What do Employees Really Want?

Posted By: Parke Pettegrew Management,

Even in the current COVID environment with
unemployment running high we are still seeing a
talent shortage in apartment communities and vendor
companies throughout the industry. The Career
Initiative Committee at AAMD has worked hard to come up withsolutions and opportunities to draw some new talent into our industry like the (MAP)-Maintenance Apprentice Program and the (RPM+L)- Residential Property Management and Leasing Certificate Program. We have targeted high schools and other resources as well.

Since it is so tough to find great employees, we must be on our game for both recruiting these diamonds in the rough and then on-boarding them successfully so that we can turn them into long term team members.
Here are four key practices we can remember to do both “prehire” and "post-hire" that will set both parties up for success:


1. Remember - everyone is a recruiter

Companies need to find a way to train and teach their employees that we all should be recruiting all the time. It is nice to have a referral bonus which most companies have but we need to take it further and add to our weekly meeting agenda – i.e., who have you recruited this week?

We need to recognize in our company newsletters those that found people, perhaps a note from the CEO or President? The average time to hire an employee is roughly 45 days and if your property is not looking, I am sure that another one is- teamwork makes the dream work!

2. Expand your sources

Typically, we look for maintenance employees on CraigsList and Office on Indeed. The most important thing with both these websites is that you must consistently be trying to update and revise your ad so that it does not get buried behind all the new ones.

There are many more places to look though starting off with your own residents. Place a sign on the door and email your residents to remind them of the rental discount for team members. Some of the best employees I have ever worked with lived on site first or in the case of vendors worked with them as customers. Social media is also a great way to sell the company, the culture, and the people!

3. Expedite the recruiting process

Nothing turns a candidate off more than no response to their inquiry or application. Most people will be applying at multiple locations and like the leasing experience of a prospect the first one to respond might win. In the old days it was the “Rule of 3” to interview. 3 different people, 3 different times and 3 different places. It could be the CM, SM and Regional Maintenance, different times and one via phone, one in person and one via Zoom. Let us tighten that up with a new “Rule of 2” if possible and if you like the candidate at the first interview get their references then and start checking. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard “we are still waiting on references”.

4. Communicate all along the way

Let them know the process right away on first contact and what it will entail. I.e., Who will be interviewing and why, what your background check process looks like and how long, how to complete the drug testing if you have it, any pre-assessments that you must take. There are so many managers that just assume the
candidates know what will happen when every company is different. It is also important to check in frequently to make sure they know what stage they are at and how much longer it will be till the green light is given. Everyone probably has a story of when you lost someone in the background stage. Looking for a new job is stressful in and of itself and throw in the interviewing, assessments, background check, etc. and that is a lot to deal with. All of us at one time or another have gone through this. Think back on your best experience you
had- what was it that kept you calm, excited and limited the stress. I bet it had to do with the communication.


1. Deliver a learning map

What is the first day, first week, 30/60/90days going to look like. It should be spelled out with the understanding that it might not work exactly like that, but everyone is going to try their best. There needs to be a combination of learning activities. Some can be in person, virtual, on-line, self-activity, etc. One size does not fit all but you must mix it up or you will burn the person out on one category. I.e., Some companies are very heavy with on-line training, and this can be exhaustive to new employees let alone existing ones.

2. Create an epic welcome

The first impression on their first day must have a “Wow Factor”. It has been proven that first impressions really can impact the employees experience and it is brought up in exit interviews frequently as one of
the reasons they left is that they did not feel special or valued from the get go. One of my favorite quotes about first impressions is “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It is an old cliché but a
good one. What can you and your company do to knock the ball out of the park? Is it lunch with the team, bag of schwag, call from executives, flowers on their desk or some tools and a tool bag, all the employees at the door to form a greeting committee? I bet with some thought you can come up with new things that no one else is doing. Word gets around and then you start to get more people applying with you because of it.

3. Block of time for an orientation

You new employees must get acclimated to the company and culture. They will want to understand their surroundings, their new team members, ins and outs of the location, company leadership, etc. Those that rush through this process or do not have one altogether miss an important opportunity to really build a foundation that will stay with the new hire throughout their tenure with your company. Time needs to be built in and there are things you want to cover on the first day but the biggest mistakes we make as the employer is to bombard them with information on their first day. Spread it out over the first couple weeks
and for goodness’ sake let them go home early on their first day – brain overload!

4. Assign the new hire a buddy

Companies call these many different things from mentors, peer coaches, subject matter experts, sensei, adviser, etc. I like the term “buddy” because we can all remember being new and wishing we had a buddy to help us through. Whether your “buddy system” is explicit or not…you must have one. No exceptions! This important role helps the challenging task of getting someone through the dreaded “first 90 days”. Studies show that if someone can make it successfully through this time then the odds of them staying triple. The buddy provides knowledge, support, lists of what to look out for, feedback, encouragement, assessment
and helps create the boundaries new hires need for success. Most people in the buddy role are also your top employees who reinforce the best attributes and skills you desire out of your new hire.

Our industry is rapidly expanding due to net migration into Colorado, businesses relocating from out of state, growth amongst first-time renters and barrier to entry with home ownership.

We will continue to grow post-COVID and the Denver rental market predictions for this growth show we will need to add conservatively one employee for every 100 units that come on-line and for the 30-40% turnover we see at most companies annually-that is a lot! We can all do better at our pre-hire and post-hire efforts and remind our candidates that we will be with them the entire way. I challenge you all to raise the bar and happy hiring!

Parke Pettegrew is a regional manager with Highmark Residential, an AAMD Board Member and a co-chair of the Career Initiative Committee.