From Leasing to Leadership

By Les Shaver

Improving retention requires providing new career paths for onsite professionals. Find out how organizations and staffers can create these roles.

Kristi Fickert, NALP, Vice President, Marketing and Training, at 30 Lines, sees a big issue facing the apartment industry. “Lack of modernistic training that focuses on today’s progressive tools and strategies is one of the big challenges we see right now,” she said at the Apartmentalize session “From Leasing to Leadership: Mapping a Path to Career Success” this past June in Denver.

Add this to what, in many cases, is an outdated career path for onsite associates and it’s easy to see why Fickert says turnover in the apartment industry is at 33 percent. That means that, on average, when someone leaves, it costs more than $2,000 to replace them.

Getting onsite staffers to stay requires providing training, a career path, mentorship and a strong onboarding program that creates a good first impression. “When you hire someone, their résumé is still out there and there could be late job leads that come in [after they’re hired],” Fickert says. “If your onboarding doesn’t make a good first impression, you could lose them.”

Once those onsite staffers are on board, a company can give them the skills they need for success through a mentorship program. “But even if you have a great mentorship program, it doesn’t guarantee a great mentor,” says Daniel Melton, Senior Director of Business Analytics at Village Green.

However, there are ways to help your mentorship program succeed. “You should have a process in place so you can assign the best possible mentor to the new associate,” Fickert says. “You want the mentee getting someone who’s quality and has been vetted.”

There are other ways to groom strong onsite staffers. Village Green handpicks talented onsite employees and brings them to headquarters for an extensive, nine-month training program. “In the long term, it also gives people exposure to executives in the organization,” says Fickert, a former Village Green associate.

To keep employees engaged, Fickert and Melton suggest developing new, innovative career tracks for onsite staffers. “If people feel they’re blocked in [to their jobs], it can have a negative effect,” Melton says.

A leasing professional, for instance, could conceivably move up to become a customer experience manager, sales psychologist, regional marketing director or vice president of brand management.

“You need to think about what could happen five years from now,” Melton says. “Five years from now, a sales psychologist could help your leasing teams.”

It’s also incumbent upon onsite staffers to help make their own course. Career advancement is a two-way street.

“I encourage people to specialize in the roles they’re in,” Fickert says. “Knowing the core strengths by position can help people figure out what path is best for them.”

When people know their core strengths, they can find ways to distinguish themselves. When he was onsite for Village Green, Melton designed a traffic report that helped him earn recognition at the company.

“Companies need to allow for specialization [inside job roles],” Melton says. “If that happens, a person can go from having a job to a career very quickly.”

Knowing what problems need to be solved can also put onsite staffers on a path of career success. “What is a problem your company has that you can solve?” Fickert says.

If people need to learn what strengths they can emphasize in their roles, it may be worthwhile to think back to elementary school. “Think about what compliments your teachers gave you,” Fickert says. “These are probably the things you’re good at today.”

Once you decide what you want to do, realize that achieving that goal doesn’t happen immediately. “If you want to be a trainer, you can’t become a trainer overnight,” Melton says. “Teach a class and become a mentor [to achieve that].”

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