and another list of ‘must nots.’ Allow room to be surprised in the other categories. For me, my list of ‘musts’ includes drive and integrity. My list of ‘must nots’ includes negativity and deflection of responsibility. Since these are so important to me, I am pretty good at recognizing them in an applicant. While your preferences may differ, it is important for everyone to identify their preferences in advance.
2. Training. This is often the most overlooked stage of asset development surrounding employees. Much like the navigational settings on an airplane, the correct coordinates must be set before the journey begins, not after. This means that you must first recognize your own expectations in advance. You must document and present them in a clear format. If you expect your staff to work on weekends, tell them before you hire them. If you expect them to be flexible, make it a requirement. A primary source of employee anxiety comes from being faced with constant uncertainty. One of the biggest frustrations that could be facing you is the need to constantly retrain your staff. Could this have been avoided if more attention was placed on these first two stages?
3. Affirmation. Not everyone admits to the need for constant affirmation. Some of your staff is like me and they actually believe that they don’t need positive reinforcement, just the occasional check in. Well, let me assure you that this is a lie. Staff looks to management as a mirror. It is human nature. Everything that you do and say tells them about their own performance. Some are more sensitive than others, but you can never go wrong by giving positive and HONEST affirmation. Constructive feedback is equally important as it redirects them when necessary and it gives validity to the positive feedback. Since the average cost of replacing your mid-level staff is estimated at 16-20% of their annual income¹, your best investment is to maintain and grow your employees.
4. Know when to move on. Some employees are like the apple that a man once picked. It was beautiful and crisp. He chose it for its potential to delight his taste buds. It remained beautiful and undoubtedly delicious for a week or two, as he waited for the best time to eat it. After waiting too long, this apple became withered, losing its color, its crispness and its form. It had lost its potential to meet his needs. While the lifespan of a crisp apple is much shorter than that of your average employee, the ending can be similar. If your employees are losing their ability to meet your needs, they begin to recognize it and they begin to wither. As with the apple, this can have a very negative affect on their environment. As hard as it is, there is generally a window of time where it is ideal for you and for your staff to mutually benefit from a change, whether it’s through drastic measures, or a more conventional manner.
In summary, since people can be your most stubborn asset, it is important to identify what ‘fit’ means to you. Conversely, since staff can have very malleable traits, it is important to do everything in your power to set them up for success. Lastly, be willing to recognize when all the success is in the past and the future requires change. A good staff can truly be your best asset while an unreliable or inconsistent staff can literally be the source of all your frustrations!