Three Top Multifamily Training Priorities for 2019
by Donald Davidoff | April 25, 2019
As we researched 20 for '20 - our white paper on the outlook for multifamily based on 20 interviews with senior executives - we were struck by the intense competition for talent in the industry. Low unemployment rates and record industry growth have conspired to make both recruitment and retention extremely challenging.
Training and development are important levers for retention, in particular, so we were curious to understand what the biggest training and development priorities were for 2019. In response we heard about a broad set of initiatives; however, there was a strong overlap on three key areas:
- By far, the most common plan for the next year+ is a stronger investment in sales training. The long bull run in multifamily performance doesn’t exactly leave metaphorical sales muscles at their peak level. As executives peer into a future rife with possible slowdowns, they noted that it seems wise to improve leasing capabilities in preparation for potential clouds ahead.
- Next in line is a renewed commitment to developing customer experience and soft skills. “There’s a growing shift from trying to develop ‘the latest and greatest physical amenities’ towards providing experiences,” noted one respondent. This fits with the trend towards self-service and well-documented bias Millennials have towards experiences rather than “things.” Another executive noted that automation of the more mundane administrative work, “means we need our salespeople to be better service providers.”
- The third most popular response was a focus on mentoring and onboarding. Executives commented on how important it was to avoid the early turnover of new employees by ensuring they have a smooth and rewarding onboarding experience.
Technology will continue to drive people trends
Much of the motivation executives have for investing in new training rather than just rolling out the same training they’ve always done comes from the changing technology landscape. Not only are newer renters digital natives, so are the individuals that we are training. “We need to re-think the way we create and deliver training,” comments a well-known COO. “We’re looking to deliver more contemporary content in more flexible ways. When is traditional [instructor-led] training best? When would webinars or self-paced online modules be more effective? Etc.”
Operators are also completely revamping the way they deliver training to service technicians. The ubiquity of handheld computers (i.e., smartphones) has made all areas of the maintenance teams much more computer literate than just a few years ago. Several executives commented with some version of, “We used to have to build training [and technology] very differently for the service team than we did for the leasing team, largely due to a wide gap in comfort with technology. With virtually everyone having a smartphone with multiple apps, that gap has shrunk substantially.”
One thing that we didn’t hear
Although it did not arise in our 20 interviews, we nevertheless predict virtual and augmented reality will start to find its way into the training and development of service technicians. It’s 50/50 whether that happens by 2020, but it won’t be much beyond that. There are at least two significant use-cases for this technology:
- With virtual technology, a new service tech could work through a 3-dimensional simulation of a variety of mechanical systems. The advantage here is that they don’t have to leave the job site to go to a training class or lab with the appropriate equipment.
- Augmented reality may prove to be the more powerful technology for improving service technician performance. Imagine a tech wearing a pair of glasses that serves up pages of the technical manual on demand, maybe even recognizing visually what the service tech is looking at and automatically presenting the correct page. Step-by-step visualizations of what to do or video snippets could go even further, training the tech in real-time.
Although the talent market is undoubtedly challenging for multifamily operators, it was clear from the responses that practically all companies have major people initiatives in train during 2019. The backdrop continues to change, as digitally native residents and prospects demand improved experiences and greater convenience from operators. Technological innovation will continue to impact training priorities for the foreseeable future.
For more on this research download “20 for ‘20” - our white paper that summarizes our interviews with 20 senior multifamily executives about the outlook to 2020 and beyond.